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Older Adults and Smoking – What Are The Facts, How Can You Quit?

By Jessica Thomas November 02, 2020 Aging

Smoking is a tough habit to break, especially when it’s ingrained in your lifestyle and has developed over the years. However, it is crucial to know that kicking a smoking habit can have a multitude of benefits, not just for your physical health, but mental as well. In older adults, smoking can be an ingrained habit that can be incredibly difficult to break, but when done so, the benefits are tremendous. Read on to learn the facts on smoking habits for older adults, and what you can do to quit once and for all. 

The Facts on Cigarettes

Tobacco use is single-handedly the largest preventable cause of death in the United States, with cigarette smoking attributing to the deaths of 480,000 Americans each year. Secondhand smoke claims around 41,000 lives every year. So not only does smoking harm the smoker but close family as well. In 2018, the CDC reported that over 34.2 million adults in the United States were cigarette smokers and that 74.6 percent of this group smoked every day. 

In addition, smoking causes about 90 percent of lung cancer deaths and exposes individuals to a greater risk of developing coronary heart disease and suffering from a stroke. This is not to mention the risks smoking can have on everyday health, such as making it harder for a woman to get pregnant, reducing the fertility of men’s sperm, severely affecting the health of teeth and gums, affecting bone health, and more.

Quitting Smoking

Habits can be hard to break, especially one as addictive as smoking. It can take a lot of perseverance to break an ingrained smoking habit in older adults, but here are some tips to ensure that you are doing it effectively and safely. 

Why It Can Be Hard at First

Nicotine from smoking can provide a temporary addictive high-making smoking, not only a physical addiction but a psychological habit. Nicotine’s immediate feel-good effect can make you reach for a cigarette for a variety of reasons, whether you’re looking to unwind, to celebrate, relieve feelings of anxiety or depression, or just to feel good. Smoking can be a daily ritual that helps ease your mood-and quitting the habit means finding healthier ways to cope with everyday life. To truly quit smoking, you have to recognize the addiction, reliance, and habits surrounding it. This can be difficult, but it can be done.

#1 Set a Date

Set a date within the next two weeks to mentally prepare and motivate yourself for when the day comes that you officially kick the habit. Look at your schedule and figure out the best day, such as a day when you’re home from work.

#2 Remove Smoking Paraphernalia 

Toss the ashtray, cigarettes, and lighters you keep at home, so you don’t sink into a relapse just by having them around. Clean your house, wash your clothes, and get rid of any lingering scent of smoke that may still hang around you, your belongings, or your home. This is an essential tip to keep yourself free of the temptation to smoke.

#3 Break the Routine

If you used to smoke in front of the television while watching the news or took a smoke break while reading or drinking your evening coffee/tea, consider rearranging your furniture. Change up the layout of your living quarters, so you don’t fall into temptation when you sit in your old smoking corner again. Find another spot to read or sip your coffee outdoors. Breaking the routine is key for breaking a smoking habit. 

#4 Bust a Sweat

When the nicotine cravings hit, get moving to get them out of your system. Enroll in a yoga class or go out for a run. Step outside and move your body while also distracting your mind as you workout. The release of endorphins while you move will get your mind off the desire for a cigarette, and working out can be amazingly beneficial for your overall health in the long-run. 

#5 Talk to Someone & Reward Yourself 

It may seem like a lonely process to break a smoking habit that only you have dealt with, but it can be easy and beneficial to lean on someone around you, whether it’s a friend or family member. If you’re suddenly overcome with the craving of a cigarette, call your best friend or your sibling and distract yourself. Support is one of the most significant factors in successfully kicking a smoking habit. Also, remember to reward yourself along the journey of kicking a cigarette habit. Reward yourself with a milestone treat, whether it’s your favorite ice cream or a new clothing item. The motivation to be better will aid you.

#6 Talk to Your Doctor

Breaking a smoking habit can lead to physical nicotine withdrawal symptoms, such as:

  • Anger/irritability, and frustration
  • Severe cigarette cravings
  • Headaches
  • Restlessness
  • Anxiety 
  • Insomnia 
  • Increased appetite
  • Tremors
  • Difficulty concentration

It is crucial to remember that these symptoms are part of the process as your body flushes out the toxins accumulated from the smoking habit. If you are interested, consider talking to your doctor about your intentions to kick a smoking habit. They may be able to prescribe medication that aids with these withdrawal symptoms. If you are looking for something over the counter, some products are available at your local pharmacy, such as gum, tablets, and nicotine patches.

You Can Quit With Discipline

Breaking a smoking habit can be difficult for many, including older adults. However, the long-term effects of a smoking habit are detrimental to one’s health, as smoking is linked to higher risks of various diseases. Kicking this habit in the long-run will be extremely beneficial, not only for you but for any close family members in the home too. 

Quitting a smoking habit involves being conscious of the addiction to cigarettes and taking the right steps to free yourself from the ties of smoking. It is not easy, but with persistence and the support of friends and family, as well as your own motivation, breaking the smoking habit will be the ultimate prize, and you’ll never look back again!

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The Author

Jessica Thomas is a Public Health Professional, Health & Wellness Writer, and Entrepreneur. She has a B.S. in Health Administration with a focus on Aging Studies and an M.D. in Public Health. Before starting her business, Jessica worked for over 3 years as a Program Coordinator and Performance Improvement Leader in a hospital setting. Her roles focused on various senior initiatives such as fall reduction, preventing delirium, and addressing barriers in the healthcare system. Today, Jessica enjoys learning and educating others on aging in place, how tech solutions can help seniors, and health and wellness topics.

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