Smoking is bad for our health, as all of us have likely heard many times.
We know that smoking can lead to many forms of cancer, including lung and other cancers.
It increases our risk for heart disease and stroke, high blood pressure, wrinkles, bone disease, cataracts, macular degeneration, diabetes and erectile dysfunction.
Yes, we know it’s bad for us, but still…did you know smoking is still responsible for a half million preventable deaths a year in the United States?
Preventable Premature Deaths
Despite what we know to be negative health consequences, more than 4 million (10%) adults over 65 continue to smoke.
Do our seniors think that it is too late to change their stripes or that it wouldn’t matter if they stopped or not at this point?
A recent study validates the fact that quitting at any age will drastically reduce the risks of potential health complications, including death from smoking.
As we often say at Senior Care Corner, it is never too late to adopt new behaviors, including tobacco cessation!
Yes, in this case quitters DO win.
Kicking the Habit
Your senior loved one probably knows that smoking is harmful to their health and may have tried to quit in the past but found it to be a struggle to overcome. Nicotine addiction can be a beast to battle.
Kicking the habit of smoking cigarettes, cigars and smokeless tobacco is very hard. No one will deny it! It is much more difficult in a lifelong smoker, like our senior loved ones who feel the tobacco is a part of them.
Smoking is present in every part of a smoker’s day and can be thought of as a best friend and companion and not an addiction. Your senior will feel symptoms of withdrawal when they start the cessation program. It is something you should be ready for and aware of as an outcome, a worthwhile outcome.
There are resources available to help your senior stop smoking.
- One such set of resources was produced by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Their web based resources include tools that help support your senior in a way that works best for them.
- Free hotlines for quitting that offer counseling and support such as the National Cancer Institute’s Smoking Quitline at (877) 44U-QUIT or (877) 448-7848 between 8:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time. You can also call your state’s quitline. Call (800) QUIT-NOW or (800) 784-8669 to be connected with free resources about quitting and counseling information in your state.
- Smoke-free websites, such as the National Cancer Institute sponsored sites smokefree.gov, women.smokefree.gov, and Spanish information at espanol.smokefree.gov. The US Department of Health and Human Services has a site, Be Tobacco Free. The American Lung Association has a Stop Smoking page. The Department of Defense U Can Quit 2 site for veterans and others.
- Some states also provide free nicotine replacement therapy available to those seeking smoking cessation. Contact your state quitline for more information.
- Apps to aid tobacco cessation. There are smartphone and tablet apps that are available to help your senior break the habit. They send alerts, support and information about quitting that act as motivators. There are several free apps such as Quit It, Smoke Free, Butt Out, My Last Cigarette and others. These apps will tell you how long since your last cigarette, the money saved without smoking, the amount of tar you didn’t puff, the latest health benefit you achieved by not smoking and other items. You can choose one that you enter personal information such as cravings and a way to talk with others who are quitting too. If your senior is comfortable with the smartphone or tablet and tech savvy, this option may be very appealing and effective.
Benefits of Smoking Cessation
Seniors know that there are a multitude of benefits that they can achieve when they are finally able to overcome the smoking habit or nicotine addiction.
It takes only 20 minutes of tobacco cessation to see health benefits. In 20 minutes, your senior’s heart rate drops. So many great things can happen once the habit is kicked.
- Gain a ‘second income’ with all the money your senior will now save on tobacco products on which he or she currently spends.
- Fresh smelling breath! Gone will be the smoker’s mouth with the foul smell that their grandchildren shy away from. They will become even more kissable! Your senior will also have whiter teeth and fewer dental problems.
- More visitors! People who avoid the home where your senior lives because it smells like an ashtray and the grandchildren can’t tolerate the smoke will now be able to breathe freely and come more often to visit and socialize.
- Fewer coughing episodes. Gone will be the smoker’s hack that your senior has accepted as part of their life. Once they are smoke free, the episodes of coughing will be diminished. In just one to nine months after quitting, you will experience fewer episodes of coughing and less shortness of breath. Maybe the gravelly voice will also get clearer as you stop smoking longer.
- More years to their life. Smoking cessation can add years to the life in a way that has quality – adding life to those years.
- Diminished wrinkles. Your senior may not get rid of the wrinkles they already have, but they could diminish the look of their wrinkles and maybe stop making more!
- Reduce the risk of cataract, cancer, heart disease, COPD, and bronchitis! That could mean fewer trips to the doctor, emergency room and hospital! In just one year after quitting, the risk of heart disease is cut to half that of a smoker.
- Better night’s sleep for a more energy filled day. When they sleep better and are more rested, they can accomplish more of the things that are of interest them. Feeling tired and weak all the time as a smoker is no fun but quitting will bring energy back to their life.
- A few extra pounds. Sometimes smokers experience a slight weight gain when they begin a program to kick their habit. This is natural but, with a little forethought and physical activity, your senior doesn’t have to put on the pounds (unless he or she needs to then it is an added benefit!). Think of the weight as the price of health. The benefits of non-smoking outweigh any added pounds on the scale.
- Make those around your senior loved one healthier! Breathing in second hand smoke can be detrimental to caregivers, children or grandchildren, especially if they have asthma, allergies or breathing difficulties themselves. Clean fresh air in the home is a big benefit for all!
Make Non-Smoking a New Habit
Two out of three smokers say they want to quit and half tried to quit last year. Maybe your senior loved one was among them.
For whatever reason that they were not successful, it is a good time to try to break the habit again.
Research shows that it can take several attempts to break a lifelong habit.
Don’t let your senior think that he failed before, he was just practicing for the final performance!
With great resources such as those listed above, now may be the one try that works!