It’s Not Too Late to Be A Quitter – Great American Smokeout

Time again for the Great American Smokeout!

This annual event presented by the American Cancer Society happens on November 19.

Will your senior (or you) ‘Quit Like a Champion’ this year?

It is amazing that almost 42 million people in the United States still smoke when so many places have become smoke free.

Can you believe it has been 25 years since we stopped smoking in airplanes? It has also been a year since CVS Caremark stopped selling tobacco.

Not only is smoking inconvenient and costly, smoking is also the single most preventable cause of disease and death in the US!

Those are pretty convincing reasons to finally stop smoking this year.

It’s not too late for our seniors’ health to benefit from smoking cessation!

Smoking Is Risky Behavior

The dangers are clear and we have known for many years the harmful effect smoking has on our overall health.

It is estimated that half of those people who smoke will die because of smoking. However, even if a person over 80 quits smoking he will live a healthier life with immediate health benefits.

The American Cancer Society found that almost half (48.5%) of the deaths from 12 different types of cancer can be linked to cigarette smoking.

Second hand smoke can be dangerous to those around you who never smoked but whose health is negatively impacted.  Second hand smoke causes 41,000 deaths a year. In fact, even short term exposure to second hand smoke can result in increased risk of heart attack.

It is also especially harmful for children, which should be of particular concern to grandparents.

Kids who start using e-cigarettes are six times more likely to adopt conventional cigarettes and also were less likely to quit either, according to a study published in JAMA Pediatrics.

It is admittedly easier to never start than it is to quit.

Quitting After 50

Our senior loved ones struggle with smoking cessation for a variety of reasons.

Many feel the effort won’t be worth the benefits but research tells us that the benefits will be felt within 20 minutes of the last cigarette, when your senior’s blood pressure and heart rate drop.

Within 12 hours, the carbon monoxide level in their blood returns to normal. In 2 weeks, both circulation and lung function will improve. Breathing will be easier, doing daily tasks are easier and they will feel better.

Then there is the fresh breath!

Your senior might also find that they are able to taste their food now. That is a definite plus!

Quitting will not only lower your senior’s risk for developing a variety of cancers, including lung cancer, but it will lower risks for heart attack, stroke and lung disease.

Many people over 50 may be hesitant to quit now because they have tried before and failed. Also, the habit of smoking for so many years may be so overwhelming that it stops them in their tracks.

Strategies for Quitting

There are strategies that can help your senior loved one be a champion quitter now!

  • Medications – shown to double the success in quitting. There are 7 different over-the-counter or prescription medications that can help ease symptoms to help quit including nicotine gum, patches, lozenges, inhalers, nasal sprays, and Chantix or Zyban. Talk these options over with your senior’s doctor.
  • Cessation Classes – attending a class in the area will help support quitting goals with face to face help and information. There is also an online cessation program offered by the American Lung Association called Freedom From Smoking
  • Toll-free Information Line – you can call to get more information that will help your senior create a quitting plan at 1-800-LUNGUSA.
  • Apps – there are a multitude of apps for smartphones or tablets that seniors can use to help them be successful at cessation. The apps have numerous functions that assist a person such as texts, alerts, information, support, tracking cigarette savings, help you make a plan, manage other health behaviors such as activity and healthy eating, chat live online, manage cravings and moods, and even more help. There are several available including, Quit For Life, Livestrong MyQuit Coaching, Quit Smoking, Quit Now! that you can check out.
  • Counseling – seek out advice from someone who can support this change, whether it is a health care provider, support group, former smokers, or health insurer.
  • Electronic cigarettes – this is not recommended, although some anecdotal comments say it can help break the habit. Beware that some of these e-cigarettes can be harmful.

Caregiver Role

Caregivers can help their senior loved ones become Champions and quit to win!

  1. If you are yourself a smoker, join your senior in the fight to quit. Don’t let them do it alone! You can be more than a supportive person for them in their quitting plan by being a good role model too.
  2. You can be a cheerleader if you don’t smoke now to help your senior stick to their plan and be successful this time around.
  3. Caregivers can help set up the technology needed to connect with smoking cessation apps. Teach them to use them and reinforce the importance of connecting with them daily. You may need to re-train them along the way for them to get the maximum benefit from one of these apps.
  4. Can you help them find a smoking cessation class or support group in their area and see to it that they can take advantage of the program with transportation or reminders?
  5. Do you know a former smoker who can guide your senior loved one on their quitting journey?
  6. Help your senior with their medication options if needed by talking with the doctor with them about all the possibilities and help them use them appropriately.
  7. Bring your senior items that are healthy and could help them replace the cigarette in their mouth, such as sugar free gum, carrot sticks or sunflower seeds.
  8. If they are struggling, help them by providing emotional support, a walking buddy or someone to call when the urge to smoke strikes.
  9. Help them avoid places where smoking is happening or where they might want to smoke.
  10. Keep them active!

Every smoker can quit with a commitment, good plan and support — no matter their age.

Your senior (and you) can become a champion too!