Quit smoking to survive longer: Here’s how to control tobacco cravings

Once you decide to quit smoking, you put that cigarette down but how do you stop yourself from reaching out again? Here are some expert-approved tips to resist tobacco cravings.
A woman splitting a cigarette before taking medical tests for smokers
Tips to resist tobacco cravings. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock
Dr Srabana Misra Published: 31 Mar 2023, 19:15 pm IST
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Did you know that at least one person dies every six seconds due to tobacco? The World Health Organization(WHO) has named tobacco the most preventable cause of death worldwide. Many people battle health ailments such as strokes, cancer, lung diseases, heart diseases, diabetes, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). People need to pay more attention to the age of smoking initiation. According to a national survey of the Global Youth Tobacco Survey report (GYTS) 2022, children as young as 7 years start smoking in the country. For those smoking bidis, the median age was 7.9 years for boys and 11.3 years for girls. The minimum age for boys and girls consuming smokeless tobacco was 11.4 and 11.8 years, respectively.

While more than 20 lakh people had joined the quit-tobacco initiative of the Indian government in 2016, the average quit rate still stands at 7 percent. As per a report by The International Commission to Reignite the Fight Against Smoking, India is among the countries with the lowest quit rates for smoking. Standing at the second rank worldwide for the number of tobacco users, with 250,002,133 smokers. India also has the highest smokeless tobacco users and oral cancer rates worldwide.

This does not mean that people don’t want to quit, but that they just don’t know how to. The biggest challenge after figuring that out is how to resist tobacco smoking. Scroll down to know how you can do that.

smoking dangers
Why you need to quit smoking. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

What happens when you quit smoking?

When one quits tobacco, they can feel difficulty concentrating, may feel irritated or anxious, and have trouble sleeping. However, one can deal with these so-called withdrawal symptoms. It is also observed that when someone quits smoking, the body only takes 20 minutes to undergo beneficial changes.

According to a study published in Psychopharmacology, one’s heart rate may drop after a minute of quitting. After 24 hours, the nicotine level in the blood level drops to zero. After quitting tobacco, the carbon monoxide level in the blood drops to the level of someone who doesn’t smoke. In 1 to 12 months, the coughing and shortness of breath decrease.

Heart attacks are significantly less likely to occur after 1 to 2 years of stopping, and coronary heart disease is significantly less likely to occur after 3 to 6 years of quitting. Once 5 to 10 years have passed, the added risk of mouth, throat, and voice box cancers drops by half, and the risk of strokes decreases. The added risk of lung cancer drops by half after 10-15 years, and the risk of bladder, oesophagus, and kidney cancers decreases.

Once it has been 15 years since quitting, the risk of coronary heart disease drops to close to that of someone who does not smoke. Once 20 years have passed, the risk of cancers of the mouth, throat, and voice box drops to close to that of someone who does not smoke, along with a drop of risk of pancreatic cancer close to that of someone who doesn’t smoke and added risk of cervical cancer drops by half. The nicotine cravings gradually go down over one month.

Also Read: 4 reasons why you need to quit smoking

What happens when you quit smoking
You might go through these changes in your body when you quit smoking. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

How to resist tobacco cravings?

There is no right time to quit smoking. One should do it immediately to prevent oneself from health hazards caused by smoking. Let’s look at a few ways to resist tobacco cravings and leave smoking forever.

1. Seek medication

Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) has been proven to have doubled the chances of quitting once started. The recent inclusion of NRT in the National List of Essential Medicines (NLEM) makes it a perfect opportunity for people to use it regularly in India. NRT medicines come in a variety of shapes, including tablets, gum, transdermal patches, nasal sprays, and oral inhalers. If someone’s cravings are high, adjustments to the dose can be made.

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2. Change your environment

Making tiny changes can go a long way. Remove all tobacco-related products like cigarettes, ashtrays, lighters, matchboxes, etc. Let your friends and family know you’re quitting so that they can support you on your journey.

3. Find distractions

Nicotine cravings last only for a few minutes. When a craving happens, find distractions that would work for you. Listen to your favourite music, play with your pet, call a friend, or go for a walk. It can be different for others. The bottomline is, you should do whatever works for you.

how to reduce tobacco cravings?
Try new things when you are trying to resist tobacco cravings. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

4. Find safe substitutes

The usage of stress balls or squeeze balls has also proven to be helpful. Doodle! These can help you with nervous energy. Every time you crave tobacco, use these instead of lighting a cigarette.

5. Remember why you quit

Whenever you feel like getting a cigarette, think about why you changed your habit. Maybe, even write the points down on your notepad and keep reading the list occasionally. Smoking affects every part of your body, but leaving it can reduce the risk of premature death and add ten years of life expectancy.

6. Professional tobacco quit help

The government of India initiated a series of Tobacco Cessation Centres (TCC) with support from WHO in India from 2005 onwards. Dr B.Borooah Cancer Institute started such a Tobacco Cessation Centre initiative in 2005, the first TCC in the North East. Now there are TCCs under the District and State Tobacco Control cells all over India. Face-to-face counselling is available at the state and district levels under the state and District tobacco control cells.

The Department of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, has initiated an online mode of Tobacco cessation service from 2007-08 onwards. Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, in partnership with WHO and the International Telecommunications Union, has started an initiative for utilising mobile technology for tobacco cessation as “M Cessation” to reach out to tobacco users who want to quit tobacco use and support them toward successful quitting through constant text messaging on mobile phones.

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About the Author

Dr Srabana Misra Bhagabaty, MD-In Charge, Department of Preventive Oncology ...Read More

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