A Year of Change

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I was compensated by Med-IQ through an educational grant from Pfizer, Inc. and the Coverys Foundation to write about smoking cessation. All opinions are my own.

woman holding flowers in a park smiling

Anyone else feel like 2020 is going to be a year we’ll remember forever? I think it’s fitting to say this is a year of change, a year (hopefully!) of progress, and a year that will make us all stronger and better people in many ways. But when you think about it, how far have we really come?

Ryan and I have been watching Mad Men lately (he’s never seen it!) and we love discussing the themes of each episode. There are three major things throughout the entire series that stand out to us most: racism, sexism, and constant drinking and smoking. It’s so crazy to see how far we’ve come, yet some things haven’t changed much at all.

Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen a new, huge wave of the fight against racial injustice. We’ve gotten to a place in our society that I am personally glad to see, yet we still have so much further to go and so many more issues to tackle. Sexism is an ongoing fight that I proudly advocate for. Sadly, while we’re no longer being groped in the office, women are still underpaid and not respected enough in the workplace. But with the rise of COVID-19 cases, health is at the forefront of our minds–particularly respiratory health. That’s why I’m excited to partner with Med-IQ to help spread some information about how to quit smoking.

Being from the deep south, I was around smoking quite a bit growing up, and I’ve always hated it. I can’t say the same for my family members though. I remember taking my family member’s cigarettes and flushing them down the toilet as a kid. Man did I get in trouble for that! Luckily, there are much better ways to help a family member or friend quit smoking nowadays.

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When I was around 9 or 10, my grandma got pneumonia. She was in the hospital and although I don’t remember being too scared about it, I do remember that experience is what prompted her to quit smoking. Back when she was in her early twenties, everyone smoked. And we didn’t necessarily know how bad it was for us. Now we do, and it shouldn’t have to take a near-death experience to drop the habit. But that’s just the thing, it’s more than a habit. It’s an addiction.

So when it comes to quitting, what are the correct and healthy steps to take for you or your loved ones? Not everyone is able to go cold turkey (like my cousin did! Good job, Brandon!). In fact, my brother thought a good idea was to convert to vaping, which is not any better than smoking cigarettes. Luckily, that only lasted about a month before he heard about the side effects of vaping and quit smoking altogether. The truth is, e-cigarette companies have not bothered to gain approval from the FDA as a way to quit smoking, and they have not gained approval as a reduced-harm tobacco product.

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Since nicotine addiction is a very real thing, medications and counseling significantly increase the chances of quitting. In addition to smoking cessation aids like nicotine replacement therapy (patch, gum, lozenges, inhalers, or nasal spray), there are actually prescribed smoking cessation medicines like Chantix/varenicline and Zyban/Wellbutrin/bupropion. Combining counseling and medication, compared to using no quit aids, can double or even triple quit success rates. As for the counseling part, there are a couple free options I would recommend. One is calling the toll free number 1-800-QUIT-NOW, and the other is to check out the quit smoking resources at http://smokefree.gov. In addition to counseling, they also offer print resources, local referrals, and many provide access to smoking cessation medications at no cost.

It’s important to be kind and gentle when speaking with family members about quitting. You don’t want them to get defensive. After all, their body is dependent on a drug. Even if they want to quit, they may feel incapable. One great way to be supportive is to ask open-ended questions. Ask questions to understand their perceived benefits of smoking: what are the good things they feel like they get from smoking? How else might they get these benefits without smoking (eg, exercise, meditation, activities with friends who don’t smoke)? Suggest an activity to do together to replace that feeling or urge to smoke.

Finally, it would be irresponsible not to address the health concerns. Especially in a time of a global pandemic–one that attacks the lungs–we should all do as much as we can to stay as healthy as possible.

What changes are you hoping to see this year, do you think it’s a year of change?

Photos by Ryan Carpenter.

Med-IQ is conducting an anonymous survey and would appreciate your input. The survey, which includes additional education on this topic, will take less than 10 minutes to complete. Survey responses are shared only in aggregate. Your responses to these survey questions will provide Med-IQ with important information about your views on and experiences with smoking cigarettes and vaping e-cigarettes. Your responses will be used to identify additional opportunities to help people stop smoking and vaping and educate their healthcare providers. Once you’ve completed the survey, you will have the option of providing your email address to be entered into a drawing administered by SOMA Strategies to win 1 of 10 $100 VISA gift cards. If you choose to enter, email addresses are used only to randomly draw the winners and notify them of their prize.