Don't give up; you can quit smoking

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Around New Year's, you threw away the cigarettes and decided it was the time to quit. But now, a few months later, you've given up or feel you are weakening.

With the May 1 tax increase, the average cost per pack is now more than $8, and quitting is a decision that can make a big difference in your life, your health and your wallet!

In Walla Walla County, one in six high school seniors smokes, as well as 9 percent of pregnant women.

Don't give up. It often takes many attempts to quit, and the good news is there is more than one way to kick the habit. If cold turkey doesn't work, there are lots of other ways.

So much attention is devoted to those who look to quit at the beginning of the year we can overlook those who try and fail, as many do, in the first few months. That, however, is often the time people need extra help. They are not only dealing with the physical and psychological cravings, but they are also frustrated by their inability to quit.

You aren't alone. Most attempts to quit smoking fail before three months are up. Those who succeed rarely do so on the first try.

The American Cancer Society offers a hotline to help smokers quit. This support can help those who are having trouble and deals with the challenges of failing to quit the first time. Many studies have shown that such support is a key part of successfully quitting.

Nicotine replacement is another option. Products such as the patch or gum can help ease nicotine withdrawal. Each product is different, and the choice of product has to be suited to the individual.

Now there is an additional option. New medicines can be taken that make it easier to quit by blocking the receptors in the brain stimulated by nicotine. These medicines "take the fun out of smoking" and help break the association between smoking and pleasure.

Help is also being proposed on the legislative front.

In Oregon a new law requires health insurance companies to provide coverage for medicines that help people quit. In Washington, Group Health provides this type of coverage. They recognize smokers have high health-care costs, visit the doctor more frequently and have a higher incidence of a wide range of health problems. Helping their citizens and customers quit smoking not only benefits the quality of life of ex-smokers, but can cut health-care costs.

At a time when so many are making efforts to find every way to cut health-care costs, providing help to those seeking to quit is a good place to start.

If you are looking to quit, check with your health insurer to see if it provides coverage.

Which approach or approaches are best is up to you and your doctor. The New Year has always been a good time to begin. Failure may simply mean one strategy didn't work but that another might.

The latest tobacco tax hike serves a reminder that quitting can be a good step to reduce your taxes.

Whatever the reason, get some help, call your doctor and don't give up. You can quit.

Dr. Sam Joseph is a pulmonary and critical care physician with Spokane Respiratory Consultants.

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