False starts normal for those who quit smoking

Editor's note: This is the fourth in a series of columns about smoking cessation from medical professionals at Providence St. Mary Regional Cancer Center.

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I am the community resource nurse for Providence St. Mary Regional Cancer Center. A component of my job is to educate the population about cancer risk and exposures.

Smoking creates a lot of problems. A smoker is not just a person who smokes some cigarettes. Smoking is a lifestyle.

And the lifestyle of a smoker is very different than that of a nonsmoker.

Over time, smoking becomes so integrated into what you do that it affects the decisions you make and becomes part of who you are.

If you are a smoker, you likely have had this conversation with your doctor. He or she will tell you to quit smoking. Most patients know that they should quit, but it is so hard to follow through!

You are not alone if you have tried many times and have failed to quit. Statistics tell us that most people will attempt to quit five times or more before they are successful.

A few facts that will help you build a foundation to quit are: Tobacco smoke contains 4,000 different chemicals, including carbon monoxide, ammonia, hydrogen cyanide and acetone.

Let's remind ourselves that acetone removes fingernail polish and ammonia is a household cleaner that is very overwhelming when inhaled. Let's not forget the most addicting substance: nicotine. We also need to point out that tar clogs the lungs where oxygen is diffused into the blood stream.

Unfortunately, we appear to be losing the battle with our teenagers and smoking. I cannot tell you how many of our patients have said, "If I had only known, I would not have started."

Even though the dangers are well known, young people are taking up smoking in record numbers.

The tobacco industry has spent millions of dollars on research studying teenagers to determine what kind of stimulus will make them want to smoke.

They have been very successful. They want your addiction. For big tobacco to make a lot of money they want you to start smoking at a young age. Studies show that the earlier you get a kid addicted to smoking, the deeper the addiction.

In short, if you don't smoke, don't start! If you do smoke and are interested in quitting, please call me at 509-522-5700 for a schedule of smoking cessation classes. We can help!

Mardi Hagerman is a registered nurse and oncology certified nurse at Providence St. Mary Regional Cancer Center.

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