Quitting For Good

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I need a second opinion. My mom has been a cigarette smoker most of her life much to everyone’s dismay. She’s tried and failed to quit several times over the course of my life. This past holiday, she admitted that the nicotine patches her doctor suggested didn’t work.

She claims that part of what makes quitting so difficult is the anxiety of her job as an ER nurse. I can understand that. The atmosphere is hectic in hospitals around New Jersey, especially now with the ongoing opioid crisis throughout the state. She apparently deals with overdoses every day.

Her birthday is next month, and I want to do something to help her quit. At first, I was thinking about signing her up for personal training. The hope was that, if she had to be more active, she’d either have to limit her smoking, or risk undermining her progress. However, I fear that it could be too much at once for her, so now I need help finding other alternatives.

It’s admirable that you’re trying to support your mom and her efforts to quit smoking. Your mom’s addiction sounds more complicated than most. The authors at SmokeFree.gov explain that nicotine is the primary driver of most tobacco addiction. They also introduce the role of triggers, which are activities, feelings, or people linked to the act of smoking. Stressful situations like those that naturally arise in a hospital emergency room could most serve as triggers.

The context you provided seems to imply that your mom sees smoking cigarettes as an outlet from the unfolding events and circumstances around her. She probably believes that smoking reduces her anxiety. However, writer Salynn Boyles at WebMD explains that smoking doesn’t calm your nerves, despite what your brain tells you. However, the power of both the addiction and the dopamine rewards people experience from actively consuming the addictive substance overwhelms other emotions.

Regular physical activity would help motivate a smoker to quit, and emphasize the benefits. However, it doesn’t address the difficulties addicts face when trying to refrain. For instance, the longer an addict uses a substance, the more of it they require to achieve a state of normalcy. This ultimately means enduring more dramatic withdrawal symptoms if, or when, the addict decides to quit. That’s why doctors prefer to have addicts gradually wean off substances, rather than attempt quitting cold-turkey.

One suggestion that might fit this unique bill is proposing that your mom try e-cigarettes. Aggie Mika at The Scientist published a relevant article about what to consider when swapping cigarettes for vaping. She openly discloses that, although vaping isn’t without its risks, e-cigarettes pose fewer health detriments than conventional smoking. This could be advantageous for someone who not only seeks the nicotine fix, but also relishes the vanity act of smoking itself. Nicotine patches address the first criterion, but fail to effectively satisfy the craving for a physical manifestation.

Another pro to consider is that switching to vaping typically costs less than maintaining a conventional cigarette addiction. That alone might at least persuade your mom to make a sustained effort to ease off smoking with e-cigarettes. You can easily find cheap vape kits for beginners, either online or at local vape shops. The largest investment is upfront. However, unlike replacing costly packs of cigarettes each week, users can often get away with a single vape cartridge per week.

The best part about this plan is that it works well with other strategies. Your mom’s lung capacity and health will improve if she remains committed to e-cigarettes instead of traditional ones. That would then make it much easier to utilize personal fitness training.

“Your habits become your values, your values become your destiny.” – Mahatma Gandhi

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