Editor’s note: This post was updated April 1, 2020, during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Like other respiratory diseases, health experts warn of increased potential for severity in persons who smoke or vape.
We know the negative side effects of using tobacco products, such as respiratory infections, asthma and cancer – but health experts warn that smoking and vaping also can lead to more severe cases of diseases like COVID-19.
Most tobacco-users are unable to quit because they are addicted to nicotine and never receive help. However, millions have quit and if you want to quit, resources and support are available.
Kerry Thieme, Health Educator, at Security Health Plan wellness, Marshfield Clinic Health System, said medications, along with proper coaching, can increase your chances of quitting.
Marshfield Clinic Health System offers the Wisconsin Tobacco Quit-line, and other states have similar programs to support people through the process. Security Health Plan also provides their members free support from a health coach through a nicotine-free program. Health coaches have a bachelor’s or master’s degree in the health field, and years of experience helping members become nicotine free.
Thieme said most individuals have pharmacy coverage for tobacco cessation products, but Security Health Plan Medicare Advantage members may qualify for free products such as the patches, lozenges or gum.
“We direct Security Health Plan members to talk with their providers about cessation medication,” she said, “but we can educate members on their pharmacy benefits for tobacco cessation medications and how to use them properly.”
What to expect from a quit line
When you call the Wisconsin Tobacco Quit Line or contact Security Health Plan, you’ll speak with a health coach. They will help you develop a plan that’s right for you by asking several questions like how much do you smoke, vape or chew, what motivates you to quit and when do you want to quit.
Tips to become nicotine free
A quit-line or Security Health Plan health coach will evaluate each individual and create a customizable plan that works for you. Here are five tips to get you started on the right track:
1. Get support
Wisconsin Quit-line is a free service available 24/7. You may call the quit-line back as often as you like for support. Contact them at 800-QUIT-NOW (800-784-8669) or register online. For Security Health Plan or Family Health Center members, the Nicotine-Free program is available at no additional charge. Call 1-833-933-9355(TTY 711) for additional information.
In addition, call or text someone you know you can trust to help support you through the process. National Cancer Institute also offers LiveHelp online chat to talk with a counselor.
2. Set a quit date
Research shows it’s often helpful to set a quit date a few days or weeks in the future, rather than trying to do so right away. This will allow you the time to prepare to quit.
Working with a health coach or your support person to determine a goal date, will help you formulate a plan and achieve your goal.
“It’s never too late to quit and you don’t have to do it alone,” Thieme said. “There are numerous ways to kick the habit and a health coach can help you figure out what works best for you.”
3. Think about your reason for quitting
Everyone has different reasons for quitting. Remind yourself why you want to quit. Add up the money you will save, and decide to do something good for yourself.
Research has shown that tobacco use takes seven to eight years off your life. However, quitting tobacco or nicotine can decrease your risk of a heart attack or stroke in as little as 24 hours.
“It is easier to take one day at a time on your journey to being nicotine free,” Thieme said.
4. Try medications or nicotine replacement therapy
Wisconsin Quit-line offers two weeks of free medication (nicotine patch, gum or lozenge) and self-help materials. Other programs can help you receive these medications and provide education on how best to use them.
These products have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and are known to help people quit.
“They are safer than using tobacco or vaping products because they do not contain dangerous toxins,” Thieme said. “If you choose to use a cessation medication, it is important to talk with your provider about which medication is best for you.”
5. Avoid triggers and stay busy
When cravings hit, it’s important to have a plan in place to keep yourself busy. Sometimes smoking a cigarette or vaping is a habit, or used to “relieve stress.” Keep your mouth busy by chewing gum, candy or drinking water.
If you are craving nicotine, change your routine. You could try going for a walk or jog to distract yourself.
Do what works for you
These are just tips to help you quit the unhealthy habit. Do whatever it takes to beat the urge to use tobacco or nicotine. Contact your primary care provider with any questions or for more resources available.