Kicking the habit: Smoking can shorten a person’s life span by 10 to 15 years
Special to The Dallas Examiner “Quitting smoking is hard, especially if you do it alone,” Said Juan Prieto, Community Health Educator with Parkland Health’s Community Oriented Primary Care Smoking Cessation Program. He added [...] The post Kicking the habit: Smoking can shorten a person’s life span by 10 to 15 years appeared first on Dallas Examiner.
Special to The Dallas Examiner
“Quitting smoking is hard, especially if you do it alone,” Said Juan Prieto, Community Health Educator with Parkland Health’s Community Oriented Primary Care Smoking Cessation Program.
He added that it’s important to find a support group that can relate to the obstacles of smoking cessation and provides a helping hand during the journey to quitting.
Each year, 480,000 – about 1 in 5 – deaths occur in the United States due to cigarette smoking, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Cigarette smoking remains the leading cause of preventable disease, disability and death in the U.S. It’s one of the reasons Parkland provides smoking cessation programs to provide the Dallas County community with personalized treatment plans to help people quit smoking.
“Smoking can shorten a person’s life span by 10 to 15 years compared to non-smokers. Tobacco can cause many diseases like heart attack and strokes, which are the most common,” Prieto said.
Which is what Sharon Smith was trying to avoid. She had been a smoker for about 40 years before she became determined to kick the habit.
“I want to do this for my kids, for my grandson and I want to be around longer,” Smith said. “When I started the program, I went for two or three days and then the pandemic hit. We couldn’t meet up at the clinic and the pandemic made me smoke even more.”
In 2020, about 13 of every 100 U.S. adults 18 years or older smoked cigarettes, meaning an estimated 30.8 million adults in the U.S. lit up cigarettes, according to the CDC.
“Nicotine is the main chemical in cigarettes that makes it so addictive. It is a brain stimulant that produces dopamine, it relaxes people and makes them feel good like what chocolate, alcohol, junk food and coffee do,” Prieto explained. “It makes people feel good momentarily, causing them to come back for that feeling, but at the same time it’s making them sick and more prone to diseases and cancer.”
The good news is that smoking has declined from 20.9% in 2005 to 12.5% in 2020, according to the CDC. That’s from nearly 21 in every 100 adults to 12 in every 100 adults. However, tobacco addiction still exists, and people are fighting every day to kick the habit.
Smith didn’t let her relapse get the best of her and decided to try again. So, she signed back up for Parkland’s Smoking Cessation Program in 2022.
“What really made me successful this time was that I was determined. I chose to be consistent, and I wanted to win,” she said.
To help beat the habit, Parkland has an Adult Smoking Cessation Program that is offered at seven of Parkland’s Community Oriented Primary Care health centers.
- Bluitt-Flowers Health Center
- deHaro-Saldivar Health Center
- Garland Health Center
- Hatcher Station Health Center
- Irving Health Center
- Southeast Dallas Health Center
- E. Carlyle Smith, Jr. Health Center at Grand Prairie
“Through our smoking cessation program, we currently offer four sessions. The first one is preparing yourself to quit. The second session provides the steps and tools necessary to quit. The third session is about how to live a smoke-free life. The final session is all about following up and monitoring patient progress,” Prieto said. “They receive medical support and counseling for guidance on how to combat those cravings to smoke.”
Smith said it’s beneficial to be in a program because individuals receive tools and support, especially when the cravings sneak up. “Juan told me when I get cravings to concentrate on my breathing for a few minutes, and I thought, ‘oh, this isn’t going to help,’ but it did!”
She attributes her success to replacing her habit of picking up a cigarette with a healthy one like routine morning walks and practicing breathing exercises.
The American Cancer Society estimated that each year there are about 236,740 new cases of lung cancer in the United States and about 130,180 deaths from lung cancer, noting that the number of new lung cancer cases continues to decrease, partly because people are quitting smoking.
For more than 40 years, the American Cancer Society has hosted the Great American Smokeout on the third Thursday of November. It is an opportunity for individuals, health providers and community groups to encourage those who smoke to use the date to make a plan to quit or initiate a smoking cessation program.
“Even if someone isn’t completely sure that they want to quit, they should join a smoking cessation program where they can learn how to quit and get motivated to do so,” Prieto said.
He explains that people in the program are taught healthy alternatives that still give their brains the serotonin and dopamine that smoking gives them. This includes mindfulness exercises that take less than five minutes a day to complete, going for a walk and other forms of exercise to create mental and emotional stimulation and balance.
“To anyone that is thinking about quitting smoking, I would tell them to go ahead and take that leap, but you really have to want it. If you relapse, don’t give up, keep trying,” said Smith.
For more information on Parkland’s Smoking Cessation Program, call 214-590-5691 or contact one of the seven COPCs listed above and ask for the smoking cessation program liaison.
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