Many of the day-to-day rituals we form can be difficult to break. But some have a bigger impact on our health than others. For instance, if you smoke or use tobacco products, you might already know this habit comes with some serious health risks.
According to the CDC, tobacco use is considered the leading cause of preventable disease, disability and death for Americans. And of the nearly 40 million smokers and tobacco users in the U.S., close to 16 million are living with a serious health condition caused by it. However, the key word to focus on is preventable, because quitting can help you improve your health and the health of those around you.
Dangers of tobacco use
There’s not too much question about it—smoking isn’t very good for you. Cigarette smoke is loaded with chemicals that are harmful to your body. Many of your organs, such as your mouth, heart, lungs and brain, can start to feel negative effects beginning with your very first puff. By smoking cigarettes, cigars or pipes, you’ll also put yourself at increased risk for many diseases and conditions, including cancer, heart disease, stroke, asthma, diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and others.
Tobacco smoke also has a harmful effect on those around you. Breathing in secondhand smoke, and the chemicals it contains, can be very unsafe to adults and children alike.
Other tobacco products, such as chewing tobacco or snuff, carry dangers as well. Though smokeless, chemicals contained in these items can put you at a higher risk for dental issues, gum disease and cancers of the mouth, throat and even pancreas.
Understanding nicotine addiction
One particular hazard when using tobacco lies in its addictive nature. Many people who smoke, vape or use tobacco form an addiction to a chemical found within—called nicotine. This dependence, which can form quickly, leads to cravings. And it’s also what makes kicking the habit so difficult.
If you’re addicted to nicotine, trying to quit can sometimes lead to symptoms such as headaches, increased irritability, cough and trouble concentrating.
Tips and resources for quitting
The good news is, saying goodbye to tobacco and nicotine will allow you to say hello to a healthier lifestyle! Leaving this habit in the dust is one of the best decisions you can make to start feeling better. And though it can feel daunting, you don’t have to try to quit all by yourself.
Here are some tips and resources to help you along the way:
- Loop in friends and family. Once you’ve made your decision to quit, be sure to tell friends and family about your plans. They can offer much-needed support to help you stick with it.
- Put your quit date in writing. Try picking a date not too far in the future—one to two weeks is best. This will give you some time to prepare, but not change your mind. And be sure to write it on your calendar!
- Know your reasons for quitting. If you know why you want to stop your tobacco habit, you’ll be more motivated and less likely to give up. You can think about how you’ll feel, ways your health could improve, protecting your family… or any other reason important to you!
- Consider enrolling in a cessation program. Sometimes it helps to try formal programs for better results. Check with your employer to see if your health benefits include resources for quitting, such as cessation programs or health coaching.
Additional resources from Meritain Health®
Meritain Health members may have access to Nicotine Free powered by Healthy Merits through their employers, with online support and optional health coaching.
For more questions regarding your Meritain Health benefits, members can simply call Customer Service by using the number on the back of your ID card.
This article is for informational purposes only, and is not meant as medical advice.