“Tobacco is the legal product which, used in moderation and exactly as the manufacturer intended, causes harm to the consumer.” – Federation of European Cancer Societies
Smoking is bad for you. I think that fact has been scientifically proven beyond the shadow of a doubt. Even people who continue to smoke realize this. Smoking damages the lungs. In fact, it can damage the lungs permanently. This is called emphysema. Once a person develops emphysema he will have it forever even if he stops smoking. Smoking greatly increases the risk of developing strokes and heart attacks. Smoking greatly increases the risk of developing not only lung cancer but also a variety of other cancers like stomach cancer, colon cancer, pancreatic cancer and prostate cancer.
Smoking not only harms the smoker. It has also been proven beyond a doubt that second-hand smoke damages health as much as actual smoking. According to the World Health Organisation every year almost 1 million people die as a result of exposure to secondhand smoke.
But to quit smoking is hard. This is due to the highly addictive nature of nicotine and also the fact that smokers get used to the ritual and social aspects of smoking. So while it is easy for non-smokers to say “Why is it so hard? It harms you and your family. It is expensive. It stinks! Why don’t you just stop?!” They, unfortunately, do not take into account the addictive nature of smoking. It is also difficult for non-smokers to empathize with smokers partly contributed by our health authorities’ extremely effective campaign to denormalize smoking in Singapore.
How to Quit Smoking (Smoking Cessation)?
It is difficult to get a smoker to quit smoking. In fact, most of them do not even think about it. So when a smoker is contemplating quitting smoking or better yet, has made the decision to want to quit, it is imperative to provide them with as much support as we can. Here in Singapore, there are multiple avenues to access such support.
If you are a friend or family of someone who is trying to quit smoking, learn more about what you can do for them by downloading this easy to read e-guide published by Singapore’s Health Promotion Board.
If you are a smoker reading this and have decided you want to quit, there are many ways you can reach out for support.
1) Join the I Quit Program
I Quit is Singapore’s National Smoking Cessation Program. It provides support for smokers who have the intention to quit smoking. There are many ways to sign up for the I Quit program. The easiest way is probably filling up an online form. I Quit is currently running a program that aims to get smokers to stop smoking in 28 days.
Smokers intending to quit have access to free counselling from trained and certified smoking cessation counsellors just by picking up the phone and calling the I Quit hotline known as Quitline. In fact, while signing up for the program, smokers can opt to have counsellors from Quitline call them instead.
Also, smokers on this program will receive daily SMS to keep them motivated to refrain from smoking. Smokers can also go online to the Health Promotion Board’s website and download self-help material like the Quit Fix Booklet and the I Quit Calendar. There is also community support that smokers intending to quit can reach out to via a Facebook Group known as the I Quit Club.
Just to add a little cherry on top of the Sundae, smokers who manage to remain smoke-free for 28 days will receive a $50 voucher from HPB. If he can remain smoke-free for 3 months, he will receive an additional $30 voucher. If he can make it to 6 months smoke-free there is yet another $20 voucher to be had.
Go down to I Quit Roadshow
Singapore’s Health Promotion Board holds regular smoking cessation roadshows. Go down to any of these road shows to see what they have to offer. You can sign up for a smoking cessation program on the spot.
Details on upcoming roadshows can be found in the I Quit Club page on Facebook.
2) Speak to a Pharmacist
Go to any retail pharmacy like Guardian or Watsons or Unity. Pharmacists are trained to provide smoking cessation counselling. They can also counsel you on the use of Nicotine Replacement Therapy. If the pharmacist feels that you require more intensive behavioural therapy or counselling or that you need to see a Doctor, they can point you in the right direction.
3) See a Doctor
See your friendly neighbourhood GP. Or visit your nearest polyclinic. Or if you are already seeing a Doctor for some other unrelated medical issues, you can always mention to him during your next follow up visit that you wish to get some help to quit smoking. Believe me, your Doctor will be thrilled and will be most eager to help you.
This is arguably the easiest way to go about it. Most Doctors are knowledgeable in smoking cessation and can counsel you on what you need. Be it accessing the national smoking cessation program known as I Quit, or referring you to a trained and certified smoking cessation counsellor or even prescribing you medicines or nicotine replacement therapy to help you quit smoking.
There are 3 so-called “pharmaceutical aids” to help you quit smoking.
The most well known is probably NRT (Nicotine Replacement Therapy). This helps smokers reduce their cravings and side effects of quitting by supplying their bodies with nicotine. It usually comes in the form of chewing gum or lozenge. They are usually taken for a duration of 2 to 3 months.
The 2 other pharmaceutical aids are tablets. One is Bupropion (Zyban) and the other is Varenicline (Champix). Both of these are tablets and can have potential side effects. They are usually taken for 3 months. They help to reduce cravings by activating certain chemicals in the brain. Please discuss with your Doctor if you can benefit from these.
The MOST important thing to remember is that these pharmaceutical aids work much better with behavioural intervention. In other words, do not just take the medicines. You still have to have a quit plan in place. You still have to keep yourself motivated. You still have to receive daily reminders and support to quit. You will still benefit from talking to a smoking cessation counsellor.
Be Strong. Take Care.