Nicotine addiction, like any addiction, is a disease – not a choice.
Gabrielle Davis, RRT, RRT-ACCS, RRT-NPS, CHES, CTTS
Diversity and Inclusion Committee Chair, American Association for Respiratory Care
Tobacco-related disease continues to be the leading cause of preventable death in America. Addiction to nicotine-containing products like cigarettes, chewing tobacco, vaping, or hookah has plagued America for decades.
Fortunately, support is available and there are more options to help along the quitting journey than ever before.
Nicotine cessation products like patches, gum, and lozenges are readily available at retail stores nationwide. They have been available over-the-counter since 1996 and can be obtained for free through many state and federal programs.
People should speak with their medical provider before trying to quit. If that is not an option, reading the directions thoroughly can help to avoid common pitfalls. Issues that arise most often with nicotine replacement products are errors in use.
For example, nicotine gum should be chewed for a few moments and then “parked” in the mouth, unlike regular chewing gum. Nicotine lozenges should be parked between your gum and your cheek and moved around every so often. Lozenges should not be chewed, sucked, or bitten. Nicotine patches can be used in conjunction with either gum or lozenges, but not both. All products are available in a variety of doses and the dose should be selected based on how much nicotine is used at the time.
Being honest about the amount of nicotine used is the first step to successfully quitting. Know that the amount of nicotine used may be significantly higher when using a vape or hookah, as compared to cigarettes or chew. Nicotine levels of vape and hookah are often much higher when tested than what is listed on the packaging. This discrepancy, paired with the way vapes and hookah are used, often results in much higher nicotine use which can make them more difficult to quit.
The journey to quitting
It isn’t easy. People who smoke are often shamed for their addiction and are not offered help with the same fervor as those addicted to other substances. Identifying a support system is essential. The support system should believe quitting is possible and encourage without shame. Know that mistakes happen and lapses are part of recovery. Even after a lapse, recovery is still possible. Reflect, recommit, and try again.
Nicotine cessation products are only one tool in the quitting toolbox. Working with a trained therapist, in addition to nicotine cessation products, increases the likelihood of quitting successfully. Most therapists, including those for children and adolescents, have received training to help with addiction. Exploring options to identify the right combination of tools is important. Only 3-5% of smokers are successful at remaining nicotine-free when using the “cold turkey” method.
No matter the route that is chosen, support and encouragement always provide better results than shame and guilt.