One of the more challenging New Year’s resolutions is to quit smoking, and because of recent research, to give up vaping. Although e-cigarettes became a popular method to help people quit smoking, they are no longer considered the healthiest alternative to cigarettes.
Dr. Nicola Hanania, a pulmonary and critical care physician at Baylor College of Medicine, said that while e-cigarettes benefited some heavy smokers who were addicted for years to cigarettes, it is best to avoid them since they can reinforce a smoking habit and cause additional health issues.
“As doctors, we don’t like anything that is inhaled other than medicine,” Hanania said. “Vaping is now a concern because it has shown to cause some structure damage to the lungs. Because of the additional chemicals in the vaping solution, it is no longer just a way of delivering nicotine.”
If quitting smoking – or vaping – is on your New Year’s resolutions list, Hanania offers ways to give up smoking without the use of an e-cigarette:
Set a date
Before breaking any habit it is essential to assign a fixed date or an approximate date that you plan to quit. Hanania recommends choosing a memorable date such as the beginning of the new year or an anniversary.
On average, people quit cigarettes four to six times before giving them up completely, Hanania said. Because relapse is common, it is essential to find people who can help support your decision and keep you on track.
Hanania recommends finding a counselor or getting involved in support groups. There also are online and telephone resources that can be found on the CDC website, he said.
Avoid smoke exposure, find new activities
It is important to avoid being around other smokers or visiting places with a smoking presence since it can reinforce the habit, Hanania said. He encourages his patients to involve themselves in new activities for distraction and stress management, such as exercise and spending time with non-smoking friends.
“We ask them to get involved in new activities so that they don’t associate smoking with their coffee in the morning or getting home from work in the afternoon,” Hanania said.
If someone in the house also smokes – like a partner or spouse – Hanania said that they can speak with their physician to figure out a solution.
More than health benefits
In addition to improving breathing and circulation and reducing the chances of heart disease and cancer, giving up smoking can impact appearance and finances.
“Smoking is a very common cause of premature aging and skin wrinkling,” Hanania said. “There are also financial savings because the cost of cigarette smoke is not small.”
Consider over-the-counter nicotine agents
Nicotine withdrawal is an issue when it comes to giving up cigarettes and vaping. While e-cigarettes used to be a popular way to deliver nicotine, there are medications that can help with nicotine withdrawal.
Hanania said over-the-counter nicotine agents like gum, patches and lozenges can offer relief from symptoms of withdrawal. There also are prescription oral inhalers and nasal sprays that can be prescribed by a physician, he said.
“We understand it’s hard because nicotine is very addictive, but not all smokers are addicted to nicotine,” he said. “Some people who smoke do it because of habit. Those who are addicted to nicotine tend to have smoked longer and tend to have cravings early in the morning when they wake up.”
Hanania adds that there also can be nicotine addiction from e-cigarettes, which is why they are not recommended for non-smokers or habitual smokers.
Be convinced that you want to quit
Before giving up cigarettes or even vaping, it’s important to convince yourself that you are ready to quit. Hanania explains that if there is no will to quit then it will be more difficult being successful at overcoming the habit.
“At the end of the day, the patient themselves have to make that big step,” Hanania said.