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Quit smoking: How to curb the urge

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quit_smoking_how_to_curb_the_urge.JPGQuitting smoking isn't easy. But it's one of the best decisions you can make for your health. Giving up tobacco helps lower the risk for cancer, stroke, and heart and lung disease. In fact, people who stop smoking before age 50 cut their risk of dying in the next 15 years by 50%.

That's why MD Anderson encourages smokers to make a plan to quit as part of the Great American Smokeout on Thursday, Nov. 15. By quitting -- even for just one day -- you'll be taking an important step toward a healthier life.

Curb smoking urges with nicotine replacement therapy
So, what's the best way to quit? For many people, nicotine replacement therapy options like gum, lozenges and the patch can help curb your urges and help you wean off tobacco for good. These products deliver controlled doses of nicotine to an individual without the harmful chemicals that are in tobacco products.

Whether you've been smoking for 30 years or 30 days, your body has developed a dependence on nicotine. So quitting will result in some degree of nicotine withdrawal. This often causes smokers to give up trying to quit, but there are many options to help manage nicotine withdrawal and quit successfully.

"You really can't go wrong with any of the nicotine replacement therapies," says Damon J. Vidrine, Dr.P.H., assistant professor in the Department of Behavioral Science at MD Anderson. "It just depends on what works for you."

Oral options
Gum and lozenges are especially useful if you feel the need to keep your mouth busy without a cigarette. For smokers that light up at certain times of the day or at certain places, these therapies assist allow them to pop a piece of gum to replace their post-meal or post-work cigarette.

The patch
For many heavy smokers, the patch is the best option. It delivers a steady, 24-hour stream of low-dose nicotine to your system, helping to keep cravings at bay.

"Although any of these products can be helpful, I typically recommend trying the patch first," Vidrine says. "The other products give you nicotine in isolated doses when you need it -- more like cigarettes do. But, if not used correctly, they may leave you with more nicotine cravings than the patch. You can put the patch on and forget about it -- even in the shower."

Make quitting count
Mark Twain once mused, "Quitting smoking is easy. I've done it a thousand times." But Vidrine says that the goal should be complete cessation, not just cutting back. "This can be difficult, but nicotine-replacement products really do help people who are committed to quitting."

Ready to quit smoking? Get more help with these 6 simple steps. Or, get free counseling by calling the American Cancer Society at 1-877-YES-QUIT.

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