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COPD: A Quit-Smoking Plan

You’ve probably heard that one of the best ways to manage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is to stop smoking. It’s no secret that it’s a tough habit to break. The average smoker makes about four attempts to quit smoking before breaking the habit for good.

To make things easier, you need a plan. Taking these steps can help you quit for good:

  • Choose a quit date and mark it on your calendar.

  • See your health care provider before that date if you think medication might help with symptoms of withdrawal and cravings. One option is nicotine-replacement therapy. Some of these drugs are available without a prescription (such as nicotine gum, lozenges, or one type of patch). Because medications may have side effects or may affect either health conditions or other medications you make be taking, tell your health care provider if you choose to use over-the-counter nicotine replacement. Nicotine nasal spray and inhalers and another type of patch are available with a prescription. In addition to replacement therapy, there are prescription drugs bupropion and varenicline that work on chemicals in the brain to help people resist the urge to smoke. Other prescribed medicines, such as antidepressants, may help. Not all types of insurance may cover these medications, so check with your health plan.

  • Support from your friends and family is critical to your success. Ask for their support and that they don’t smoke around you or leave cigarettes lying around.

  • Think through how you’ll cope with triggers. Many people light up at certain times of the day, such as when they’re reading the newspaper, after drinking coffee or alcohol, or after a meal such as dinner. To counteract that strong connection, you may need to change your routine. For example, chew gum when the urge to smoke happens, or skip the newspaper and take a walk in the morning. Drink water instead of alcohol. Relax with a hot bath.

  • Take advantage of resources in your community. The local office of the American Lung Association (ALA) is a good place to start. You can visit the ALA website to find the office closest  to your home. Smoking-cessation programs with support groups may be offered by your health plan, local hospitals, or the health department.

The more help you get, the better your chances. And within days of quitting, your health and breathing will improve. So put a plan in place, line up support from family and friends, and commit to quit—you’ll feel better and live longer.