A resolution to kick the habit

This is a time of year that Rafael Velasco, a health educator with University Health System, gets a flurry of inquiries from people who want to quit smoking.

“It’s resolutions,” Velasco said. It’s not unusual for a number of those resolvers to drop off pretty quickly. “With human behavior, it’s very difficult to curb a lot of the things we do.”

But tobacco cessation doesn’t have to mean cold turkey. In fact, that doesn’t work so well for many smokers, such as those who have smoked a pack or two a day for 10 or 20 years. Quitting completely and all at once, for those people, can be depressing.

“It’s almost like they lose somebody,” he said.

Teaching them to cut back is can be very productive.

“If you can have that patient cut down to five or 10 cigarettes a day, that’s a success,” he said.

There are a number of ways to help a person who wants to quit using tobacco. Nicotine replacement therapy, through a patch, gum or other methods, can take the edge off of craving during those moments when the smoker is most tempted to reach for a cigarette. And counseling can help them identify the triggers that have them reaching for the pack.

“It can be like diet – some people are emotional eaters,” Velasco said. “It can be that they step out on the patio to smoke, so they’re used to reaching for a cigarette every time they go outside. It’s their comfort place. The biggest thing is what is it that triggers them to smoke?”

People who are interested in tobacco cessation classes can call 210-358-7100 for information. For additional help, call 800-QUIT-NOW.

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