Quitting Smoking after a Chronic Illness Diagnosis

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Doctors always encourage their patients to quit smoking, but after a chronic illness is diagnosed their encouragement kicks into high gear. And for good reason. Smoking decreases a person’s base-line of health which, if you have a chronic illness, means that your health will be impacted far more than a non-smoker. You want to be able to manage your illness as best you can and that means cutting down or quitting altogether. But this is easier said than done. If quitting smoking were easy most people would do it and never look back. 

Going through the process of quitting smoking can have some side effects and each person reacts to the process differently. It may not be appetizing to pile more symptoms onto your already full plate but in the long run, the benefits will definitely outweigh the sacrifice in the present. 

Talk to your doctor about how best to approach quitting. They may suggest tapering down instead of quitting cold turkey to let your body adjust and decrease some of those withdrawal symptoms. Depending on your health and your diagnosis your doctor may recommend nicotine replacement therapy such as the patch or nicotine gum. Some people find this method much more manageable as it gives them time to mentally disassociate from being a smoker. This is particularly helpful if you’ve been smoking for a very long time. 

It’s important to remember that quitting smoking is also a mental hurdle and not just a physical one. Human beings build habits and rituals around certain things and they can be hard to break. Learn your triggers. Do you smoke after meals or out at parties or with alcohol? Have you come to associate having coffee with smoking or chatting with friends out on the porch? If you keep track of when you’re more likely to light up you can mentally prepare for those moments instead of being caught reaching for a cigarette that won’t be there.

Remember, you don’t have to do this alone. Quitting smoking works best when you have support. Let people in your life know that you are quitting for health reasons and what you’d like from them. Ask for their help in avoiding situations where you might want to smoke or ask them not to smoke around you for a bit. Letting people know will also make sure that someone doesn’t offhandedly offer you a cigarette that you won’t be able to resist. You’ll find lots of people will be more than willing to help, even other smokers! 

It won’t be easy and it may take a few tries but quitting smoking is possible and it’s the best first step you can take in managing your chronic illness and your health!


Peer Health can connect you with a personalized peer community to share provider recommendations, treatment options, and define your best life. Sign up for our beta and newsletter today.

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