Quit Smoking Essentials – Medications, Nicotine Replacement and Vaping Products

Quit smoking what you need to know

Considering quitting smoking? Below we cover all you need to know from medications, nicotine replacement and if vaping is a better alternative. Read on to find out.

Congratulations on deciding to quit smoking. It’s one of the most important choices you’ll ever make for your long-term good health and wellbeing.

Here at MedMate, we’ve got your back in helping you break this highly addictive and dangerous habit. It’s a compulsion that’ll likely make you constantly miserable or even kill you if you don’t achieve your goal. However, a little bit of support can make all the difference to your success. So, whether it’s your first attempt to quit smoking or your latest, we hope we can assist you in making it your last. 

Medications to Help Stop Smoking 

How are you going to quit smoking? If you’re not going cold turkey, there are three pharmacological interventions for stopping smoking available on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS). These include:

  • Bupropion (Zyban) – sustained-release tablets which affect some of the areas of the brain that are affected by nicotine and play a role in brain reward for nicotine withdrawal. 
  • Nicotine replacement therapy or NRT (Nicotinell and Nicorette nicotine patches and chewing gum) – can assist by giving the body this highly addictive drug in another form and enable withdrawal by gradually reducing doses. 
  • Varenicline (Champix) – can reduce cravings and block the rewarding effects of smoking.

All medications have risks. Your doctor will talk to you about the risks versus benefits of utilizing medications as part of a smoking cessation management plan.

What is Nicotine Replacement Therapy?

An important part of a smoking cessation plan is to understand your nicotine dependence. Using products to help control nicotine cravings has been shown to improve quit smoking rates. Combination therapy seems to be the best. That involves combining a long term form of nicotine replacement therapy (such as a nicotine patch) with a short form for cravings (such as gum or a nicotine vaping product).


What Diseases are Linked to Smoking?

From acetone and tar to nicotine and carbon monoxide, there are no safe ingredients in tobacco. Smoking doesn’t just affect your lungs but your entire body. In addition to increasing your risk of lung cancer at least 25 times that of a non-smoker, other diseases caused by smoking cigarettes include: 

  • All cancers (including that of the mouth, throat, bladder, blood, and kidneys)
  • Blood clotting and impaired flow (stroke, constricted blood vessels, erectile dysfunction)
  • Early menopause in women (endocrine disruption, menstrual disorders, and infertility)
  • Eye disease and vision impairment (macular degeneration and blindness)
  • Heart disease (cardiovascular, coronary artery disease and heart attack)
  • High cholesterol and type 2 diabetes
  • Immune system dysfunction
  • Lung damage (asthma, bronchitis, COPD, emphysema, and smoker’s cough)
  • Mood swings (anxiety and irritability)
  • Pregnancy complications and birth defects
  • Poor oral hygiene (loss of taste, smell, decreased gum health, tooth loss)
  • Unhealthy wrinkled skin and dry, brittle hair

In short, smoking cigarettes is lethal.

smokers lungs

Your lungs start to repair as soon as you stop smoking.

Why Am I Experiencing Shortness of Breath After Quitting Smoking?

Whether you’ve been a smoker for 30 days or 30 years, your body will begin to repair itself as soon as you quit smoking. Your lungs will start removing chemicals and toxins that have accumulated in them. You may experience flu-like symptoms as a result. This can include a cough as your lungs start to bring up irritants.

In addition to mucosal coughing, you may experience lung pain, chest tightness and/or shortness of breath. The effect of smoking may have disguised underlying lung sensitivities. A layer of tar may have interfered with your lungs’ normal response to particles like pollen and dust.

Shortness of breath may also be a result of taking fewer deep breaths than usual, especially if you used smoking to relax. Try belly breathing for a few minutes by inhaling and exhaling slowly and deliberately while focussing on a point midway between your belly button and public bone.

Experiencing these symptoms while regaining lung health is not uncommon. Depending on how long you smoked, they may last between a few weeks to nine months as the lung cilia (hairs that line the windpipe) completely regenerate. Support your healing by avoiding mucosal foods like cheese, dairy, and processed meats. Increase your intake of unprocessed whole food antioxidants like berries, leafy greens, and sprouts. Stay well hydrated by drinking clean water and avoiding caffeine to enhance the healing process.

If your skin colour has a healthy flush, it’s probably nothing to worry about. But speak with your doctor if you’re worried to rule out any underlying medical concerns.

Are Vapes a Good Alternative to Smoking?

Vaping may be safer than smoking cigarettes. The jury is still out, but it seems likely that non combustible inhalation of nicotine is likely to be safer than inhalation of burning tobacco. Studies are showing that scientists are moderately confident that nicotine e-cigarettes help more people to stop smoking than nicotine replacement therapy alone (such as such as patches and gum).

Closed tank vaping solutions have far fewer chemicals than cigarettes. Closed pod systems are recommended where the constituents of the solution are known and controlled. Nicotine vaping products as part of a medically controlled smoking cessation plan is a form of harm minimization. It may be reasonable to utilize nicotine vaping products as part of smoking cessation program if first line smoking cessation treatments such as medications and other nicotine replacement products have failed or are unsuitable. Nicotine vaping products can only by accessed through a prescription from a TGA approved Authorized Prescriber. Quitmate has Australian registered doctors that undertake a comprehensive assessment of your nicotine dependence and provide a comprehensive 12 month smoking cessation plan. Nicotine vaping products may comprise part of this plan if it is clinically appropriate.

Vaping may be safer than smoking cigarettes

A Smoking Cessation Plan from a Doctor is Best

Studies show that people are more likely to successfully quit smoking if they are have a plan and are under the care of a health care practitioner. A doctor is best placed to assess your total risk of smoking related disease and develop a comprehensive health care plan to not only help you quit smoking, but reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease. A good smoking cessation plan will consider the options of medications, nicotine replacement products and behavioral support (counselling). Just taking a single step towards smoking cessation is important. It may take a few attempts – but you can do it!

  • Dr Ganesh Naidoo
  • About the Author

    Dr Ganesh Naidoo BSc(biomed), MBBS, FRACGP is an Australian General Practitioner. He has significant clinical experience in multiple regions of Australia and has a passion for health transformation to improve clinical outcomes for all patients.

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