Q: I work as a Manager for a national restaurant chain. I’ve been smoking for about 6 years – and most of the people I work with are smokers. But I promised my wife, who is expecting our first child, that I’d try to quit. I’ve heard that electronic cigarettes and hookah are safer than regular cigarettes. Do you think they’d be good for helping to wean me off the real things? – Marc; Cheyenne, WY
A: Unfortunately, Marc, you’ve been misinformed. Let’s start with e-Cigs, which the Food and Drug Administration does not regulate as of yet. These are battery-operated cigarette look-alikes. The devices use atomizers that heat up a nicotine-laden liquid that turns into a vapor, which is inhaled like cigarette smoke. e-Cigs have been tested and are known to contain many of the same toxic chemicals as well as the carcinogens of regular cigarettes.
Hookah is a water pipe with a smoke chamber, a bowl, a pipe and a hose. Candy or fruit flavored tobacco is heated. Smoke from the tobacco passes through the water and is then inhaled through a rubber hose and mouthpiece. Hookah smoke also contains toxic chemicals (tar, carbon monoxide), nicotine, and carcinogens. People who smoke hookah are at risk of developing the same diseases as cigarette smokers – lung, mouth, and stomach cancer, decreased lung function, and infertility.
Let’s face it – nicotine is nicotine – and highly addictive. You might be able to quit smoking cigarettes using e-Cigs or hookah, but you’ll still be addicted to nicotine, and susceptible to the many health problems and diseases associated with cigarette smoking. If you really want to quit, there are safe and effective medications on the market – nicotine replacement therapy such as the nicotine patch or gum – designed to help you deal with the cravings and symptoms of cigarette withdrawal.
Another method of helping you break your smoking habit is adding some physical activity into your day. Walking helps clean out your lungs from the toxins that stem from smoking. You should also clean up your food diet by eliminating foods that fuel withdrawal cravings such as refined carbs, sugary syrups and added sugars, all of which cause weight gain. Keep your fridge and work place stocked with healthy food and snack choices. Learn to address your stresses by tuning into yourself and meditating.
I applaud you for your willingness to try to quit smoking. Start by quitting for just one day — perhaps next Thursday, November 21, which is the next Great American Smoke Out — and see how it goes. For more resources and tools on quitting smoking for the long haul, log onto the American Cancer Society’s Great American Smokeout webpage. And best of luck to you.