Op-Ed

Want to quit smoking? Ky. medical community will help

McClatchy-Tribune

Mark Twain once said, “Giving up smoking is the easiest thing in the world. I know because I’ve done it thousands of times.”

Perhaps you have, too.

But if you’re one of the seven in 10 smokers who want to quit and make it stick, you might just find success by talking with your physician about the best route to take. Studies have shown that when smokers work with their physician, they are more likely to be successful.

In fact, the long-term rate for abstaining from smoking jumped from 7 percent to 30 percent when smokers seek help from their physician, a 2007 report from the Association of American Medical Colleges found. And a 2013 review of trials involving physicians working with patients to quit smoking found their intervention led to a significant increase in the quit rate.

The important role that physicians play in kicking the habit is the focus of a new initiative of the Kentucky Medical Association, the Kentucky Foundation for Medical Care and the Lexington Medical Society.

These organizations are encouraging smokers to talk with their physician to figure out what will work best for them. Our campaign provides resources through a website, www.committoquitky.com, and on social media through its Facebook page, Commit2QuitKy, and on Twitter, @Commit2QuitKY.

Quitting is well worth the effort. Smoking is the leading cause of cancer in the United States and tobacco use increases the risk of many types of cancer. Smoking also contributes to other health problems, including heart disease, stroke, emphysema and bronchitis. Former smokers see benefits from kicking the habit almost immediately, and those benefits continue to grow as smokers get further away from that last cigarette.

Within 20 minutes after you put down that last cigarette, your blood pressure and heart rate recover from the cigarette-induced spike. Twelve hours later, the carbon monoxide levels in your blood return to normal. Your breathing becomes clearer and deeper within a week and gradually improves over the course of time. Your circulation and lung function begin to improve within a couple of weeks.

After quitting smoking, you can cut your risk of lung cancer by 30 percent to 50 percent after 10 years. You can cut your risk of heart disease by 50 percent within one to two years after quitting.

Those health benefits are desperately needed in Kentucky. The commonwealth leads the nation in the number of cancer deaths per capita, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That should come as no surprise, considering nearly 30 percent of Kentucky adults and 14 percent of teens self-report as smokers.

But we also know that around 70 percent of smokers say they want to quit, and that’s why KMA, KFMC and LMS are embarking on this important effort to help those who want to put smoking on pause … for good.

Dr. David J. Bensema, a Lexington physician and chief information officer at Baptist Health Kentucky, is the immediate past president of the Kentucky Medical Association.

Related: Jan. 17 Herald-Leader editorial, “Curb smoking to curb Medicaid costs”

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