It’s not just your lungs that take a beating when you smoke. For people with rheumatoid arthritis, the habit can not only worsen symptoms, it can also make the condition harder to treat. Numerous studies show that people with RA don’t respond as well to medication and need more aggressive treatment if they smoke.
So if your loved one with RA hasn’t yet kicked the habit, you can play a key role. Although 70% of smokers want to quit, only 4% to 7% can do it on their own, according to the American Cancer Society. With your support, you can help him beat the odds!
Here are five excuses that can derail a stop-smoking plan and how to keep your loved one on track:
- Excuse: “I’m too stressed to quit smoking.”
A common concern among smokers is that they’ll be unable to cope with stress without nicotine. But a study in the journal Addiction showed that people who successfully kicked the habit had lower stress levels than those who continued to smoke. Despite these findings, the road to quitting will undoubtedly be filled with moments of increased tension.
How you can help: Find a way to make your loved one laugh. Crack a joke, cue up their favorite sitcom on NetFlix or play a silly game. Laughter increases the feel-good endorphins released by the brain, cools the body’s stress response and stimulates circulation and muscle relaxation. If your loved one is tough to amuse, help them burn off tension by suggesting a walk or trying a yoga DVD together.
- Excuse: “I’ll gain weight if I stop smoking.”
For many smokers, kicking the habit means gaining weight; nicotine helps suppress appetite and may even boost metabolism. But the threat of a few extra pounds should never be an excuse to keep smoking.
How you can help: Grab some hand weights, and do a few biceps curls with them. A study funded by the National Cancer Institute showed that a mere three months of pumping iron curbed cigarette cravings, minimized withdrawal symptoms and decreased weight-gain risk. Participants, who also underwent counseling and received nicotine patches, were twice as likely to kick the habit as smokers who didn’t complete the strength-training program.
- Excuse: “I’ll lose my smoker friends.”
Smoking is often a social activity, so your loved one may not want to quit for fear of losing friends. Yet studies show that the urge to quit may be contagious, prompting a spouse, friend, coworker or sibling to stop smoking, too.
How you can help: Plan a potluck dinner with your loved one’s friends and family. During the meal, don’t forget to point out another benefit of quitting: an improved sense of smell and taste!
- Excuse: “I have an oral fixation.”
The hand-to-mouth ritual of smoking is a tough habit to break, and your loved one may start biting their fingernails or snacking mindlessly on high-calorie munchies.
How you can help: Go grocery shopping with your loved one. Together you can find healthful snacks or props to satisfy the oral fixation experienced by smokers. Try toothpicks, straws, celery, sugar-free lollipops, cinnamon sticks or sugarless chewing gum. Added bonus: Studies show that gum chewing can boost memory, which may help ease the mental fogginess commonly associated with nicotine withdrawal symptoms.
- Excuse: “I’ve tried before. It doesn’t work.”
The average smoker tries to quit 8 to 11 times before finally kicking the habit. Cutting out nicotine means dealing with physical and mental dependence.
How you can help: Send a text. Sounds simple, but research published in Lancet suggests that motivational and supportive text messages more than double quit rates. According to the study, messages that focus on dealing with cravings and preventing weight gain are most effective. For example, the craving-related text in the study read: “Cravings last less than 5 minutes on average. To help distract yourself, try sipping a drink slowly until the craving is over.”