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Smoking and Stress Reduction
By Tiffany A. Babinsack, MPA, CTTS, Tobacco Free Allegheny

Many people who smoke believe that doing so calms them down. If you are smoking or using tobacco to combat stress, you may be surprised to know that cigarette smoking may actually be making your stress worse! Research shows that adult smokers have stress levels higher than those of nonsmokers, and adolescent smokers report increased levels of stress as they develop regular patterns of smoking.

Additionally, smoking causes:

  • Your heart rate and blood pressure to increase
  • Your muscles to become tense
  • A decrease in the amount of oxygen available to your brain

But I feel better after smoking…
Cravings for nicotine feel stressful because your body is going through withdraw. When you smoke, nicotine enters your bloodstream and travels to your brain, where it releases dopamine. The positive feelings you experience when dopamine is released are short-lived. Once the dopamine levels decrease, your stress level will be higher than if you had never smoked in the first place.

Quitting tobacco is the best thing you can do to improve your health and well-being:

  • 20 minutes after your last cigarette, your blood pressure and pulse will return to normal levels.
  • 8 hours after your last cigarette, your carbon monoxide levels return to normal, allowing your oxygen levels to increase.
  • 48 hours after your last cigarette, previously damaged nerve endings start to regrow allowing your sense of taste and smell to improve.

    72 hours after your last cigarette you will find yourself breathing easier as your bronchial tubes start to relax and open up.
  • Those who successfully quit for one week are 9 times more likely to quit for life.

How to cope with stress
Stress is a normal part of life. It is important to find healthy ways to handle stress and take care of yourself without smoking. Here are a few ideas:

  • Take a few slow, deep breaths – in through your nose, and out through your mouth.
  • Try to locate where in your body you feel stress, and then use a gentle stretch to relieve tension.
  • Close your eyes and imagine a place where you feel calm and at ease. Try to visualize with all your senses – what would you see, feel, hear, taste, or smell?
  • Do a good deed for someone else.
  • More great ideas are available at www.smokefree.gov!

Where can I get support?
The Pennsylvania Free Quitline is a service to help you quit tobacco. The Quitline offers up to five proactive coaching sessions, unlimited inbound calls, and customized quit plans to each participant.
The PA Free Quitline is available 7 days a week, from 7 am – 1 am at 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669).

Learn more at www.TobaccoFreeAllegheny.org.

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