Home' LOTL : July 2005 Contents 41
By Dr Ann
QThis is not a particularly "lesbian" health issue, but I'm finding it
impossible to quit smoking. I've used patches and when they didn't
work I tried anti-craving medication. Every time I've gone back to
smoking because most of my friends and work colleagues smoke and it's
hard to stop when it's in your face. Are there some people who just
physically can't quit? -- Winnie Blue.
A"Not a lesbian health issue"? Are you crazy? How many lesbians
smoke? How many lesbian icons smoke? How many lesbians does it
take to change a lifestyle? The answer to all of these is TOO MANY --
otherwise there would be more of us quitting and fewer despairing about
how difficult it is!
OK, I realise I have probably now alienated half of the readers of LOTL, but
seriously, my tobacco-scented friends, if you want someone to tell you it's
OK, call another doctor.
Why do I think it's such a big problem and why am I campaigner for
quitting? People get sick and die from smoking. Yes, we've all read the
warnings on cigarette packets. And the fact is that when you are at the
pub or having a "breather" outside your work building, the idea of
emphysema, gangrenous feet or a ruptured aneurysm is probably the last
thing on your mind.
You probably won't have to confront any of these things for a few years, but
suddenly, instead of travelling to Europe with the love of your life, you're
lying in a hospital bed being told you have lung cancer (or hearing your
partner tell you her leg needs amputating), you'll realise that all those "happy
fag" moments culminated in disaster.
Sorry, but I had to get that off my chest. What I'm telling you is not a scare-
tactic; be empowered with the knowledge that smoking is directly related to
lung cancer, cervical cancer, emphysema, hypertension, heart attack,
stroke and peripheral vascular disease. Make an intelligent choice to refuse
developing these conditions.
But as for getting cigarette smoke off your chest, Winnie, I understand how
difficult it is to quit for good. It's not just your own willpower; there are
enormous cultural and political forces at work which make quitting difficult.
It's not going to be a walk in the park.
Culturally, what makes us reach for a cigarette? You might be too young to
have swooned before a photo of Marlene Dietrich wreathed in smoke, but
TV, film, magazines and some of the ladies at your local pool hall can make
smoking look like the sexiest thing alive. Smoking has been eroticised in our
culture for years -- and it's difficult to say no to what we are told is desirable.
Politically, the powers that be have no interest in making smoking abnormal,
unattractive or unavailable. There's too much money to be gained! Every
cigarette you smoke provides profit for the heads of tobacco companies,
and revenue for a government you may not have voted for. This is why
cigarettes are not luxury items sold in specialist stores -- they are in every
supermarket and corner shop around the country.
How do you resist this widely available temptation? You've probably been
doing all your quitting on your own. Bad Move! Don't stack the odds against
yourself by making quitting lonelier and harder than it already is.
The first step is to go to your GP, tell her you've decided to quit, and let her
walk you through the devices and services available to help you achieve
your goal. You may find that in addition to these, some psychological
support like counselling, group therapy or cognitive behavioural approaches
(identifying all the reasons why you smoke and how to identify the triggers
for smoking -- and ultimately strategies for dealing with these) will help. The
Quitline is also there to give you more information and support.
Medical studies show that combination nicotine replacement therapy
works better than one device alone. Your GP needs to know which devices
you've tried, and then she'll be able to advise you on what is likely to work
best for you.
Making several attempts at quitting does NOT mean you will never be able
to quit. Thousands of people have done it, and believe me, most of them
would have had more than 2 or 3 attempts. In having had several attempts
already and continuing to want to quit, you are actually more likely to
succeed than someone who has never tried and is too afraid to take that
Make Dr Ann happy and pick up that phone today. The people you love will
thank you for the rest of your life.
Quitline 13 18 48 or www.quitnow.info.au
Dr Ann is a doctor at a Sydney metropolitan area hospital. The opinions
expressed in this column are those of the author and are not intended as a
substitute for medical advice. If you have concerns about your health please
consult your health practitioner.
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