How to quit smoking for good

Even with departmental tobacco bans in place, some firefighters need an extra push to quit.


Smoking is a vice, and an especially unhealthy one. Many fire departments have enforced smoking bans or required pledges to remain tobacco-free in an effort to protect the health of their personnel, but the movement is a work in progress. 

CBS News reports that 16.4 percent of firefighters and other protective service workers still light up. (This is an improvement: In the ’90s it was reported that smoking among firefighters was around 40 to 50 percent.) Even as numbers of firefighters who smoke decrease, there are still firefighters losing or unwilling to start the battle of quitting.

Understanding the risks is the first step toward making the decision to quit. 

Firefighting is already a high-risk job, health-wise

Firefighters are at risk of many unique health concerns due to the nature of the job. For instance, the risk of firefighters getting mesothelioma (a form of cancer) is two times greater than the rate in the U.S. population as a whole. 

In addition to an increased risk of mesothelioma, firefighters also face risk of: 

  • Heart disease: Most recent data show that in 2011, sudden cardiac deaths accounted for about 50 percent of line-of-duty firefighter fatalities. 
  • Chronic respiratory disease: According to IAFF, “Firefighters may experience occupational exposure to gases, chemicals, particulates and other substances with potentially damaging short- and long-term effects on the respiratory system.” 
  • Hepatitis C: Working as an emergency medical technician means the potential of working with patients carrying the disease, making it easier to be infected in the line of duty through contact with blood (or other bodily fluids) from a patient. 
  • Chronic stress: Between sleep deprivation, rough calls and everything in between, firefighting has been dubbed one of the most stressful jobs

Why add smoking on top of an already hazardous job?

As if the aforementioned risks weren’t scary enough, smoking heightens these concerns (especially heart disease and respiratory disease). The Centers for Disease Control reminds us that smoking is estimated to increase risks

  • For coronary heart disease by two to four times.
  • For stroke by two to four times.
  • Of men developing lung cancer by 25 times.
  • Of women developing lung cancer by 25.7 times.

What happens when you quit smoking?

Even if you’ve been a smoker for years, your body will take measures to forgive you: 

  • Quitting smoking cuts cardiovascular risks. Just one year after quitting smoking, your risk for a heart attack drops sharply.
  • Within two to five years after quitting smoking, your risk for stroke could fall to about the same as a nonsmoker’s.
  • If you quit smoking, your risks for cancers of the mouth, throat, esophagus and bladder drop by half within five years.
  • Ten years after you quit smoking, your risk for lung cancer drops by half.

Ways to quit smoking, shared by successful quitters

Most smokers know the issues associated with smoking, and plenty have attempted to quit in the past. But quitting is not easy. Take it from real people who have quit. Here are their tips and tricks for putting down those cigarettes: 

  • Stay busy. Go for a walk if you’re having a craving. 
  • Eat healthy snacks that resemble cigarettes, like celery or carrots.
  • Try using tobacco essential oil on the lung points of the feet (the ball of your foot).
  • Hypnosis.
  • A former smoker told FireRescue1 the book “Change Anything” has been her saving grace.
  • Think about the money you’ll save – anything from the actual amount spent on cigarettes to a reduction in the insurance premiums you’ll have to cover once you’re off the department’s insurance. 

The only way to quit smoking is to truly want to do it. Tobacco bans can only go so far. Continue to educate yourself of the benefits of quitting and the risks of continuing to smoke. With enough patience and determination, quitting is possible. 

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