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Got Asthma? Stop Smoking

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Dear Dr. Levister: I am an occasional smoker. Recently I was diagnosed with asthma. Does smoking make my problem worse? P.D. in Banning

If you have asthma and you're a smoker, quitting is the most important step you can take to protect your lungs. You've probably heard how smoking can be harmful to your health and the health of those around you. Here are some ways quitting can be helpful. If you quit you will:

• Likely prolong your life.

• Improve your health. Smoking increases your risk of lung cancer, throat cancer, a lung disease called emphysema, heart disease, high blood pressure, ulcers, gum disease and makes asthma worse.

• Feel healthier. Smoking can cause coughing, poor athletic ability, and sore throats.

• Look better. Smoking can cause face wrinkles, stained teeth, and dull skin.

• Improve your sense of taste and smell.

• Save money. There's no single way to quit smoking that works for everyone.

A smoking cessation program may be helpful to you.

The California Smokers' Helpline provides free professional and confidential telephone counseling for anyone living in California, whether you are currently addicted to tobacco, have already quit, or want information for a friend or relative. When you call, a friendly staff person will offer a choice of services, including self-help materials, if you would like to quit on your own.

1 800 NO BUTTS is a free, confidential resource that doubles your chances of successfully quitting smoking. Before you quit all at once ("cold turkey"), developing a plan will help:

• Pick a date to stop smoking, and then prepare for it.

• Record when and why you smoke. You will come to know what triggers you to light up.

• Record what you do when you smoke. Try smoking at different times and different places to break the connections between smoking and certain activities.

• Find activities to replace smoking. Be ready to do something else when you want to smoke.

• Ask your doctor about using nicotine gum and patches.

Some people find these aids are very helpful. Also ask your doctor about a nicotine-free prescription medication, like Zyban, that can help you quit smoking.

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