Reaching for a cigarette has become second nature for many: in times of stress, while having a drink, to relax after work or simply when in need of a break.

For those wanting to kick the habit or who have resolved to start the New Year smoke-free, help is available in the Lake Norman area.

It isn’t a secret that smoking has health risks.

“Smoking causes many lung problems, difficulty breathing, chronic cough, mucous production, emphysema and COPD – chronic obstructive pulmonary disease,” Dr. Sever Surdulescu said. “If you have asthma, it could worsen; it could give you chronic infection, bronchitis or you may develop lung cancer. … There is an array of problems that come from it.”

Surdulescu is a doctor specializing in pulmonary and critical care medicine at Lake Norman Pulmonary and Sleep Medicine in Mooresville and Huntersville.

“Any smoking is bad, but obviously the more you smoke, the more chances you have for development,” he said. “All smokers are advised to quit, even one cigarette a day or three packs a day.”

Even with the warnings, it may not be that easy to simply stop.

One of the most important things is to have a support system of family and friends to help, he said.

Ways to quit are stopping altogether, tapering off, using nicotine replacement products or through prescription medication, Surdulescu said. His office offers ways to help smoking cessation in addition to treating any of its side effects.

First-time quitters shouldn’t be upset if it isn’t successful immediately.

“The fact that you relapse shouldn’t discourage you,” Surdulescu said. “It could take more than one attempt.”

Quitting carries its own risks. It could cause weight gain, increased anxiety or depression. The goal is to then refocus on treating those effects, rather than resort back to smoking. A person could channel their energy into exercise or healthier eating to combat weight gain, find ways to cope with anxiety or take antidepressants, Surdulescu said.

Amy Bernstein is a counselor and certified hypnotherapist at Lakeside Counseling and Hypnotherapy Center in Davidson. She focuses on helping people with smoking cessation through two sessions and customizes it to a person’s needs based on what causes them to smoke.

“The first part is counseling and the second part is the hypnosis,” Bernstein said.

The sessions are taped so clients can listen to them again whenever they get a craving and for continued affirmation.

“They will listen to how great their life would be if they weren’t a smoker or how once they are a nonsmoker they will feel better physically and emotionally,” she said. “It really is mental. It just has to click, and the person has to really make up their mind that they don’t want to smoke first.”

The counseling also helps with some of the underlying issues that could be there, such as depression or anxiety. For those whose addiction is simply a habit, she offers that 21 days is the magic number. If a person can stop doing something for that period of time – not giving into temptation once – they are more likely not to relapse.

Bernstein warns that there isn’t a magic pill, but a person really has to want it.

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