DR. WALLACE: Both my parents and my older brother are addicted to tobacco. All three of them want to stop smoking for three reasons: First, to be healthier; second, to save money; and third, to keep me from hounding them to stop smoking.
All three of them have quit smoking several times, but something eventually triggers their smoking habit, and they light up again. A lot of people I know who now smoke have tried to quit before, but have gone back to lighting up. My dad said he is destined to smoke until the day he dies because he's too addicted to stop.
I know this isn't true, but I want to convince him that with willpower he can become an ex-smoker. Are there any statistics that show how many times a person tries to quit smoking and then finally succeeds? If so, there will still be hope that dear old Dad, sweet Mother and misguided Big Brother can eventually be smoke-free. — Lynn, Portland, Maine.
LYNN: It's rare for a smoker to quit successfully — that is, permanently — on his or her first try. Many people have to keep trying and trying, often over the course of years.
No one should be disappointed when the first (or the fifth) attempt to quit ultimately doesn't work out. Each attempt builds the momentum and desire to quit, and only when that desire is stronger than the desire to smoke will the person be successful.
The American Cancer Society says that its "Fresh Start" program has a 27 percent success rate for quitting smoking, while the Lung Association has a "Freedom from Smoking" program that claims success 28 percent of the time. As these statistics show, nicotine is a powerfully addictive drug; it's extremely difficult to stop craving it.
Don't give up! Keep hounding all three of your family members until they are smoke-free. It can and will happen. Both the Cancer Society and the Lung Association report that smokers need outside help and support. Fewer than 7 percent who try to stop using tobacco on their own are successful.
MY PARENTS EAT LIKE THERE IS NO TOMORROW
DR. WALLACE: My parents are both in their early 40s and are both overweight. They eat like there is no tomorrow! I keep telling them that being overweight is not healthy, but they keep saying that there is nothing to prove that being overweight causes health hazards. I'm almost positive that it does, but I'm not sure what these health hazards are.
Can you help me identify them? I want my parents to be aware of exactly what being overly fat can do to a person. I love them too much to lose them. — Joyce, Birmingham, Ala.
JOYCE: There is a direct link between being overweight and heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Encourage Mom and Dad to eat nutritious and well-balanced diets and exercise regularly and they will lose all that excess weight. Have them check with the family doctor before they change their eating and exercising habits.
Dr. Robert Wallace welcomes questions from readers. Although he is unable to reply to all of them individually, he will answer as many as possible in this column. E-mail him at [email protected] To find out more about Dr. Robert Wallace and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.