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How can I quit smoking?

Dr. Jeanne Morrison, PhD
Family Practitioner

Every individual is different and their reasons for smoking are different. Research has shown that people who smoke over 10 cigarettes a day have more success with nicotine replacement therapy (NRT). Some people do well when they have a plan to quit based on why they smoke. For example, think about why you are smoking each cigarette. Do you smoke to calm yourself? Does the need to smoke wake you up? Do you smoke to be one of the gang? After you determine why you smoke, you need to think about a substitute for each cigarette. For example if you smoke when you feel stress, you might find other stress-reducing activities helpful, such as writing in a journal, taking slow deep breaths, or taking a walk. There are several websites to assist you in designing a personal plan for stopping the use of tobacco products. 

Juliet Wilkinson
Oncology Nursing Specialist

Today you have plenty of smoking cessation options. Choose the option that fits your personality best and be sure that you are really ready to quit before moving forward. Talk to your doctor to start. He or she may provide some excellent local resources in the form of therapy, hypnosis or even prescribe a cessation-assisting medication. You could try nicotine patches or gum; essentially these products replace the nicotine in your system so you are not dealing with breaking the physical habit while you are trying to stop the emotional one. You could just toss the pack, buy a bag of hard candy and go cold-turkey. A word to the wise -- regardless of which method you use to quit, be sure to have plenty of hard candy, gum or low-calorie foods on hand to help break the oral habit.

Smokers can and do quit smoking, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In fact, today there are more former smokers than current smokers.

1. If you’re reading this, you’ve already taken the first step, the single most important step that you can make to extend your life. Congratulate yourself on this first step.
2. Set a date to quit in the near future and stick to it.
3. Prepare for your Quit Day. Will you quit cold turkey, taper down before the day, start with nicotine replacement therapy?
4. Get rid of all ashtrays and cigarettes in your house, car and at work.
5. Only 3 percent of smokers succeed by willpower alone. Stopping smoking works best when you are part of a program.
6. Develop a personalized quit program. This may include help from a doctor, support groups, telephone counseling, behavioral therapy, individual counseling sessions, exercise and hypnosis.
7. Establish a self-reward program (stickers, small gifts or treats).
8. Use positive self-talk: “I know I can do it," “ This is hard but I’m strong," “ I can’t wait to feel better." Practice saying, “No thank you, I don’t smoke.”
9. Tell your family and friends about your plan to quit. Set up a support system of people you can call on.
10. Discuss use of stop-smoking medications with your health care provider. Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) and other medicines have been proven to double your chances of quitting.
11. According to the American Cancer Society, filters that reduce tar and nicotine do not work. In fact, studies have shown that smokers who use filters tend to smoke more.
12. Develop strategies to deal with the side effects of cessation.

  • Nicotine is an appetite suppressant and can boost metabolism. Therefore, your weight may fluctuate.
  • Exercise will help not only with the possibility of weight gain, but will also reduce your craving for cigarettes.
  • Avoid triggers -- people, places and things that remind you of smoking. Example: If you always had a cigarette with your morning coffee, try sitting in a different room, using a different mug and reading a magazine (keeps your hands busy).
  • Stay strong -- the beginning is the most difficult, but the cravings will pass.
  • Avoid alcohol. Drinking lowers your chance of success.

13. Develop a plan to handle any slips. Don’t despair if you have a cigarette. It can take a few attempts to succeed.

There are several steps you can take to begin quitting smoking.

  • Make a personal commitment, and take a pledge to stop smoking.
  • Set a quit date. If you're starting today, count ahead 31 days, and make day 32 your quit date. Put it on the calendar. Put it on all your calendars.
  • Think of three reasons you want to quit smoking. Write them on a card carry that card with you as a reminder.
  • Start walking. Walking 30 minutes a day, every day, can help you quit. It will prove you have the discipline to stick with a plan; it will help keep weight off when you do stop smoking; and it will help curb cravings.
  • See if your insurance plan covers quit-smoking efforts. More and more insurance plans are offering some level of coverage for quit-smoking efforts. Find out what questions to ask your insurance company.
  • Schedule a checkup. Quitting smoking is physically and mentally stressful, so make sure you have no conditions that might interfere with the tools, techniques, and medications suggested by doctors.
  • Talk to your doctor about prescriptions that may help you stop smoking.

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Following are 10 tips to stop smoking:

  1. Make a list of your own personal reasons for quitting.
  2. Set a date to quit in the near future and stick to it. Choose a "low stress" time to quit.
  3. Build a support network. Ask for the help of your dentist, physician, family, friends and co-workers.
  4. Ask your dentist or physician about nicotine replacement therapy to help you quit smoking. There are medicines that can help your body get used to life without nicotine. Using these medicines can double your chances of quitting for good.
  5. Exercise. It's hard to smoke while you're biking, playing basketball, or taking a swim.
  6. Chew sugarless gum or brush your teeth to stop cravings.
  7. Keep your hands busy. Do crossword puzzles or needlework or write a letter. Paint. Do woodworking, gardening, or household chores.
  8. Seek tobacco-free environments, such as gyms, movie theatres, libraries, and nonsmoking restaurants. Plan activities that leave no chance for tobacco use.
  9. Remove tobacco and tobacco accessories from your home, office and car.
  10. When you crave a cigarette, think about the 4 D's:
    Delay -- the craving will pass in 5-10 minutes.
    Drink water -- it gives you something to hold in your hands and put in your mouth.
    Do something else -- distract yourself by being active.
    Deep breathing -- deep inhalations and exhalations relax you.

Don't let setbacks get you down. Keep trying!

Dr. Bonnie Lynn Wright, PhD
Geriatrics Nursing Specialist
Dr. Bond has given an excellent answer to this question. I would like to add that, regardless of the method you choose to stop smoking, failure is a common outcome and you should not be discouraged by it. Smoking is both a physical and psychological addiction. It is not easy to quit. You may have to practice quitting several times before you finally give it up for good. If you can reduce the amount you smoke each time you practice quitting, that is still a success. Eventually, you will stop. Don't be discouraged if it doesn't work the first time. 

Smoking is a primary risk factors for cardiovascular disease. If you smoke, quit now. Check with your doctor, health plan, a local hospital or clinic to find a program to help you quit. Or check out resources on the Internet for guidance and support. In general, smokers increase their ability to quit for good if they follow these steps:

  • Step 1. Get ready to quit. • Set a quit date and mark it on your calendar. •Throw away all of your cigarettes and ashtrays. •Write down your reasons for quitting and keep your list where visible. • Think about what did and did not work when you tried to quit before.
  • Step 2. Round up support. • Ask your family, friends and coworkers for support, and ask them not to smoke around you or leave cigarettes out. •Tell your doctor about your decision and ask for help. • Get counseling. Studies show that the more counseling, the better the success when trying to quit.
  • Step 3: Learn new skills and behaviors. • Break the pattern. Over the first few weeks after you quit, change your normal routines. • If you feel the urge to light up, distract yourself by taking a walk, playing cards or doing something with your hands. •Reduce stress. Relax in a hot bath. Take a nap. Read a book. • Drink plenty of water.
  • Step 4: Check out medicines to help you quit. Talk with your health care provider about whether you should try medicines designed to help smokers quit and handle cravings. (It is important to check with your doctor because not all products are safe for everyone.) Among the products are: • Gum, hard candies, patches and other products containing a small amount of nicotine •Products with nicotine, such as nicotine inhalers and nasal sprays •Medications that do not contain nicotine but work to reduce cravings for it
  • Step 5: Avoid tempting situations. •Steer clear of places where others are smoking. •Avoid beer, wine and other alcoholic drinks. •Do not worry if you gain weight. Eat a healthy diet, stay active, and keeping your focus on quitting smoking. •If you feel down or depressed, do something good for YOU. Take time to treat yourself. Many people succumb to temptation and have a cigarette during the first months after quitting. Do not be too hard on yourself if you slip. Keep your eye on the goal to quit and start back at Step 1.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.