By Jennifer (Smith) Schuler
During the Great American Smokeout, I offered Part 1 of a 2-Part series on how to quit smoking (No Ifs, Ands, or Butts: It’s Time to Quit Smoking for Good!). Part 1 addressed things to consider before you quit. Due to its addictive nature, quitting smoking is not easy – yet it can be done if you prepare ahead of time, plan carefully, and set yourself up to succeed. Read on for helpful tips to get you started on the road to a healthier, happier you in the New Year!
How to quit smoking
There are so many smoking cessation methods available that it can be overwhelming to know which to choose. No one method will work for everybody and you may have to try a few to know which will be most successful for you. Consult your doctor before trying any method, and research the method(s) you plan to try. Not all have been evaluated or approved by the FDA, and some have little to no scientific evidence to support them. Some available:
- Nicotine replacement
- Tobacco lozenges
- Electronic cigarettes
- Nicotine gum and lollipops
- Smoking cessation programs
- Herbs and supplements.
Whatever way you choose to quit, even ‘cold turkey,’ consider these four factors as critical to kicking the habit for good:
- Making the decision to quit
- Picking a Quit Day and making a plan
- Dealing with withdrawal, temptations, and “slips”
- Staying tobacco-free (maintenance).
Quitting success rates
You may wonder about success rates for these products, methods, and programs. Success rates are hard to report because not all programs define success the same way. Does success mean a person is not smoking at the end of the program? After 6 months? 1 year? Does smoking fewer cigarettes count? If a program you’re considering claims a certain success rate, ask about how success is defined and what kind of follow-up is done to determine that rate.
Just as other programs that treat addictions, quit smoking programs often have low success rates. However, they are still worthwhile to gain valuable knowledge and support. Only about 4% to 7% of people are able to quit smoking without medicines or other help. Your success in quitting and staying smoke-free is what really counts, though, and you have control over that!
How to stay committed to quitting and remain smoke-free
Avoid temptation. To quit successfully you will have to stay away from people and places that tempt you to smoke. If you have friends who smoke, you may lose those friendships. Although later on you’ll be able to handle these situations with more confidence, for now you have to decide what is better for your health.
Change your habits. Drink juices or water instead of alcohol or coffee (these are smoking triggers), and choose foods that don’t make you want to smoke. Take a different route to work and a brisk walk instead of a coffee break.
Choose other things for your mouth. Chew sugarless gum, suck on hard candy, munch raw vegetables, chew on coffee stirrers or straws – keep your mouth busy with something other than a cigarette!
Get active with your hands and your body. Keep your hands occupied with activities such as needlework or woodworking. Do anything exercise-related that will reduce your stress naturally and distract you from the urge to smoke! Plan a healthy diet, and find ways to exercise and stay active.
Breathe deeply/Delay. When the urge to smoke strikes, breathe deeply and picture your lungs filling with fresh, clean air. Remind yourself of your reasons for quitting and all the benefits you’ll gain as an ex-smoker. There is no such thing as ‘just one’ cigarette — or even one puff. Tell yourself you must wait at least 10 minutes. Often this simple technique helps you resist the urge to smoke.
Reward yourself. You deserve a reward for all your efforts! Some quitters put money they would have spent on tobacco aside and then buy themselves a weekly treat. Let your family get involved by rewarding you with a celebratory dinner out at the end of each smoke-free week! Or save the money for a larger purchase. You can also reward yourself in ways that don’t cost money such as spending some quiet time to yourself: take a hot bath or visit a free museum.
Have a strong support system/network in place. Before you start to quit, know which family members and friends will be there for you when you find yourself struggling – without judgment or condemnation.
Staying quit is the final and most important stage of the process. Think ahead to times when you may be tempted to smoke, and plan how you will use other ways to cope. Unexpected, strong desires and rationalizations to smoke can arise months or even years after you’ve quit, especially during stressful times.
Recovering from slips
A slip is a one-time mistake that is quickly corrected, whereas a relapse is going back to smoking. You can use a slip to look at what went wrong and renew your commitment to staying smoke-free. Even if you do relapse, stay positive and remember it takes most people several tries before they quit for good. What’s important is figuring out what helped you quit and what worked against you, and then using that information to make a stronger attempt at quitting the next time. Good luck and here’s to your health!
For more information, visit the American Lung Association and American Cancer Society websites at: