Tag Archive | American Cancer Society

Kicking the Smoking Habit – for Good!

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

anti-smokingThere 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
  • Hypnosis
  • Acupuncture
  • 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:



The End

No Ifs, Ands, or Butts: It’s Time to Quit Smoking for Good!

By Jennifer (Smith) Schuler

I have a childhood memory of biking into town several miles with my younger sister, nervously purchasing a pack of cigarettes to try later in the tool shed behind our house. Years later my mother told me she had found that old pack back there yet decided not to say anything about it. Flash forward to adulthood when I worked as the tobacco control coordinator for a regional branch of the American Lung Association in Gulfcoast Florida. As I provided the public with information on the health benefits of quitting and educated children in schools about the dangers of getting hooked I realized something … it could well have been me receiving the help instead of providing it. That first experience smoking with my sister, as well as a few other encounters with cigarettes over the course of my adolescence, could well have gotten me hooked, just as it has others.

Twelve years after my career with the ALA, tobacco use remains the single largest preventable cause of disease and premature death in our country, yet more than 45 million Americans still smoke cigarettes.

November 15th is the 37th Great American Smokeout. If you are a smoker, this is the perfect opportunity to make a plan to quit, or to plan in advance and quit smoking that day. By quitting, you take an important step towards a healthier life.

Due to its addictive nature,  taking tobacco out of your life is not easy to do–yet it is certainly an achievable goal if you prepare, plan carefully, and set yourself up to succeed. In this 2-part smoking cessation series, I first provide you with some overall useful information. Then just before the New Year, I will offer some helpful tips to get you started on the road to a healthier, happier you!

Part 1: Smoking Cessation–Things to Consider Before You Quit

What makes quitting smoking so difficult?

Nicotine, a drug found naturally in tobacco, is as addictive as heroin or cocaine. Over time, a person becomes physically dependent on and emotionally addicted to nicotine. This causes unpleasant withdrawal symptoms when you try to quit, and makes it hard to stay away from nicotine after you quit. There are many other harmful chemicals and substances found in tobacco. To quit permanently smokers must deal with both the physical and mental dependence.

Why should I quit?

Simply put, for your health! Smoking harms every organ of the body. There are both short-term and long-term benefits to quitting smoking. There are also many ways in which quitting smoking can improve your appearance. The biggest reason to quit?  Half of all smokers who keep smoking will end up dying from a smoking-related illness.

What other health risks are caused by smoking?

  • Cancer
  • Lung diseases
  • Heart attacks, strokes, and blood vessel diseases
  • Blindness and other problems
  • Special risks to women and babies
  • Years of life lost

Based on past data collected from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) it is estimated that adult male smokers lost an average of 13.2 years of life and female smokers lost 14.5 years of life. Plus, the diseases triggered by smoking can steal your quality of life long before you die. Smoking-related illness can also limit your activities by making it harder to breathe, get around, work, or play.

However, no matter how old you are or how long you’ve smoked, quitting can help you live longer and be healthier. People who stop smoking before age 50 cut their risk of dying in the next 15 years in half compared with those who keep smoking. Ex-smokers also enjoy a higher quality of life.

What difficulties might I face as I quit?

Some side effects you should be prepared to deal with:

  • Unpleasant physical and mental withdrawal symptoms (due to nicotine deprivation)
  • Overcoming rationalizations for having “just one” cigarette
  • Temptations and triggers to start smoking again
  • Loss of friendships and social activities that revolved around smoking

Immediate rewards of quitting

Big benefits you’ll notice right away and some that will develop the longer you remain smoke-free:

  • Fewer withdrawal symptoms
  • Fresher breath
  • Cleaner, whiter teeth
  • Better smelling clothes and hair
  • No more yellow-stained fingers and nails
  • Food tastes better
  • Sense of smell returns
  • Easier to breathe while doing everyday activities
  • More money in your pocket each week–smoking is an expensive habit!

You may have heard that quitting smoking causes you to gain weight, yet health benefits of quitting far outweigh risks from a potential small weight gain (usually less than 10 pounds).

Long-term benefits of quitting

Just a few …

Within 20 minutes

Your heart rate and blood pressure drop.

12 hours

The carbon monoxide level in your blood drops to normal.

2 weeks to 9 months

Circulation improves, lung function increases, and coughing and shortness of breath decrease.

1 to 10 years

Risk of coronary heart disease is half that of a continuing smoker’s after 5 years; becomes the same as a non-smoker’s 15 years after quitting. Risks of certain kinds of cancers are cut in half, or fall to that of a non-smoker.

Now that you know the health benefits of quitting smoking and are armed with vital information to consider as you make your quit plan, you have taken the first step to a healthier life. Next month I will share proven tips to kicking the habit for good. In the meantime, I welcome former smokers to share their insights and stories. Here’s to your health!

For more information, visit the American Lung Association and American Cancer Society websites at: