"That's it, this time I'm quitting for good!"
If you've tried quitting smoking before, your odds of success go up every time, so plan to succeed. But before you, begin let's review a few proven ways to butt out for good.
The United States Department of Health makes the following recommendations and suggestions for quitting smoking:
- Counseling by trained health care professionals can increase your chances of quitting.
- Medications such as nicotine replacement (patch, gum, nasal spray, inhaler, lozenge), bupropion (Zyban®),* and varenicline (Chantix®) help increase success of quitting.
- If you're pregnant, quitting will increase the chance of delivering a healthy baby. " Don't diet while you're quitting. Although modest weight gain is common during quitting, it can be kept to a minimum and later lost. Drastic dieting during quitting will reduce your chances of success.
- Exercise will help you quit and keep the weight off.
- Depression is associated with lower quitting success. If you have depression, it should be treated at the same time you're quitting smoking.
- Avoid alcohol - it reduces your chances of successfully quitting.
You must be motivated, committed, and prepared to practice new routines and behaviors until they become habits. Start by making a list of the benefits of smoking and a list of the costs or consequences. Be really honest. Only when you are convinced the costs outweigh the benefits will you become motivated enough to form the necessary resolve to quit and then follow through. Then, list situations where you will have the toughest times saying no, and prepare plans for handling or avoiding those situations. Think of all the ways you might change your routine, especially for the first few weeks, to avoid the cues that start your cravings, like that cup of coffee, chatting on the phone, driving to work in your car, or having a beer after work.
Make yourself accountable. As you approach your quit date, tell your family and friends about your plans. This also makes it easier when you have to apologize later for being grumpy on your second or third smoke-free day. Discuss your options or treatment plan with your family doctor. Many find it a good idea to have a buddy to quit with or a group for mutual support during the early stages of quitting. Helping somebody else through their discomfort somehow makes your own more bearable.
Strong evidence supports combining approaches. Medications such as nicotine replacement (e.g., patch, gum, nasal spray, inhaler, lozenge), bupropion (Zyban®), and varenicline (Chantix®) can significantly improve quitting rates. Getting counseling on quitting also improves your chances, and the best results are usually achieved by combining adequate preparation, counseling, and medications.
Remember to reward yourself. After all, one of the reasons you got addicted to nicotine and stayed addicted was because it provided reward or pleasure by activating the part of your brain responsible for helping you feel good. So be sure to schedule other ways to feel good or to comfort yourself, such as through regular exercise, a special purchase with the money you've saved, or a trip to the opera. Be careful about rewarding yourself with food. Food as a reward is very effective because it activates the same part of the brain as other addictive substances, so it is easy to replace the nicotine with high calorie foods and merely replace one type of addictive behavior with another that is both unhealthy and hard on your self-esteem. (We call that "changing seats on the Titanic.")
OK, are you ready? Choose a date that works for you, get yourself prepared, and kick butt!
For further support, call the American Cancer Society toll-free at 1-800-ACS-2345. Other resources include the Centers for Disease Control, the United States Department of Health, and the Surgeon General's office.
If you are now a smoker, there is no single investment you could make that is more valuable to your health.
*All medications have both common (generic) and brand names. The brand name is what a specific manufacturer calls the product (e.g., Tylenol®). The common name is the medical name for the medication (e.g., acetaminophen). A medication may have many brand names, but only one common name. This article lists medications by their common names. For more information on brand names, speak with your doctor or pharmacist.