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Quitting Cigarettes: Smoking Cessation Strategies That Really Work

“Giving up smoking is the easiest thing in the world. I know because I’ve done it thousands of times.” ~ Mark Twain If you are like most people who smoke, you have probably tried to give cigarettes up on multiple occasions. Each time, you have failed, again, just like most people. You already know the reasons why you should stop:

The good news is this– if you are serious about stopping smoking, there are programs, strategies, and professional addiction treatment facilities that can help you. How Widespread Is the Problem of Smoking Addiction, REALLY? In Smoking and Addiction Recovery: for People in Recovery, a 2011 report written by William L. White, the statistics quoted are quite revealing:

  • Right now, approximately 6 MILLION American citizens are addicted to nicotine.
  • 9 out of every 10 smokers express regret that they ever started smoking.
  • 7 out of every 10 smokers have tried to quit at least once.
  • Right now, 40% of smokers are either trying to quit or are planning to quit soon.
  • The average smoker trying to quit will take between 8 and 11 attempts before they succeed.
  • More alcoholics and drug abusers recover than smokers.

There is GOOD NEWS— smoking rates are going down. In 1965, over 42% of American adults smoked. Today, the number is down to a little more than 15%, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This means that many more millions of people are living a smoke-free life. Maybe you can join them.

Smoking Cessation Strategy #1 – Make a Plan to Help You Quit Smoking

It is hard to be successful at something as hard as quitting smoking if you don’t create a detailed plan first.

  • Pick a date – write it down on your calendar, set an alert on your computer, and put an alarm on your phone.
  • Tell your family, friends, and co-workers—their support will be invaluable
  • Get rid of anything that could remind you smoking – lighters, matches, ashtrays, and even your “just in case” pack of cigarettes.
  • Wash all your clothes and bedding – sometimes just the smell of cigarettes can trigger a relapse
  • Write down the reasons why you are quitting and keep that list somewhere where you can see it every day.
  • Work on identifying your triggers – things that make you want to smoke. Once you know your triggers, you can take steps to anticipate and appropriately respond.

Smoking Cessation Strategy #2 – DON’T Try to Quit Smoking Alone

In 2008, researchers from Harvard University and the University of California published an article in the New England Journal of Medicine examining how a person’s social connections – his family, friends, and coworkers – affect their ability to quit smoking. In other words, if someone you know is also trying to quit smoking, YOUR odds of lighting up decrease greatly –

  • Spouse/Partner – minus 67%
  • Friend –minus 36%
  • Co-worker—minus 34%
  • Sibling –minus 25%

Smoking Cessation Tip #3 – Get Professional Help to Quit Smoking

Although the vast majority of people who quit smoking do so on their own – “cold turkey”, the greater your personal history of smoking is, the harder it is to use that method and the less effective it is. Heavy smokers who have been previously unsuccessful at quitting may consider using a smoking cessation clinic. 12-month abstinence rates for people using self-help methods range from 8% to 25%, while people using clinics will achieve a year of abstinence 20% to 40% of them.

Smoking Cessation Tip #4 – Use Stop-Smoking Products and Medications

When you are addicted to nicotine, your brain undergoes physical and chemical changes. This is why quitting is best, because when you quit smoking, your body will go into nicotine withdrawal. Although these symptoms can be unpleasant, they are not in any way dangerous. The best way to ease the unpleasantness of nicotine withdrawal is by using anti-smoking products and medications, including:

  • Nicotine patches, gum, and lozenges – all available over-the-counter
  • Nicotine inhalers or nasal spray – available only with a prescription
  • Zyban (bupropion) or Chantix (varenicline) – prescription medications

Smoking Cessation Tip #5– Dealing with Cravings When You Are Trying to Quit Smoking

No matter how careful you are, there will be times when you feel overwhelmed by cravings to smoke. Having places to go and things to do that distract you will support your continued abstinence. Sometimes, the difference between smoking and NOT smoking is to STOP when you are doing immediately and doing something else.

  • Call, text, or message someone
  • Contact stop-smoking organizations for 24/7 real-time support
  • Review your list of reasons why you want to stop smoking
  • Think about the money you will save
  • Always keep your mouth busy – candy, gum, flavored toothpicks, etc.
  • Stay hydrated – thirst pangs can be mistaken for cigarette cravings
  • Go for a walk
  • Exercise
  • Try deep-breathing exercises
  • Go somewhere public where smoking is not allowed – a movie, a restaurant, a museum, etc.

What about Vaporizers and Electronic Cigarettes?

Many people are turning to vaporizers and electronic cigarettes as a way to quit smoking, but so far, the evidence that this option is effective is inconclusive, and opinions are divided. Researcher Christopher Bullen of the University of Auckland in New Zealand says they can be a “lifeline for many people who have struggled to stop smoking before and failed time and again.” But Dr. Stanton Gantz, Professor of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, disagrees, saying, “for most people, (e-cigarettes) inhibit quitting”, and instead create dual users who both smoke AND vape. The best way to quit smoking is to utilize a combination of strategies, picking and choosing those options that work best for you as in individual. The most important thing to remember about quitting smoking – just like recovering from any addiction – is to never give up, keep working, and if you DO happen to sneak a cigarette, just pick yourself up, dust yourself, and start again.