Most people who smoke know that smoking is unsafe for their wellbeing and toxic to the people around them. They know they’re supposed to stop, but they also know it’s not easy. Most of the people who smoke have decided to stop before. Tobacco use is the single most preventable cause of cancer and premature death in the United States. Since the publication of the Surgeon General’s Study on Smoking and Wellbeing in 1964, more than 20 million people have died of cigarettes.
Smoking cigarettes raises the threat of cancers of the mouth and throat, lung, esophagus, pancreas, cervix, kidney, thyroid, stomach, colon, rectum, and liver, as well as acute myeloid leukemia. Some reports also relate smoking to breast cancer and advanced prostate cancer.
Smoking also dramatically raises the risk of painful, long-term lung conditions such as emphysema and chronic bronchitis. It increases the risk of heart failure, stroke, artery disease, and eye disease. Half of all Americans who keep smoking will inevitably suffer from smoking-related illnesses.
That’s why it’s so important to stop. No matter how old you are or how long you smoke, stopping will make you live longer and feel happier. Yet, it is impossible to avoid because cigarette products contain nicotine, which is a highly addictive, naturally occurring substance in tobacco. Even so, millions of Americans have given up with help, and you can, too.
Ready to stop smoking? These tips will help you kick the cigarette habit for good.
Why is Quitting Smoking So Hard?
We all know the health risks of smoking, but that doesn’t make it easier to kick the habit. Whether you’re an occasional teen smoker or a lifetime pack-a-day smoker, quitting can be tough.
Smoking tobacco is both a physical and psychological habit.
Cigarette nicotine provides a temporary and addictive high. Eliminating this regular fixing of nicotine causes your body to experience physical withdrawal symptoms and cravings. Because of the “feel good” effect of nicotine on your brain, you may turn to cigarettes as a quick and reliable way to boost your outlook, relieve stress, and relax.
Smoking can also be a way to cope with depression, anxiety, or even boredom. Quitting means finding different, healthier ways to cope with these feelings.
Smoking is also embodied as a daily ritual. It may be an automatic response for you to smoke a cigarette with your morning coffee while you take a break at work or school, or on your way home at the end of a busy day. Or maybe your friends, family, or colleagues are smoking, and that’s going to be part of how you relate to them.
To successfully stop smoking, you will need to address both the addiction and the habits and routines that go along with it. But it could be done. With the right support and plan to quit, any smoker can kick the addiction, even if you’ve tried and failed multiple times before.
Every human has four endowments- self-awareness, conscience, independent will, and creative imagination. These give us the ultimate human freedom… The power to choose, to respond, to change.” – Stephen Covey
Prepare Your Personal Stop Smoking Plan
While some smokers successfully quit by going cold turkey, most people do better with a tailored plan to keep themselves on track. A good quit plan addresses both the short-term challenge of stopping smoking and the long-term challenge of preventing relapse. It should also be tailored to your specific needs and smoking habits.
Questions For You To Ask Yourself
Take the time to think about what kind of smoker you are, what moments of your life you’re calling for a cigarette, and why. This will help you identify which tips, techniques, or therapies may be most beneficial to you.
- Are you a heavy smoker (more than a pack a day)?
- Or are you a social smoker? Would a simple nicotine patch do that job?
- Are there any activities, places, or people you associate with smoking? Do you feel the need to smoke after every meal or when you have a coffee break?
- When you feel stressed or down, do you reach for cigarettes? Or is smoking a cigarette linked to other addictions, such as alcohol or gambling?
Start Your Quit Smoking Plan With START
- S = Set a quit date.
Choose a date for the next two weeks, so you have enough time to prepare without losing your motivation to quit. If you smoke mostly at work, quit the weekend, so you’ve got a few days to adjust to the change.
- T = Tell family, friends, and co-workers that you’re planning to quit.
Let your friends and family on your plan to quit smoking and tell them that you need their support and encouragement to stop smoking. Look for a good friend who wants to stop smoking as well. You can help each other get through a rough time.
- A = Anticipate and plan the challenges that you will face while you quit.
Most of the people who start smoking again do so within the first three months. You can help yourself by preparing for common challenges, such as nicotine withdrawal and cigarette cravings.
- R = Remove cigarettes and other tobacco products from your home, your car, and your job.
Throw away all your cigarettes, lighters, ashtrays, and matches. Wash your clothes and refresh anything that smells like smoke. Shampoo the car, clean the drapes and the carpet, and steam the furniture.
- T= Talk to your doctor about assisting you to quit.
Your doctor may prescribe medication to help with symptoms of withdrawal. If you can’t see a doctor, you can get a lot of products from your local pharmacy, including nicotine patches, lozenges, and gum.
Identify The Triggers For Smoking
One of the best things you can do to help you quit is to identify the things that make you want to smoke, including specific situations, activities, feelings, and people.
Keep the Wishing Journal
A craving journal can help you get zero on your patterns and triggers. Keep a log of your smoking for a week or so before your quit date. Note the moments of each day when you want a cigarette:
- What time has it been?
- How intense was the craving (a scale of 1-10)?
- What did you do?
- Who have you been with?
- How did you feel?
- After smoking, how did you feel?
Are You Smoking To Get Relief From Unpleasant Feelings?
Many of us smoke to manage unpleasant feelings like stress, depression, loneliness, and anxiety. If you’re having a bad day, it might seem like cigarettes are your only friend. As much comfort as cigarettes provides, however, it is important to remember that there are healthier and more effective ways to keep unpleasant feelings in check. These may include exercise, meditation, relaxation strategies, or simple breathing exercises.
For many people, the important aspect of giving up smoking is finding alternative ways to deal with these difficult feelings without turning to cigarettes. Even when cigarettes are no longer part of your life, it’s a painful and unpleasant feeling that may have led you to smoke in the past that will still remain.
So it’s worth spending some time thinking about the different ways you’re going to deal with stressful situations and the daily irritations that would normally make you light up.
Tips To Avoid Common Triggers
A lot of people smoke when they drink. Try switching to non-alcoholic drinks or drinks only where smoking inside is prohibited. Alternatively, try snacking nuts, chewing on a cocktail stick, or sucking on a straw.
When friends, family, and colleagues smoke around you, it can be twice as difficult to give up or avoid relapse. Talk about your decision to quit so people know they won’t be able to smoke when you’re in the car with them or have a coffee break. In your workplace, find non-smokers who need to have a break or find other things to do, such as taking a walk.
At the end of a meal
For some smokers, the end of a meal means lighting up, and the prospect of giving up may seem daunting. However, after a meal, you can try to replace something like a piece of fruit, a healthy dessert, a square of chocolate, or a stick of gum.
Coping with symptoms of nicotine withdrawal
Once you stop smoking, you are likely to experience a number of physical symptoms as your body withdraws from nicotine. The withdrawal of nicotine begins quickly, usually starting within one hour of the last cigarette and peaking two to three days later. Withdrawal symptoms can last for a few days to a few weeks and vary from person to person.
Common nicotine withdrawal symptoms include:
- Cigarette cravings
- Irritability, frustration, or anger
- Anxiety or nervousness
- Difficulty concentrating
- Increased appetite
- Increased coughing
- Constipation or upset stomach
- Decreased heart rate
As unpleasant as these withdrawal symptoms may be, it is important to remember that they are only temporary. They’ll get better in a couple of weeks, as the toxins are flushed out of your body. In the meantime, let your friends and family know that you’re not going to be your usual self and ask for their understanding.
Manage Cigarette Cravings
While avoiding smoking triggers will help reduce your urge to smoke, you may not be able to avoid cigarette cravings entirely. Luckily, the cravings don’t last-long, typically, about 5 or 10 minutes. If you’re tempted to light up, remind yourself that the craving will soon pass and try to wait it out. It helps to be prepared in advance by having strategies to cope with cravings.
Distract yourself from that
Do the dishes, turn on the TV, take a shower, or call your friend. The activity doesn’t matter as long as your mind doesn’t smoke.
Just remember why you quit
Focus on your reasons for quitting, including your health benefits (for example, lowering your risk of heart disease and lung cancer), improved appearance, the money you save, and increased self-esteem.
Get out of a very tempting situation
Where you are, or what you’re doing, the craving may be triggered. If so, a change of scenery could make a difference.
Well, reward yourself
Strengthen the victories. When you triumph over a craving, give yourself a reward to keep yourself motivated.
One part at a time, one day at a time, we can accomplish any goal we set for ourselves.” — Karen Casey
Wrapping It Up
Fresh breathing begins with proper oral hygiene. However, staying hydrated and preserving the amount of saliva in your mouth will also help in the fight against poor breathing. People who smoke are more likely to have a bad breath. Although products are available that may theoretically mitigate the odor of the mouth, the easy road to improved overall health and breathing is completely out of place.
One of the most important lessons that experts have found about quitting smoking is that the person who smokes has to keep trying. It can take a few drastic attempts before a person who smokes will quit permanently. Instead of looking at a relapse back to smoking as a disappointment, consider it a chance to learn from experience and be better prepared to quit the next time.