I'm so proud of you! You've decided to quit smoking. Whether this is the first time you've tried to quit or the 10th, I don't care. I'm just happy you're trying. The reality is that it often takes several attempts.
To help you meet the challenge you've set for yourself, I've come up with the following tips:
- Tell your health care professional and/or dentist. Studies show that people are more likely to succeed with smoking cessation if they ask for their health care professional's help.
- Remember the benefits. It doesn't matter how old you are, any time you quit smoking you're adding time to your life. Studies find that smokers who quit before age 50 have half the risk of dying in the next 16 years compared with people who continue to smoke. By age 64, your risk of dying is similar to that of people the same age who never smoked. And don't forget the short-term benefits: food tastes better, you have more energy, you can walk and exercise without getting out of breath and everything smells better.
- Don't go it alone. Today we understand much more about the addictive nature of nicotine than we did 20 years ago. So it's not a good idea to try to quit cold turkey. Instead, if you find yourself getting irritable and having uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms when you try to quit smoking, start with nicotine-replacement products, like gum, nasal spray, patch or inhaler. You may even want to talk to your doctor about combining two forms; some studies find combining the patch with the gum or nasal spray increases long-term quit rates compared with a single type of replacement therapy. If you're uncomfortable using nicotine replacement products, talk to your doctor about bupropion (Zyban), a prescription antidepressant approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administraion to treat nicotine addiction.
- Cut yourself some slack. Many smokers will need two or three attempts at quitting before it sticks. If this time doesn't work, try again, perhaps with a different strategy.
- Plan your quit strategy. If you can wake up one morning and never smoke another cigarette, more power to you! But most people need to plan. Mark your "quit day" on your calendar. It often helps to pick a day that has some special significance, such as your daughter's birthday, your birthday, your wedding day—something that reminds you of why you're quitting. By the time the day arrives, make sure all smoking paraphernalia is out of your house, car, purse and office, including ashtrays, lighters, matches and cigarettes. You should also work toward the day by reducing the number of cigarettes you smoke each day. And tell everyone you know the date of your quit day and ask for their help and encouragement.
- Avoid smoking-related habits. If you typically have a cigarette with coffee, switch to tea. If you smoke while drinking, take an alcohol hiatus. If you smoke in bars, avoid bars. Also tell everyone you know who smokes that you're quitting and can't be around cigarettes at all.
- Set rewards. The first week, give yourself a reward for every day you go without smoking. It might be a luxurious bubble bath, a massage or simply a piece of really great dark chocolate (full of antioxidants). Then plan a weekly reward for a month, followed by a monthly reward for a year.
- Save the money. Put the money you would be spending on cigarettes in a special account to save up for something special.
- Exercise! Nicotine increases your metabolism, which is why it helps keep your weight down. To make up the difference when you quit, add an hour of exercise to your daily schedule. That's about the amount of time you spent smoking. Plus, as your body clears of toxins, you'll find it easier and more enjoyable to exercise.
Get more help for quitting at cancer.org.