An estimated 70 percent of smokers wish to quit, but—unfortunately—only a fraction succeed each year. Having a few strategies in place may give you the push you need to be free of this addiction.
But smoking is still an extremely addictive and dangerous habit. Cigarettes are responsible for more than 480,000 deaths in Americans each year—including the 41,000 who die annually from secondhand smoke.
Nicotine, one of the compounds found in cigarettes, is highly addictive. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), research suggests that nicotine might be as addictive as alcohol, cocaine and heroin. To quit smoking successfully, the American Cancer Society says most people will need to adjust their personal habits, use a combination of medications and have emotional support.
As you’re getting ready to start your tobacco cessation journey, try some of these tips.
5 Strategies to Help You Stop
- Know your reasons. Write down each reason you want to quit and leave the list in a spot where you’ll see it often. Reminders can keep you on track. Giving up cigarettes can improve the health and well-being of yourself and your family, and can also help you save money and set a good example for your kids.
- Be specific. Set a quit-smoking date and stick to it. Many people wean themselves off cigarettes by smoking fewer each day. If this works for you, that’s fine, but be sure to set a date to cut the habit completely.
- Prepare for problems. Smoking isn’t an easy habit to break. Triggers, withdrawals and relapses are all possible. Know what to expect and how to overcome these problems. Triggers can include activities such as meals, driving or breaks during the workday in which you typically reach for a cigarette. Change your routine and build new habits to help make these moments more bearable. You might experience withdrawal symptoms, including irritability, cravings, hunger and difficulty thinking, after the nicotine leaves your system. These extreme urges usually only last a few minutes at a time. When they come, take a deep breath and wait for the feelings to pass.
- Find support. Tell others about your plans to stop smoking and your quit date. Better yet, find a friend or family member to quit with you. This extra bit of accountability can help you achieve your goals.If you don’t know anyone who is trying to quit, utilize resources such as smokefree.gov or 1-800-QUIT-NOW. These tools offer advice, step-by-step guides and support groups to help you quit.
Talk with your doctor. Treatments, including nicotine replacement therapy and medications, are available to help a person quit smoking. Speak with your primary care provider to discover if any of these options can help you get over the hump.
The Great American Smokeout is November 16. The perfect time to quit is now!