Quitting smoking is a difficult and time consuming endeavor. It takes considerable willpower and a deep commitment to achieve your goal of being smoke-free. There are multiple strategies for breaking your addiction to smoking; however, there is no single way to quit and individual success rates will not be the same for everyone.
Although ending your smoking habit will not happen instantly, you can make it a little less difficult by creating a plan and following through on it utilizing different methods to curb your guilty cravings.
Decide to quit smoking.
Think about why you want to quit and what that means for you. Weigh the pros and cons of quitting and ask yourself if you are ready for the commitment. Talk with your friends and family about your decision.
- What are the potential health risks of continued smoking?
- What is the financial impact of your dependence on smoking?
- What is the impact on your family and friends?
Write down a list of the reasons you want to quit so that you can reference it later when want to smoke.
Set a quit smoking date.
Choose a date to quit and stick with it. Make it far enough in the future that you have to prepare but not so far that you lose interest — try giving yourself two weeks. A firm deadline for stopping will help you mentally prepare and give you a concrete timeline. Adhering to a strict regimen is essential to sticking with your plan and overcoming your dependency.
Avoid moving back your quit date. This will set a bad precedent and make it harder to adhere to future start dates.
Create a quit smoking plan.
Research different strategies for quitting and consult with your doctor about the methods that might work best for you. Weigh the pros and cons of different strategies and how they might impact your life. Consider which methods you are realistically capable of adhering to.
Consider whether you want to quit cold turkey, use medication, or try a therapy. Each has its own pros and cons.
Prepare for your quit smoking date.
Throw away any smoking paraphernalia that might trigger your addiction. Keep a log of your smoking activity leading up to your quit day, as this may help you identify the times you tend to smoke (such as right after a meal) and you can make sure you have NRTs, medications, or other strategies prepared for those times.
Get plenty of rest and avoid stressful situations if you can.
Although it may seem like a good idea to try starting other new healthy habits at the same time, they might cause you extra stress and undermine your efforts to quit smoking. Do one thing at a time.
Smoking cessation is a significant lifestyle change. With it comes anger, anxiety, depression, and frustration. Plan strategies to help you cope with these undesirable, yet expected, difficulties. Get supplies ready for yourself (medication, NRTs, phone numbers, etc.). See your doctor if these feelings last longer than a month.
Go cold turkey.
This is the most common, and seemingly the easiest, method for quitting smoking because it requires no outside aid.
You simply stop smoking and commit yourself to being smoke-free. While those who quit abruptly are more successful than those who quit gradually, quitting without the use of nicotine replacement therapies (NRTs) is rarely successful — only three to five percent of people who quit cold turkey stick with it.
If you choose to go without NRT, the success of going cold turkey will depend entirely on your willpower.
Those who are able to quit cold turkey may have a genetic advantage — 20 percent of people may have a genetic mutation that reduces the pleasurable effects of nicotine.
To increase your chances of success when quitting cold turkey, try to take up new activities to replace smoking (particularly something that will occupy your hands or mouth, like knitting or chewing sugarless gum); avoid situations and people that you associate with smoking; call a friend or a quitting hotline (such as 1-800-QUIT-NOW); set goals and reward yourself.
Consider having a backup strategy in case you are unable to go cold turkey.
This is the easiest strategy to implement, but the most difficult to carry out successfully.
Try nicotine replacement therapy.
NRT is one of the most successful tools for treating smoking addiction, with a 20% success rate. By chewing gums, eating lozenges, or wearing patches, you get the nicotine their bodies crave while gradually lowering the dosage, eventually weaning them off nicotine.
In the process, you will move away from addictive behavior and towards healthy activities.
You will be more likely to quit if you stop smoking at once and then begin using NRTs as opposed to gradually smoking fewer cigarettes and using NRTs. In one study, 22% of abrupt smokers remained abstinent after six months and only 15.5% of smokers who gradually cut back over two weeks remained abstinent after six months.
Nicotine gum, patches, lozenges are often available over-the-counter and can be found at your local drug store.
This strategy requires some financial investment for the purchasing of gum, patches, or lozenges.
Nicotine replacement therapy is less successful for people whose metabolisms quickly process nicotine. Chat with your physician about your metabolism and the nicotine replacement therapy.
Get medicine to help you quit.
Your doctor can prescribe medications such as bupropion (Zyban, Wellbutrin) and varenicline (Chantix) that are designed to help curb your cravings. Talk with your physician about the side effects of these medications and whether they will work for you.
Bupropion has been shown to have a significant impact on the effectiveness of smoking cessation programs for individuals who metabolize nicotine quickly.
Check with your insurance company to make sure that these medications are covered by your prescription plan.
Go to counseling or therapy.
Work with a counselor or therapist to address the underlying emotional issues that drive your smoking. This will help you figure out the emotional or situational triggers that push you to smoke
A mental health professional can also help you develop a long-term plan for addressing your addiction.
Check with your insurance provider to see whether counseling is covered by your health plan.
Explore alternative practices.
There are a number of different alternative practices that can help you quit smoking. These range from herbal and mineral supplements to hypnosis and practices like meditation. Although some smokers have found success using these methods, there is limited scientific evidence supporting them.
Many smokers ingest Vitamin C candies and lozenges which they believe help curb their cravings.
Meditation can be a useful practice to help distract your mind for the desire to smoke.
Use a combination of strategies.
Although you may find that one strategy on its own helps you quit, you may need to employ multiple strategies to remain smoke-free. Your initial strategy may be untenable and require you to utilize a backup, or you might find that it is easier to manage your cravings using two methods simultaneously.
Consult your physician to make sure that you are not combining medications in a way that may be unhealthy.
Consider using an alternative method with a more established strategy.
Throw out all of your smoking paraphernalia.
Remove anything from your work or home that is associated with smoking. This includes cigarettes, cigars, pipes, hookahs, or any other smoking device. It is important to not have temptations in your personal space that may undermine your goal of not smoking.
Avoid smoking triggers like bars or other places where smoking is permitted.
Hang out with non-smokers.
Do things to distract you from smoking and take your mind off of your cravings. Start a new hobby or spend more time with your friends. Being physically active will reduce stress and restrain your cravings.
Keep your hands busy by playing with small objects like coins or paperclips, and keep your mouth busy by blowing through straws, chewing gum, or eating a healthy snack like carrot sticks.
Find activities to do with non-smokers.
Avoid activities that are triggers or where smoking will occur.
Incentivize your good behavior by treating yourself to something you enjoy. It is likely that quitting smoking will make you feel sad, increasing your craving to smoke. Instead, try activating the pleasure centers of brain with a something that you enjoy. Eat one of your favorite foods or enjoy a hobby.
Be careful not to replace one addictive behavior with another.
Take the money you save by not smoking and use it to reward yourself, buying something nice, treating yourself to a movie or a nice dinner, or even saving long-term for a trip.
Stay positive and forgiving.
Remember that quitting smoking is a difficult process and that it takes time. Take it one day at time and do not be overly harsh on yourself for giving in to your cravings. You are going to have setbacks in efforts to quit and it is important to remember that you are a part of the process.
Concentrate on staying smoke-free for short periods like a day or even a few hours. Thinking long-term about quitting (such as “I can never smoke again”) can be overwhelming and lead to anxiety that may trigger cravings.
Practice mindfulness techniques, such as meditation, that help you focus your mind on right now and the success you are having at the moment.