According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), use of tobacco products is the most preventable cause of death in the United States. More than 480,000 deaths occur in the United States each year from firsthand and secondhand smoking, and the overall life expectancy for smokers is known to be at least 10 years shorter than it is for people who don’t smoke.
Research shows that your risk of dying from a smoking-related disease or illness decreases by up to 90% if you quit before the age of 40. However, your health and life expectancy will improve substantially regardless of when you quit. Quitting smoking can be challenging for some. But it’s rewarding for all, as it can drastically improve your quality of life and the lives of those around you.
How to Get Started Quitting Smoking
First, it helps to acknowledge that quitting a smoking habit is a difficult thing to do because of nicotine’s biologically addictive quality. Try not to be too hard on yourself during weak moments, as that can actually lead to a potential relapse.
Experts also recommend getting support from your family, friends and healthcare provider. It takes a team to help break the addictive habit of smoking, but together you can accomplish that goal. Some people find it helpful to set a “quit date” — a day you can physically mark on a calendar that gives you time to mentally prepare for quitting.
There are many methods to stop quitting. Some prefer to quit “cold turkey,” meaning they decide to stop smoking without a taper plan. Others decide to use a taper method that involves slowly decreasing their intake of nicotine over several weeks so that quitting isn’t as shocking to their system. You should talk to your doctor to determine the best quitting plan for you.
There are several apps available that can help you stick to your goal of avoiding tobacco and nicotine. The National Cancer Institute offers an app that helps you track your progress, determine how much money you’ve saved from quitting smoking, and enjoy encouragement and advice via text message.
You may feel that you need additional support outside of your immediate personal network. There are many support groups and hotlines (both online and in-person) available, such as the National Cancer Institute Quitline, Nicotine Anonymous, and the Freedom From Smoking program available through the American Lung Association.
It’s important to remember that many people who try to quit smoking may relapse several times before they’re successful. If you don’t meet your quitting goal, try to frame that experience as a learning opportunity rather than a failure. Each unsuccessful attempt will teach you more about yourself and how to overcome the specific triggers or situations that lead you to relapse.
Treatment Options and Helpful Tips for Quitting Smoking
After consulting with your healthcare provider to determine the best method of quitting for you, they may recommend certain medications. These include both over-the-counter and prescription options, such as:
- Nicotine patches
- Nicotine gum
- Nicotine lozenges
- Nicotine nasal sprays
- Chantix (varenicline)
- Zyban (bupropion)
Many people find that combining a medication protocol with counseling or therapy can be extremely motivating in achieving their quitting goal. You might decide to seek out in-person or virtual counseling. However, options such as free hotlines and support groups are available in most states as well. It may be helpful to enlist your support system as accountability partners to help you achieve your goal of quitting tobacco and nicotine.
Quitting smoking isn’t a one-size-fits-all process — the method that works best for someone else may not work well for you, and vice versa. If you feel like you’re struggling to find the method that works best for you, try not to become discouraged. Keep trying new things until you figure out the quit-smoking plan that works well for you and your lifestyle. Here are some ideas:
- Ask for support and encouragement from your family, loved ones and healthcare provider.
- Set a quit date. Pick a date, put it on your calendar and remind yourself that you’re stopping then.
- Visit your doctor to see if you’re a good candidate for prescription medications to quit smoking.
- Call a hotline or quit line in your area to find support in times of need.
- Avoid smoking environments and tempting situations that may have triggered you to smoke before.
- Jot down a list of reasons why you want to quit and make sure these reasons are important to you. Then, make copies and post them in places you see in your daily routine to remind and encourage yourself.
- Keep a copy of the list of reasons why you want to quit with your cigarettes. It can encourage you if you falter.
Using nicotine patches or chewing tobacco doesn’t constitute quitting, but it can help ease you off of smoking. Once you’ve quit smoking, you can start the process of quitting nicotine altogether.
Tips for Fighting Cravings
It’s normal for your body to have withdrawals from substances it’s used to receiving, but it’s important to remember that the urge to smoke will come and go. Here are some tips to fight your cravings to smoke:
- Try to wait it out by distracting yourself with an activity that keeps your hands busy.
- Reach for your list of reasons to quit and encourage yourself.
- Munch on some healthy snacks when you feel the urge to smoke. Try carrots, celery, walnuts or apples.
- Paint your nails or wash dishes to switch up your focus and keep your hands busy.
- Take a shower or a relaxing bath.
- Go for a quick run or practice light exercise.
- Try relaxation techniques such as yoga, stretching or breathing techniques to help soothe you and shift focus.
- Do something to take your mind off of the craving. Anything is better than yielding to the urges. Remember, even one cigarette can undo all the great work you’ve put in.
What Are the Benefits of Quitting Smoking?
There are numerous health benefits associated with quitting smoking, such as decreasing your risk of developing many forms of cancer, lung disease, heart attack, stroke and diseases of the eye. Additionally, there are several immediate effects of quitting smoking that may help motivate you:
- You’ll improve aspects of your oral health, such as poor-smelling breath and yellowing of the enamel on your teeth.
- Your sense of taste and smell will improve, allowing you to enjoy your meals more.
- The buildup of phlegm in your respiratory system will decrease and improve your breathing overall.
- Your skin health will improve because your skin can start to retain moisture more easily.
Long-term rewards of quitting include:
- Improved skin texture with less noticeable signs of aging
- Decreased risk of coronary heart disease and stroke
- Safer and healthier pregnancies for both the pregnant parent and baby
- Lowered blood pressure and cholesterol levels
- Healthier respiratory system
- Decreased risk of developing many forms of cancer
- Setting a better example for your children or those around you who may be impressionable
- Financial benefits from not purchasing cigarettes regularly
Research shows that smoking cigarettes greatly increases your risk of developing cancers of the throat, mouth, digestive system, kidneys, bladder, pancreas and blood. Furthermore, your risk of developing lung-related diseases such as emphysema drastically increases when you smoke cigarettes.
By making the decision to quit smoking, you may improve your health substantially. You can rest assured knowing you’re making a large impact on not only your life but also on the lives of your loved ones.