How to stop smoking?Progression from being a smoker to a confirmed ex-smoker is a complex behavioural process. Research has shown that quitting smokers move through a number of distinct stages in the process of quitting.
Making the Decision to Quit
The decision to quit tobacco use is one that only you can make. Others may want you to quit, but the real commitment must come from you. Researchers have looked into how and why people stop tobacco use.
They have some ideas, or models, of how this happens
The Health Belief Model says that you will be more likely to stop smoking if you:
- believe that you could get a smoking-related disease and this worries you
- believe that you can make an honest attempt at quitting smoking
- believe that the benefits of quitting outweigh the benefits of continuing to smoke
- know of someone who has had health problems as a result of their smoking
The Stages of Change Model identifies the stages that you go through when you make a change in behavior. Here are the stages as they apply to quitting tobacco use:
- Pre-contemplation: At this stage, the tobacco user is not thinking seriously about quitting right now.
- Contemplation: The tobacco user is actively thinking about quitting but is not quite ready to make a serious attempt yet. This person may say, "Yes, I'm ready to quit, but the stress at work is too much, or I don't want to gain weight, or I'm not sure if I can do it."
- Preparation: Tobacco users in the preparation stage seriously intend to quit in the next month and often have tried to quit in the past 12 months. They usually have a plan.
- Action: This is the first 6 months when the user is actively quitting.
- Maintenance: This is the period of 6 months to 5 years after quitting when the ex-user is aware of the danger of relapse and take steps to avoid it.
Where do you fit in this model? If you are thinking about quitting, setting a date and deciding on a plan will move you into the preparation stage, the best place to start.
Setting a quit smoking date and choosing a quit smoking plan
Once you've made a decision to quit, you're ready to pick a quit date. This is a very important step. Pick a specific day within the next month as your ‘Quit Day’. Picking a date too far in the future allows you time to rationalize and change your mind. But do give yourself enough time to prepare and come up with a plan. You might choose a date that has a special meaning like a birthday or anniversary, or simply pick a random date. Circle the date on your calendar. Make a strong, personal commitment to quit on that day.
There is no one right way to quit. Most tobacco users prefer to quit "cold turkey" - that is, abruptly and totally. They use tobacco until their Quit Day and then stop all at once, or they may cut down on tobacco for a week or 2 before their Quit Day. Another way involves cutting down on the number of times tobacco is used each day. With this method, you gradually reduce the amount of nicotine in your body. While it sounds logical to cut down in order to quit gradually, in practice this method is difficult.
Quitting smoking is a lot like losing weight; it takes a strong commitment over a long period of time. Users may wish there was a magic bullet - a pill or method that would make quitting painless and easy. But that is not the case. Nicotine substitutes can help reduce withdrawal, but they are most effective when used as part of a stop tobacco use plan that addresses both the physical and psychological components of quitting.
Here are some steps to help you prepare for your Quit Day:
- Pick the date and mark it on your calendar.
- Tell friends and family about your Quit Day.
- Stock up on oral substitutes - sugarless gum, carrot sticks, and/or hard candy.
- Decide on a plan. Will you use nicotine replacement therapy? Will you attend a class? If so, sign up now.
- Set up a support system. This could be a group class, Nicotine Anonymous, or a friend who has successfully quit and is willing to help you.
Successful quitting is a matter of planning and commitment, not luck. Decide now on your own plan. Some possibilities include using the nicotine patch or gum, joining a tobacco cessation class, going to Nicotine Anonymous meetings, or using self-help materials such as books and pamphlets. Your plan should include one or more of these options.
On your Quit Day, follow these suggestions:
- Do not smoke.
- Get rid of all cigarettes, lighters, ashtrays, and any other items related to smoking.
- Keep active - try walking, exercising, or doing other activities or hobbies.
- Drink lots of water and juices.
- Begin using nicotine replacement if that is your choice.
- Attend stop smoking class or follow a self-help plan.
- Avoid situations where the urge to smoke is strong.
- Reduce or avoid alcohol.
- Use the four "A’s" (avoid, alter, alternatives, activities) to deal with tough situations (described in more detail later).
Dealing with withdrawal while you quit smoking
Withdrawal from nicotine has two parts - the physical and the psychological. The physical symptoms, while annoying, are not life threatening. Nicotine replacement can help reduce many of these physical symptoms. But most users find that the bigger challenge is the psychological part of quitting.
If you have been using tobacco for any length of time, it has become linked with many of your activities - watching TV; attending sport events; while fishing, camping, or hunting; or driving your car. It will take time to "un-link" smoking from these activities. That is why, even if you are using the patch or gum, you may still have strong urges to smoke.
One way to overcome these urges or cravings is to recognize rationalizations as they come up. A rationalization is a mistaken belief that seems to make sense at the time but is not based on facts. If you have tried to quit before, you will probably recognize many of these common rationalizations.
- I’ll just use it to get through this rough spot.
- Today is not a good day; I’ll quit tomorrow.
- It's my only vice.
- How bad is tobacco, really? Uncle Harry chewed all his life and he lived to be over 90.
- You've got to die of something.
- Life is no fun without smoking.
You probably can add more to the list. As you go through the first few days without tobacco, write down any rationalizations as they come up and recognize them for what they are: messages that can trap you into going back to using tobacco. Use the ideas below to help you keep your commitment to quitting.
- Avoid people and places where you are tempted to smoke. Later on you will be able to handle these with more confidence.
- Alter your habits. Switch to juices or water instead of alcohol or coffee. Take a different route to work. Take a brisk walk instead of a coffee break.
- Alternatives. Use oral substitutes such as sugarless gum or hard candy, raw vegetables such as carrot sticks, or sunflower seeds.
- Activities. Exercise or do hobbies that keep your hands busy, such as needlework or woodworking, that can help distract you from the urge to smoke.
- Deep breathing. When you were smoking, you breathed deeply as you inhaled the smoke. When the urge strikes now, breathe deeply and picture your lungs filling with fresh, clean air. Remind yourself of your reasons for quitting and the benefits you'll gain as an ex-smoker.
- Delay If you feel that you are about to light up, delay. Tell yourself you must wait at least 10 minutes. Often this simple trick will allow you to move beyond the acute urge to smoke.
What you're doing is not easy, so you deserve a reward. Put the money you would have spent on tobacco in a jar every day and then buy yourself a weekly treat. Buy a magazine, go out to eat, call a friend long-distance. Or save the money for a major purchase. You can also reward yourself in ways that don't cost money: take time out to read, work on a hobby, or take a relaxing bath.
Maintenance after you have quit smoking
Remember the quotation by Mark Twain? Maybe you, too, have quit many times before. So you know that staying quit is the final, and most important, stage of the process. You can use the same methods to stay quit as you did to help you through withdrawal. Think ahead to those times when you may be tempted to smoke, and plan on how you will use alternatives and activities to cope with these situations.
More dangerous, perhaps, are the unexpected strong desires to smoke that occur sometimes months (or even years) after you've quit. To get through these without relapse, try the following:
- Review your reasons for quitting and think of all the benefits to your health, your finances, and your family.
- Remind yourself that there is no such thing as just one cigarette - or even one puff.
- Ride out the desire. It will go away, but do not fool yourself into thinking you can have just one.
What if you do smoke? The difference between a slip and a relapse is within your control. You can use the slip as an excuse to go back to smoking, or you can look at what went wrong and renew your commitment to staying off smoking for good.
A quitting smoker may cycle through the categories a number of times before successfully quitting. Carefully planned cessation programs can target smokers at particular stages on the quit continuum, by triggering contemplation, providing motivation to move on to the next stage, or by offering support during the difficult stages. Programs are increasingly targeting relapse prevention, as the population of would-be quitters increasingly comprises smokers who have made a number of quit attempts.
More information on quitting smokingHow to quit smoking? - Many smokers know they need to quid smoking to avoid health risk. Smoking cessation is of the most importance for people who is suffering from unpleasant smoking symptoms.
What health effects are associated with smoking? - The main health risks in tobacco smoking pertain to diseases of the respiratory tract and also to diseases of the cardiovascular system, in particular smoking being a major risk factor for a myocardial infarction (heart attack).
What're the constituents of tobacco smoke? - Tobacco smoke is a complex mixture of several thousand chemical compounds. These include particulates (tar) of sticky solids, gases such as carbon monoxide, and volatiles. Most importantly, the smoke contains nicotine ĘC the addictive drug.
Smoking and lung cancer - Lung cancer is directly related to smoking. Over 40 carcinogens have been identified in cigarette smoke. The risk of developing lung cancer is directly related to the number of cigarettes smoked.
Smoking and cardiovascular disease - There are a number of cardiovascular diseases that can be related to smoking. They include heart disease, stroke, and peripheral vascular disease. Smoking aggravates and accelerates of the development of atherosclerotic lesions in the arterial walls.
Smoking and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) - Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a lung disease in which the lung is damaged, making it hard to breathe. Prolonged tobacco use causes lung inflammation and variable degrees of air sack (alveoli) destruction.
Other cancers caused by or associated with smoking - Cigarette smoking is a major cause of cancers of the oral cavity, oesophagus and larynx. Smoking is a cause of bladder cancer. Cigarette smoking is at least a contributory and may be a causal factor in the development of pancreatic cancer.
Women's health and smoking - Women smokers suffer all the consequences of smoking that men do such as increased of risk various cancers (lung, mouth, larynx, pharynx, esophagus, kidney, pancreas, kidney, and bladder) and respiratory diseases.
Harm to human body by smoking - Chemicals in tobacco cause damage to the macula (the most sensitive part of the retina, the back of the eye). Smoking is a risk factor for all cancers associated with the larynx, oral cavity and oesophagus.
What is passive smoking? - "Passive smoking" or "secondhand smoke" - also known as "environmental tobacco smoke" (ETS) or "involuntary smoking" - occurs when the ambient smoke from one person's cigarette is inhaled by other people.
Health hazards of passive smoking - Some of the immediate effects of passive smoking include eye irritation, headache, cough, sore throat, dizziness and nausea. Adults with asthma can experience a significant decline in lung function when exposed, while new cases of asthma may be induced in children whose parents smoke.
How to avoid passive smoking? - Let your visitors know your home is a smoke-free zone, request them to smoke outside. Ask your visitors to put off the cigarette before entering your room. Ask to be seated in non-smoking areas as far from smokers as possible when dining out.
What is a smoking addiction? - A smoking addiction means a person has formed an uncontrollable dependence on cigarettes to the point where stopping smoking would cause severe emotional, mental, or physical reactions.
Why quit smoking? - Smoking increases the risk of respiratory diseases such as emphysema, chronic bronchitis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Smokers have twice the risk of dying of heart attacks, as do non-smokers.
How to stop smoking? - Quitting smoking is a lot like losing weight; it takes a strong commitment over a long period of time. Withdrawal from nicotine has two parts - the physical and the psychological.
Cigar smoking and health - A cigar is defined, for tax purposes, as "any roll of tobacco wrapped in leaf tobacco or in any substance containing tobacco," while a cigarette is "any roll of tobacco wrapped in paper or any substance not containing tobacco.
What smoking cessation medications are available? - Nicotine for NRT is available by prescription as an inhaler or nasal spray (Nicotrol Inhaler and Nicotrol NS).
Changes in body weight and smoking cessation - Smokers weigh, on average, around 3 kg less than non-smokers, although heavy smokers are more likely to be moderately or severely overweight. For many people, the fear of gaining weight prevents them from quitting smoking.
Health benefits of quitting smoking - Smoking cessation has major and immediate health benefits for men and women of all ages. The health benefits of smoking cessation far exceed any risks from the average 2.3 kg (5 pound) weight gain or any adverse psychological effects that may follow quitting.