You know that when you quit smoking, it's one of the best things you can do for your health. But you also know that quitting smoking can be challenging and that it takes most smokers several tries before they succeed.
So how do you quit smoking, hopefully for good? These tried-and-true strategies can help you achieve your goal to quit smoking.
1. Write down your reasons for quitting
Make a list of all the reasons you want to quit smoking. They might include:
- Improving your health
- Lowering your risk of disease
- Not exposing family or friends to secondhand smoke
- Setting a good example for your children
- Saving money
- Getting rid of the lingering smell of tobacco smoke
Each time you pick up a cigarette or have the urge to do so, read your list and remind yourself why you want to quit smoking.
2. Make a plan
Make a plan to quit. Most people have the best success with quitting smoking by setting a quit-smoking date and then abruptly stopping on that date.
Online tools that can help you create and implement a quit plan are available from the National Cancer Institute (www.smokefree.gov/build-your-quit-plan) and the Truth Initiative (www.becomeanex.org). These programs also provide chat services, text messaging or apps for mobile devices to provide support and coping strategies — tools that have been found to help people quit.
3. Consider other ways to quit
If you've tried quitting abruptly a few times and it hasn't worked for you, you might want to start the quit-smoking process by gradually cutting back on your smoking. Recent evidence shows that using the prescription medication varenicline and sticking to a strict reduction schedule may improve quitting.
Ways that you can cut back gradually include delaying your first cigarette of the day, progressively lengthening the time between cigarettes, smoking only half of each cigarette, buying only one pack of cigarettes at a time and trading one smoking break a day for physical activity. Build on each success until you've quit smoking entirely.
4. Talk to your doctor about treatments
Treatments that can lessen cravings include nicotine replacement therapies, which can be administered with a skin patch, lozenges, gum, inhalers or nasal sprays. These treatments begin on your quit day. Other non-nicotine medication can help reduce nicotine withdrawal symptoms by mimicking how nicotine functions in your body. Treatment with these drugs, such as bupropion and varenicline, should begin one to two weeks before your quit day.
5. Find a counseling service
Individual, group or telephone counseling can provide you with needed support and help you develop coping skills. Combining counseling and medication is the most effective way to succeed with smoking cessation. Your doctor may refer you to local resources or support groups. To reach the National Cancer Institute's telephone quit line, call 877-44U-QUIT (877-448-7848). To find your state's quit line, call 800-QUIT-NOW (800-784-8669).
- Mutual support among people trying to quit
- Coping skills to address stressors or other triggers
- Strategies to deal with changes in mood
- Shared tips on what behaviors or strategies are most beneficial
- Education about the benefits of quitting
6. Tell your family and friends
Tell your family, friends and co-workers that you are going to quit smoking. Let them know how they might best support you. For example, you might consider the following ideas:
- Tell them what day you will be quitting.
- Ask them to check in to see how you're doing.
- Plan activities or outings with them to get your mind off smoking.
- Ask them to be patient with your changes in mood.
- Request that they not judge or criticize you if you have a setback.
- Ask friends who smoke not to smoke around you or offer you a cigarette.
7. Avoid smoking triggers
Recognize places and situations that make you want to smoke and avoid them.
- Hang out with people who don't smoke or who also want to quit.
- Avoid designated smoking areas outside buildings.
- Keep busy during times when boredom may tempt you to smoke.
- Create new routines that aren't associated with smoking, such a new route to work or chewing gum while driving.
- Get up from the table immediately after eating.
- Drink water or tea instead of coffee or alcohol.
- Practice saying, "No thanks, I don't smoke."
8. Manage your stress
Stress and anxiety can increase your urge to smoke and derail your effort to quit smoking. Consider the following strategies for managing stress:
- Prioritize your tasks.
- Take breaks when you need to.
- Practice relaxation exercises, deep breathing or meditation.
- Listen to your favorite music.
- Get regular exercise.
- Find a creative outlet such as art, music, crafts or dance.
- Practice substituting new thoughts when you feel an urge to smoke; try saying "smoking is not an option" or "I'm a nonsmoker."
9. Celebrate your successes
Made it through the day without a cigarette? Treat yourself to something special. Made it through the week? Count how much you've saved by not buying cigarettes. Use the savings for a special treat or invest the money for the future.
Reward yourself for not smoking by doing something you enjoy every day, such as spending extra time with your children or grandchildren, going to a ball game, taking a walk, soaking in the tub, or watching a movie. All of your small successes can help you reach your goal to quit smoking for good.