Smoking is one of the rare things in life when it's OK to be a quitter. If you smoke, you're likely used to hearing people tell you why you should quit - to decrease your risk of smoking-related diseases including lung cancer, to create a healthier environment for those around you, to live a longer and healthier life and the list goes on.
However, if you're ready to quit, you're probably more interested in hearing how to quit successfully.
"Although there's no one right way to quit that works for everyone, there are some key elements that can help put you on the road to living a longer and healthier life, whether you're a smoker or you use another form of tobacco," said Alicia Gardner, American Cancer Society Health Initiatives director for greater Michigan. "No matter how old you are or how long you've smoked, quitting can help you live longer and be healthier."
Consider these stay-quit tips from the American Cancer Society.
Set a date. Picking a "quit day" is a critical first step. It's best to pick a date within the next month, so you allow enough time to prepare and create a plan but not enough time to change your mind. You might want to join thousands of other people across the country in choosing Nov. 15, the date of the American Cancer Society Great American Smokeout as your quit day or the day you make a plan to quit for good. Then be sure to tell your friends and family which day you've chosen so they can help support you and hold you accountable. Download a free Smokeout countdown clock for your computer desktop at cancer.org/smokeout with tips to help you prepare for your quit day.
Make a plan. Successfully quitting is a matter of planning and commitment, not luck. Many smokers prefer to quit cold turkey on their quit day, while others try to smoke fewer cigarettes leading up to their quit day to slowly reduce the amount of nicotine in their body and reduce withdrawal symptoms. Decide what works best for you, whether it's nicotine replacement or other medicines, joining a stop-smoking class, going to Nicotine Anonymous meetings, using self-help materials such as books and pamphlets, or some combination of these methods. The Quit For Life Program, brought to you by the American Cancer Society and operated by Alere Wellbeing, is another option that links tobacco users with trained coaches who can help make a plan to quit for good. Find more details about all of these options at cancer.org/smokeout.
Once your plan is in place, start working on small changes like discarding cigarettes and ashtrays in your home and car, stocking up on oral substitutes like sugarless gum and hard candy or carrot sticks, and practice saying, "No thank you, I don't smoke," when offered a cigarette. Of course, it's very important to set up a support system through a group program or a friend or family member who has successfully quit and will help you through the difficult days ahead.
Don't smoke on your quit day. Don't take even one puff! Keep your mind and body occupied by exercising or losing yourself in an enjoyable hobby, and avoid situations where the urge to smoke is strong (this may include avoiding alcohol). You may need to change up your routine by taking a different route to work, eating breakfast in a different place, or eating different foods. It will take time to unlink smoking from your daily activities, and even if you are using a nicotine replacement you may still have strong urges to smoke. Find more tips to help you through this critical day at cancer.org/smokeout.
Avoid rationalizations. "I'll have just one cigarette to get me through this situation" "Everyone dies of something" "How bad is smoking, really?" Write down rationalizations as they come up and recognize them as messages that can trick you into going back to smoking. Be ready with a distraction to redirect your thoughts to something else. You can download a free "craving stopper" application at cancer.org/smokeout to help distract yourself with a memory match game or find more tips to help when a craving hits.
Bounce back from slips. A slip is a one-time mistake that is quickly corrected; a relapse is going back to smoking. While it may be tempting to use a slip as an excuse to go back to your old ways, you also can look at what went wrong and renew your commitment. Try not to get too discouraged - very few people are able to quit for good on the first try.
Use what you learn from the slip to make a stronger quitting attempt next time.