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Sounding the smoke alarm

Conquest - Spring 2014

It’s quitting time. Here’s some help

Anyone addicted to nicotine knows that giving up smoking — or any tobacco habit — isn’t easy. Damon Vidrine, Dr. P.H., an associate professor in Behavioral Science, offers these tips to help people succeed in quitting.

Before quitting

1. Set a target quit date. It may help to choose a meaningful day such as a birthday, anniversary or holiday.

2. Preparation before attempting to quit can be crucial.

  • Throw away cigarettes, ashtrays and lighters.
  • Thoroughly clean your home and car.
  • Identify several coping strategies (taking a walk, snacking on carrot sticks, using sugar-free mints) that appeal to you. These coping strategies will help you handle nicotine withdrawal.

3. Make a list of the reasons you want to quit. You can refer to this list later when you feel the urge to smoke.

4. Tell your friends and family that you’re trying to quit. Positive social support can be tremendously helpful.

After the quit day

  • Avoid situations in which you would normally smoke or would be tempted to smoke.
  • Use the coping strategies that you’ve already identified. You can also try to use incompatible behaviors such as brushing your teeth or drinking water.
  • If you find yourself in a tempting situation, escape. It’s OK to acknowledge that some situations are too tempting soon after quitting.

Use FDA-approved pharmacotherapy. There are several drugs on the market that can greatly improve your chances of successfully quitting. Some, such as nicotine patches, nicotine gum and nicotine lozenges, are available over the counter. Others, like varenicline and bupropion, are only available by prescription. They’re all effective if used as directed.

Did you know

Though they smoke less, today’s smokers have an even greater risk of developing lung cancer than those in 1964. Changes in cigarette design, such as ventilated filters, increase smokers’ risk of the cancer because they allow for more vigorous inhalation, drawing carcinogens in cigarette smoke deeper into lung tissue.

© 2014 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center