M. D. Anderson Cancer Center
Date: November 2008
Duration: 0 / 04:11
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Quitting tobacco may not be easy, but the health benefits are important and immediate for both men and women of all ages. There is no one right way to quit, but there are four basic steps to success: making the decision to quit, setting a quit date and choosing a quit plan, dealing with withdrawal, and staying away from tobacco for good.
The decision to quit is personal. Only you can decide that you are ready to make the commitment to stop using tobacco.
Once you commit to quit, the next step is to set a quit date and choose your quit plan.
Pick a specific day within the next month. Mark the date on your calendar and tell your family and friends about it. In preparation for your quit day, get rid of all the cigarettes and ashtrays in your car, home and place of work. Stock up on oral substitutes, such as sugarless gum, carrot sticks or hard candy. Practice saying, “No thank you, I don’t smoke.” Reflect about any past attempts to quit: what worked and what didn’t work. Arrange for support: ask a friend or family member who has successfully quit if they will help, or join a support group.
There are a lot of ways to quit tobacco. Pick the one that is right for you. Or try several.
You might choose nicotine replacement therapy, which comes as gum, patches, spray, inhalers or lozenges. These products provide nicotine without the harmful chemicals found in tobacco. Using these products may relieve some of your withdrawal symptoms so you can focus on the emotional and habitual aspects of quitting. Nicotine substitutes are most effective when used as part of a plan that addresses both the physical and psychological aspects of quitting. If you find that nicotine replacement therapy doesn’t work for you, talk to your doctor about other prescription medications that might help.
Other options to support your quit attempt include joining a stop-smoking class, going to Nicotine Anonymous meetings or using self-help materials such as books or pamphlets, or call the National Cancer Institute’s smoking quitline 1-877-44U-QUIT.
Nicotine withdrawal includes both a physical and mental challenge. For many, the mental part of quitting is the biggest challenge. Think about the ways that smoking is linked to other activities you do. It will take time to unlink these activities and even if you use nicotine replacement, you’ll experience strong urges to smoke. Knowing a few strategies for dealing with withdrawal may help. Avoid the people and places where you are tempted to smoke. Change the habits associated with your tobacco use: take a brisk walk instead of a smoke break or drink water instead of coffee or alcohol if you associated those things with smoking. Incorporate some oral substitutes, such as sugarless gum, hard candy or raw vegetables, like carrot sticks. Find new outlets for stress: pick a hobby like needlework or woodworking to keep your hands busy or take up a new exercise program. Practice deep breathing. Remember to reward yourself: quitting is not easy.
Staying away from tobacco is the final and most important part of the process. You may be surprised to experience urges to smoke months or even years after you quit. You can rely on some of the same methods that saw you through withdrawal to cope.
Smoking is probably one of the hardest additions to overcome… it usually takes six to eight attempts for success. Don’t get discouraged if you have a lapse—just pick up where you left off. Figuring out what works best for you can make your next attempt to quit even stronger.
More than 46 million Americans have quit smoking for good and you can too. To learn more about quitting tobacco or to find out if one of our smoking cessation programs may be right for you, visit us online at www.mdanderson.org/smoking.
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