According to the American Cancer Society, people who stop smoking before age 50 cut their risk of dying in the next 15 years by 50%. And all smokers reap benefits — including improved circulation and lung function — within weeks of quitting.
Nicotine is an addictive substance. Quitting smoking is about changing your behavior and learning to manage craving and withdrawal symptoms in the short-term, and making long term life style changes to support your continued success. Try these tips. But keep in mind: No quit-smoking strategy is one-size-fits-all, so you’ll need to adapt these strategies to for your personality and life circumstances.
No matter when you plan to quit, it’s smart to plan ahead.
“Picking a quit date, particularly at a time when you know your motivation is high and there will be less stress or distraction, is generally a good idea,” says Paul M. Cinciripini, Ph.D, director of MD Anderson’s Tobacco Treatment Program and professor of Behavioral Science.
“Success at quitting smoking may require some change or adjustment to your daily routine and more broadly to your lifestyle,” Cinciripini says. “Think about how you can arrange your life to give you the best possible chance at success before you make a quit attempt and then follow through.”
Few people quit for good on their first try. In fact for many it will take multiple attempts but don’t be discouraged; keep trying and each time learn something from the experience that will assist you going forward. Get all of the support you can.
“By using medication and getting help from a behavioral counselor or psychologist, you’ll boost your chances of success,” says Vance Rabius, Ph.D.,research director of MD Anderson’s Tobacco Treatment Program .
Don’t have the time or money to get professional help? You can get free counseling by calling one of these free quit lines or website:
- Call 800-784-8669 (800-QUIT NOW)
- Text Quit to 47848
- Visit www.smokefree.gov
“A counselor can help you identify what triggers you to smoke and determine what’s most likely to work for you,” Rabius says.
You should consider using a nicotine replacement product like the patch, gum or nasal spray. Using both counseling and medication is the recommended strategy. Your chances of success double when you do both.
Learn new skills or behaviors
For some, smoking has a strong social component. Instead of going out with fellow smokers, invite your friends to do a healthy activity like running or taking a yoga class.
“This is one of the areas where a behavioral counselor can really help,” Rabius says. “He or she can help you figure out how you’re going to deal with situations when you’d normally smoke.”
When you first quit smoking, you may spend a lot of time thinking about it. So, it helps to create positive distractions.
Try thinking of one new thing to do every day to help keep your mind off smoking. Read books that interest you, watch your favorite shows and try new hobbies that can distract you.
Consider nicotine replacement therapy
Before quitting, identify the moods or situations that lead you to smoke. Then, remove those smoking triggers from your environment and replace them with activities or habits that help you avoid tobacco.
If you smoke because you like to chew on something you may be able to get your fix by drinking water or using lozenges. Light up when you’re anxious? You’ll need to find new ways to cope with stress.
Be prepared for relapse or difficult situations
“Never again” can seem daunting during your first days without a cigarette. Focus instead on short-term goals.
Try telling yourself to just make it through the day without a cigarette. Pretty soon, one day without a cigarette will become two days without a cigarette.
Rewarding yourself for even small successes can reinforce that you’ll benefit from quitting very soon. Buy yourself a present or celebrate with those around you.
And remember that the health benefits start right away. Some begin as soon as 20 minutes after you quit smoking, and eventually your health can return to that of a non-smoker. It’s never too late to quit smoking.
Request an appointment at MD Anderson's Lyda Hill Cancer Prevention Center online or call 855-668-8897.