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A Step-Wise Approach to Quitting

Quitting smoking isn’t easy – it takes a lot of hard work and, just as importantly, a lot of planning, to get it right. In the year 2000, the federal government came out with a Tobacco Cessation Guideline based on scientific evidence showing the best ways to help people quit smoking. The Guideline basically focuses on five key steps in the smoking cessation process:

Get Ready

The first order of business is to set a quit date. That way, you’ll have a goal to work towards. Then get to work changing your environment: rid your home, car, and workplace of ALL cigarettes and ashtrays, and make it clear to visitors in your home that smoking is no longer allowed. If you’ve tried to quit before, take a few minutes to review the experience – what went right, and what went wrong – and learn from both your successes and mistakes. Then, once your quit date arrives, resolve to stick to it: don’t allow yourself even one puff!

Get Support and Encouragement

Admit that you’ll need help to make a go of not smoking. Ask friends, family, and coworkers for their support – especially when it comes to not smoking around you and not leaving cigarettes out where you can see them. You can ask for support from your doctor, respiratory therapist, or other health care professional too, and it’s also a good idea to seek out some form of formal counseling, whether that be from a smoking cessation hotline or through individual or group sessions.

Learn New Skills and Behaviors

There are a lot of things you can do to “trick” yourself into not smoking when the urge to smoke arises. Among the best: start up a conversation with someone to get your mind off of smoking, go for a walk, or get busy with a task that would make smoking difficult. It’s also a good idea to change your routine when you first quit, such as taking a different route to work, drinking tea instead of coffee, or eating breakfast in a different place. Reducing stress is important too: take a hot bath, exercise, or read a book. Reward yourself for quitting by doing something enjoyable every day, and be sure to drink plenty of water and other fluids.

Get Medication and Use it Correctly

These days, it’s usually not necessary to tackle smoking cessation alone. There are numerous medications [LINK TO MEDICATIONS ARTICLE] available that can double your chances of success. These include nicotine gum, nicotine inhalers, nicotine nasal spray, nicotine patches, and the oral medication bupropion SR (Zyban). Ask your doctor, respiratory therapist, or other health care professional which of these medications is right for you, then be sure to read the package insert very carefully and use the medication exactly as directed.

Be Prepared for Relapse or Difficult Situations

One thing the scientific evidence on smoking cessation makes very clear is that many, many people fail one or even more times before they get smoking cessation right. Usually, a relapse will occur within the first three months. The important thing to remember is not to give up. If you break down and light up, go back to step one and start the process again.

There are some situations you can avoid, however, to help keep a relapse from happening. Specifically, don’t drink alcohol, avoid being around other smokers, and don’t let gaining a few pounds deter you from your goal. Most people who quit smoking gain no more than 10 pounds, and that’s usually because they don’t exercise enough while quitting. If you eat a healthy diet and exercise, you most likely won’t gain weight at all.

Lastly, don’t let a bad mood or brief period of depression lead you back to cigarettes. Find another way to improve your mood.

2024 American Association for Respiratory Care