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Tips for Becoming Tobacco Free

Even though we know cigarettes can kill us, something about our mortality makes us deny that we might be the one to develop lung cancer, emphysema, or any one of the many other diseases caused by smoking. If not the threat of serious health problems and death, what would convince you to quit? How would you go about it? No plan is guaranteed to work, but working a plan usually helps. Here’s some advice that might make it easier for you when you’re ready to join the ranks of former smokers:

Consider other reasons to quit. If the health and death threats on the side of a pack of cigarettes aren’t enough to convince you, consider some of the other benefits of becoming a nonsmoker:

  1. Smoking causes premature aging and other skin problems.
  2. Smoking before bedtime makes it difficult to fall asleep and can inhibit deep sleep.
  3. Smoking can exacerbate snoring and sleep apnea. 
  4. Smoking alienates you -- from your friends, family, coworkers, and people you’d like to meet who would rather not gag on your secondhand smoke or smell like a bar from it.
  5. Smoking is expensive -- about $120 a month if you smoke a pack a day.

Keep track of your smoking. Start a journal to record each time you have a cigarette, writing down the time of day, what triggered the craving, and how you feel. When you start to see your smoking patterns, you’ll understand when and why you smoke. Knowing these things will help you develop a plan for coping with cravings.

Make a plan for quitting. Will you try to quit cold turkey or will you slowly wean yourself off cigarettes? Will you need to use nicotine replacement therapy or smoking cessation medication? [LINK TO MEDICATIONS] How will you handle cravings? Talk to your doctor or respiratory therapist about what kind of plan will work best for you. Set goals and write them on paper, including the date you set to stop smoking. Then stick to your plan.

Replace your bad habit with a good one. One way to deal with cravings is to simply do something else until the craving passes – usually about 20 minutes. Think of some good habits you’d like to develop and replace smoking with one of those. That way, when you get a craving, you’ll reach for a glass of water or get up and walk or do a few sit-ups. These things may also help curb weight gain after quitting.

Ask for support when you need it. Admitting to a craving and letting others help you is a sign of strength, not weakness. Make sure the people around you know about your decision to quit and how they can help. When you’re having a craving, especially one you’re not sure you can handle, tell them and let them know you need their encouragement. Have them tell you how great you’ve been doing. Remind them of how many days it’s been since you’ve had a cigarette so that they can say, “Way to go!” Sometimes a little praise is all you need to stay your course.

Reward yourself. After your first 24 hours as a nonsmoker, do a little something to pamper yourself. After a week, treat yourself to a nice dinner. After a month, buy yourself something new that you’ve been wanting. Save the money you would have spent on cigarettes for six months and buy yourself a big present. Quitting smoking is a big accomplishment, so give yourself credit for getting over the hurdles.

Kick the habit, not yourself. It’s not easy to walk down Tobacco Free Road, and there may be times when you give in to temptation. Don’t beat yourself up if this happens. Think of it as a setback, not a failure – and don’t let anyone else tell you any differently. Be proud of what you accomplished before the setback and go right back to your plan. It may take a few setbacks before you finally give up cigarettes for good, but you can do it!

Enjoy the freedom of being a nonsmoker. Take a whiff of your sleeve and enjoy the fresh, clean scent of your cologne or fabric softener instead of the stale smell of an ashtray. Savor your food and smell some flowers – delight in the fact your senses of taste and smell are no longer dulled by tobacco. Be proud of yourself for getting a runner’s high from actually running, not just from climbing a flight of stairs!

2024 American Association for Respiratory Care