Smoking brings thousands of toxins into the body. It is no surprise that it increases the risk of many cancers, heart disease, and stroke. So quitting is one of the best things you can do for your health. You may have also found that smoking makes your clothes, hair, home, or car smell. It may interrupt your workdays or social outings for a cigarette break. Cigarette smoke is also a hazard for those around you. Secondhand smoke increases the risk of illnesses around you, even if they don't smoke.
Whatever the reason, you are thinking about quitting smoking. Whether this is your first attempt or not, the following steps can help you get started on the right foot.
Once you’ve decided to quit smoking, set your target quit date. Make it a few weeks away. In the time leading up to your quit day, try some of these ideas to help you quit successfully.
Some may feel comfortable quitting on their own. Talk to your doctor if you are looking for tools that can help. Options include nicotine gum, patches, or inhaler, or medicine. Some may need a prescription but many are available over-the-counter. Here are some other steps that may help:
- Switch to a brand you find distasteful.
- Change to a brand that is low in tar and nicotine a couple of weeks before your quit date. This will help to ease you off of smoking chemicals. Be careful not to increase the number of cigarettes you smoke to make up for changes in nicotine and tar.
Cut Down the Number of Cigarettes You Smoke
- Smoke only half of each cigarette.
- Each day, put off your first cigarette by one hour.
- Decide you'll only smoke during odd or even hours of the day.
- Decide beforehand how many cigarettes you'll smoke during the day. For each extra cigarette, give a dollar to your favorite charity.
- Change your eating habits to help you cut down. For example, drink milk. Many people feel milk and smoking do not mix. End meals or snacks with something that won't lead to a cigarette.
- Reach for a glass of juice instead of a cigarette for a "pick-me-up."
Remember: Cutting down can help you quit. It is no substitute for quitting. If you are at 7 cigarettes a day, it's time to set your target quit date.
Don't Smoke "Automatically"
- Smoke only those cigarettes you really want. Catch yourself before you light up out of pure habit.
- Don't empty your ashtrays. This will remind you of how many cigarettes you've smoked each day. The sight and the smell of stale cigarettes butts will be very unpleasant.
- Make yourself aware of each cigarette. Use the opposite hand or put cigarettes in an unfamiliar location or a different pocket. This will break the automatic reach.
- Try to look in a mirror each time you put a match to your cigarette. You may decide you don't need it.
Make Smoking Inconvenient
- Stop buying cigarettes by the carton. Wait until one pack is empty before you buy another.
- Stop carrying cigarettes with you at home or at work. Make them difficult to get to.
Make Smoking Unpleasant
- Smoke in ways that aren't pleasurable for you. If you like to smoke with others, smoke alone. Turn your chair to an empty corner and focus only on the cigarette you are smoking and all its many negative effects.
- Collect all your cigarette butts in one large glass container. It will give you a visual reminder of smoking.
Just Before Quitting
- Practice going without cigarettes.
- Don't think of never smoking again. Think of quitting in terms of one day at a time.
- Tell yourself you won't smoke today, and then don't.
- Clean your clothes to rid them of the cigarette smell. The smell can linger a long time if ti is not washed out.
On the Day You Quit
- Throw away all your cigarettes and matches. Hide your lighters and ashtrays.
- Visit the dentist. Have your teeth cleaned to get rid of tobacco stains. Notice how nice they look. Commit to keep them that way.
- Put aside money you would have spent on cigarettes. Make a list of things you'd like to buy for yourself or someone else.
- Keep very busy on the big day. Go to the movies, exercise, take long walks, or go bike riding.
- Remind your family and friends that this is your quit date. Ask them to help you over the rough spots of the first couple of days and weeks.
- Buy yourself a treat or do something special to celebrate.
Telephone and Internet Support
Telephone and web-based programs can offer you the support that you need to quit and to stay smoke-free. You can find many programs online.
Immediately After Quitting
- Develop a clean, fresh, nonsmoking environment around yourself. Do it at work and at home. Buy yourself flowers. You may be surprised how much you can enjoy their scent now.
- Spend as much free time as possible in places where smoking isn't allowed in the first few days. Libraries, museums, theaters, department stores, and churches are good choices.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Try to avoid alcohol, coffee, and other drinks that you link with smoking.
- Strike up conversation instead of a match for a cigarette.
- If you miss having a cigarette in your hand, play with something else. A pencil, a paper clip, a marble, or a fidget tool may help.
- If you miss having something in your mouth, try toothpicks or a fake cigarette.
National Cancer Institute
Tobacco Information and Prevention Source (TIPS)
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
United States Department of Health and Human Services
Canadian Cancer Society
The Lung Association
Benefits of quitting smoking over time. American Cancer Society website. Available at: http://www.cancer.org/healthy/stayawayfromtobacco/benefits-of-quitting-smoking-over-time. Updated September 9, 2017. Accessed November 17, 2018.
How to quit smoking. Help Guide website. Available at: http://www.helpguide.org/articles/addiction/how-to-quit-smoking.htm. Accessed November 17, 2018.
Quit guide smart phone app. Smokefree website. Available at: http://smokefree.gov/apps-quitguide. Accessed November 17, 2018.
Treatment for tobacco use. DynaMed website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T905141/Treatment-for-tobacco-use. Updated September 4, 2018. Accessed November 17, 2018.
3/25/2008 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php : Parkes G, Greenhalgh T, Griffin M, Dent R. Effect on smoking quit rate of telling patients their lung age: the Step2quit randomised controlled trial.BMJ.2008;336:598-600.
7/6/2009 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php : Myung SK, McDonnell DD, Kazinets G, Seo HG, Moskowitz JM. Effects of Web- and computer-based smoking cessation programs: meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.Arch Intern Med.2009;169:929-937.
7/14/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/ : Leonardi-Bee J, Jere ML, Britton J. Exposure to parental and sibling smoking and the risk of smoking uptake in childhood and adolescence: a systematic review and meta-analysis.Thorax.2011 Feb 15. [Epub ahead of print]