How to quit

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Updated: 4/11/2007 2:47 pm
Although the use of tobacco products can be highly addictive, there are a number of programs and strategies available for quitting successfully. Generally, a smoking cessation program should include several components. First, it's usually important to have a written list of compelling, fact-based motives for quitting. These might include a specific list of negative health effects associated with smoking, a list of adverse affects of second-hand smoke on loved ones and friends, a desire for freedom from enslavement to an addictive substance, a desire for reduction in risk level for serious heart and lung diseases, or other personally meaningful reasons for quitting. A second key factor involved in quitting smoking usually involves a written cessation schedule including preparation steps, a target start date, specific quantity reduction dates, strategy ideas, and reward criteria. During this planning phase, it may also be helpful to become familiar with possible withdrawal symptoms, and consider specific steps for dealing with those. For some, this may require a physician-directed nicotine replacement program using either gum or trans-dermal patches to gradually decrease the body's dependence on nicotine. It may also mean making behavior and lifestyle changes ahead of time, such as no longer smoking in the house, around other people, or in the car. It may also mean refraining from going to specific places commonly associated with smoking. Some people find it helpful to switch to a distasteful brand, begin chewing gum or snacking on healthy vegetables, take up a serious exercise program, or begin a new hobby that keeps their hands busy. Also, it may be wise to consider what steps to take in the event of a relapse, as to avoid unrealistic expectations and the accompanying discouragement. Another helpful strategy may be to think in terms of one day at a time, rather than focusing on the difficulty of quitting forever. In addition to having compelling motives, a written schedule, and a strategy, it's usually important to have a support system in place. A small group of caring friends or family can be a source of encouragement and accountability during difficult or tempting phases, and can also share in celebrating success. Finally, remember that nicotine dependence is generally psychological as well as physical. Therefore, even after the body has stopped craving nicotine and the smoking cessation program is finished, there may be ongoing temptations to smoke due to emotional or environmental triggers. Quitting smoking generally requires a long-term commitment to behavior and lifestyle changes not supportive of smoking.

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