Getting Ready to Give Up Cigarettes
Approximately 70 percent of adult smokers want to quit. Quitting, however, is not easy. Many smokers try multiple times before they eventually succeed. Thorough preparation can increase your odds of achieving a smoke-free future. The federal government provides resources to assist people. In a program set forth on the website Smokefree.gov, the preparatory phase consists of five steps represented by the acronym START.
The five steps are the following:
S = Set a quit date.
T = Tell family, friends, and coworkers that you plan to quit.
A = Anticipate and plan for the challenges that you will face.
R = Remove cigarettes and other tobacco products from your home, car, and work.
T = Talk to your doctor about getting help to quit.
The following sections examine each of these steps in detail.
Set a Quit Date
Once you have your mind made up that the benefits of not smoking far outweigh the risks of smoking, you are ready to set a quit date. Know that you are genuinely ready to make this commitment before you decide upon your quit date.
Choose a specific day at least two weeks in advance. This gives you plenty of time to prepare, without losing your motivation to quit. Choose a day when you're best positioned to take that essential first step, such as when you are with others who can support you or at a place where you cannot get easy access to cigarettes.
If you smoke at work, it may make things easier on you if you select either a weekend or vacation day to get started. Or, to make the occasion more memorable, select a special occasion such as your birthday, anniversary, or a national holiday.
Tell Others Your Plan
Social support is the single most important factor in determining whether you are successful in changing poor habits into good ones. The help of your family and friends makes changing any behavioral pattern much easier. Share your quitting plans with those who are close to you to solicit their support. It's often much harder to let others down than it is to let yourself down. Use peer pressure to your advantage.
The National Cancer Institute offers a smoking cessation guide with several helpful tips for developing your support system. First of all, the institute advises you to remind friends that your moods may change. Let them know that the longer you go without cigarettes, the sooner you will return to your old self.
Also, if you have a friend or family member close to you who also smokes, see if he is interested in quitting with you. If not, ask him not to smoke around you. Seek out an ex-smoker to give you encouragement and advice during your tough moments.
Anticipate Challenges and Plan Ahead
Most people tend to form habitual patterns of smoking, such as immediately after a meal or when enjoying an alcoholic drink. These are the times that will present you with the strongest cravings. In addition to emotional cravings, most smokers also experience withdrawal symptoms including mood swings, feelings of irritability and depression, anxiety or restlessness, insomnia, headaches, difficulty concentrating, and increased hunger.
Consider joining a support group, either in person, on the phone, or in an Internet chat room. You can check with the American Cancer Society, the Heart Association, or Lung Association for leads on groups that you can join. Social support can provide a great way to help you quit.
These symptoms are worst the first few weeks, and they are extremely powerful during the first week of quitting. To help manage the cravings, use the time before you quit to concentrate on the moments you observe you want a cigarette most. Note when you have a cigarette and how you are feeling at the time. Then consider alternative ways to cope with those feelings and alternative activities during those times.
For example, instead of having a cigarette after a meal, chew gum, drink water, squirt your mouth with breath spray, or brush your teeth. Be proactive in planning these alternatives, and buy the gum, breath spray, or whatever else you will need before you get to your scheduled quitting day.
If it is helpful to you to keep a journal, write down your observations. An even easier way to create this record of your smoking pattern is to wrap a piece of paper around your pack of cigarettes and secure it with a rubber band. Every time that you have a cigarette, write down the time of day, place, and your reason for having the cigarette.
Later, take the list that you have created and write down alternative strategies for each of those instances. Once you recognize the situations where you are most likely to smoke, you can work to avoid or change those situations as much as possible.
Remove Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products
Stop purchasing cartons of cigarettes. Don't save any packs as souvenirs of your willpower to quit. Those extra packs of cigarettes only make it all too easy to start smoking again.
Take a look around you. Take note of all the visual cues that support your smoking so you can start eliminating them from your environment. For example, throw out ashtrays, lighters, and matches. Remove the lighter in your car. Clean your home, office, and car by using air freshener and ridding all remnants of cigarette smoke. Make an appointment with your dentist to have your teeth cleaned and polished. Try to avoid close contact with those who are smoking or carry the smell of smoke.
Talk to Your Health Care Provider
Make sure you discuss your quitting plan with your health care provider. If you are taking any prescription medications, find out how changing your smoking habits may affect your medications.
Nicotine is powerfully addictive. There are medications that can help you avoid withdrawal symptoms. Enlist the support of your health care provider, and discuss your options together.