For those who never smoked, this is a befuddling fact. Don’t smokers understand that cigarettes are the number one killer in America, that they dramatically increase risk for heart disease, stroke, cancer, high blood pressure, and almost every other health concern, small or large? How could any habit be worth this?
Truth is, most smokers do understand. They also understand the huge financial toll of smoking, with a pack of 20 cigarettes costing $10 in some areas (imagine: $3,650 spent a year on cigarettes by pack-a-day smokers — often people of only modest resources).
Then why do millions still smoke? In good part, because the nicotine in cigarettes is highly addictive. In good part, because smoking provides psychological comfort to some people. Perhaps most of all, because quitting smoking is so hard.
Researchers and businesses have responded strongly to the last point. Never have there been so many tools, systems, and programs available for quitting smoking. And with every month that passes, there is more research showing the benefits of quitting, and the drawbacks of not quitting.
So if you smoke, consider again whether it is time, finally, to quit. If yes, you’ll need to think through the best approach, perhaps working with your doctor or an expert. But the following 25 tips will help you succeed.
1. Make an honest list of all the things you like about smoking. Draw a line down the center of a piece of paper and write them on one side; on the other side make a list of all the things you dislike, such as how it can interfere with your health, work, family, etc., suggests Daniel Z. Lieberman, M.D., director of the Clinical Psychiatric Research Center at George Washington University Medical Center in Washington, D.C. Think about the list over time, and make changes. If you are brave enough, get feedback from family and friends about things they don’t like about your use of cigarettes. When the negative side outweighs the positive side, you are ready to quit.
2. Then make another list of why quitting won’t be easy. Be thorough, even if the list gets long and discouraging. Here’s the important part: Next to each entry, list one or more options for overcoming that challenge. For instance, one item might be: “Nicotine is an addictive drug.” Your option might be: “Try a nicotine replacement alternative.” Another reason might be: “Smoking helps me deal with stress.” Your option might be: “Take five-minute walks instead.” The more you anticipate the challenges to quitting, and their solutions, the better your chance of success.
3. Set a quit date and write a “quit date contract” that includes your signature and that of a supportive witness.
4. Write all your reasons for quitting on an index card and keep it near you at all times. Here are some to get you started: “My daughter, my granddaughter, my husband, my wife…”
You get the idea.
5. As you’re getting ready to quit, stop buying cartons of cigarettes. Instead, only buy a pack at a time, and only carry two or three with you at a time (try putting them in an Altoids tin). Eventually you’ll find that when you want a smoke, you won’t have any immediately available. That will slowly wean you down to fewer cigarettes.
Next: More tips on how to stop smoking