How to quit smoking

Some researchers claim that nicotine is more addictive than heroin – you’ve seen the pictures on the cigarette packages, you’ve received countless warnings, you’ve probably even tried quitting before. It’s hard! But not impossible, so here’s what you can do.

Chances are pretty good that if you’re reading this article you’re probably a smoker. And whether you are a smoker who is trying to quit, a smoker who is thinking about quitting, or even a smoker who has no intentions of quitting, this is a good place to start.

Know your options

The first and most important step is to decide what method of quitting is going to work best for you. With countless different methods out there right now, including nicotine replacement therapy (ie. the patch, Nicorette gum etc.), hypnosis, prescription drugs, and cold turkey, choosing how you will quit is a daunting task.

Krista Bennett from the Canadian Cancer Society’s Smokers Helpline, advises consulting your physician as well as one of their quitting specialists.  Canadian Cancer Society’s Smokers Helpline is a free confidential service available by phone, text, or online, to those who are quitting smoking.

Bennett says that nicotine replacement therapy combined with supportive counseling appears to be one of the the most successful methods of quitting.

Set the date carefully

“Set a quit date and mark it on your calendar,” advises Bennett, who says that having a date fixed in your mind often helps smokers to mentally prepare for the process of quitting and encourages them to  cut down their habit leading up to their quit date. Bennett advises that the day be picked specifically so  there is nothing stressful or prominent happening that could cause you to cave.

“When I finally decided that I was going to quit [smoking] I chose the day exactly one week after my last university exam,” said 26-year old Melanie, a smoker of six years who kicked the habit two years ago in June. “This way all the stress from those last few months was gone, but I was still able to go out and enjoy my post-exam celebrations in that week in between finishing school and quitting. And it worked.”

Get support

As soon as you have your date set, your next step is to start telling people about it. Making sure that your friends, family and co-workers know your quit date will hold you accountable, but will also prepare those around you for the process when you may not be in the best mood (to say the least).

“The first people I told were my parents and my sister,” said Melanie. “I knew they would be my strength through it all and they were. They jumped right on board with me, and my dad, who was a casual smoker himself, agreed to join me in quitting so we’d have that moral support. They were all really great. And now my dad and I have both been smoke-free for nearly two years.”

Have an action plan

“I scoured websites for different ways to deal with cravings,” said Melanie. “I figured out what my weak spots were and I figured out ways I would deal with each of them.”

For Melanie those weak spots were her morning coffee break and driving in her car. “I loved smoking when I was driving, and since my job involved a 45-minute commute every day I knew it was going to become one of my biggest obstacles,” she said. So after cleaning her car to get rid of the smell, Melanie bought a bag of sugar free mints and dumped them into her centre console where she used to leave her cigarettes.

“Every time I felt myself needing to reach there for my pack I would grab a candy and suck on it. By the time it was gone my craving would have passed and the minty taste in my mouth was so much better than the taste of cigarettes.”

At the Smokers Helpline they enlist the “Four D’s” to help combat cravings. “When someone is experiencing really bad cravings we give them the four D’s, which are Delay, Distract, Drink water, and Deep breathing,” explains Bennett. “It works because it is easy to remember, even at the worst of times.”

If at first you don’t succeed…

The old adage stands true here. If you slip up and find yourself smoking, do not be discouraged. Take pride in knowing that you took the first steps towards becoming a non-smoker and be confident in the fact that you will succeed when you are truly ready to do so.

“It took me three serious attempts to completely give [smoking] up,” said Melanie, who cited a poor support system (she didn’t tell her family about her quitting until her last attempt) and a lack of preparedness for her relapses. “The last time was different. I just knew that this was going to be it for me. I knew I was 100% ready to never smoke again…When you are really, truly ready to quit you will know it. It won’t make it any easier to succeed but, for me at least, it kept my will power stronger and that made a world of difference.”

The Canadian Cancer Society’s Driven to Quit Challenge is on now. Sign up at www.driventoquit.ca before February 28 and stay tobacco-free for the month of March for your chance to win a Ford Escape Hybrid.

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