Quit Smoking: A Guide
Thinking about quitting, preparing to quit, quitting and staying quit.
- Why quit smoking?
- What's in a cigarette?
- Reasons to quit smoking
- Why is quitting smoking so hard?
- Basic steps to quit smoking
- Other support for quitting smoking
- Steps to take on quit day
- Managing cravings while quitting smoking
- Withdrawal symptoms of quitting smoking
- What to do if you slip
- Sticking with it
Think about why you want to quit. Decide for sure that you want to quit. Promise yourself that you'll do it. It's OK to have mixed feelings. Don't let that stop you. There will be times every day that you don't feel like quitting. You will have to stick with it anyway.
Find reasons to quit that are important to you. Think of more than just health reasons. For example, think of:
- How much money you'll save by not buying cigarettes
- The time you'll have for yourself instead of taking cigarette breaks, rushing out to buy a pack, or searching for a light
- Not being short of breath or coughing as much
- Setting a better example for your children
Write down all the reasons why you want to quit. List ways to fight the urge to smoke, too. (You will find tips for coping later in this guide.) Keep your list where you'll see it often. Good places are:
- Where you keep your cigarettes
- In your wallet or purse
- In the kitchen
- In your car
When you reach for a cigarette you'll find your list. It will remind you why you want to stop.
Your body gets more than nicotine when you smoke.
There are more than 4,000 chemicals in cigarette smoke. Some of them are also in wood varnish, the insect poison DDT, arsenic, nail polish remover, and rat poison.
The ashes, tar, gases, and other poisons in cigarettes harm your body over time. They damage your heart and lungs. They also make it harder for you to taste and smell things, and fight infections.
Here are some examples of reasons to quit:
- I will feel healthier right away.
- I will be healthier the rest of my life.
- I will make my partner, friends, family, kids, grandchildren, and co-workers proud of me.
- I will be proud of myself.
- I will feel more in control of my life.
- I will be a better role model for others.
- I will have more money to spend.
- I won't have to worry: "When will I get to smoke next?" or "What do I do when I'm in a smoke-free place?"
Smoking's impact on others
Even a little second-hand smoke is dangerous.
Second-hand smoke can cause cancer in non-smokers. It can also cause breathing problems and heart disease. People who breathe second-hand smoke get colds and flu more easily. And they often die younger than those who don't breathe it.
Pregnant women who breathe second-hand smoke have many risks:
- They may lose their babies.
- Their babies may be born small.
- Their babies are more likely to die of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).
- Their children may be cranky, restless, and get sick more often.
- Their children are more likely to have learning problems.
Pregnant or thinking about having a baby?
There's no better time to quit than now.
Women who smoke have a harder time getting pregnant. And you face more dangers if you do get pregnant:
- You may lose the baby or have a stillborn (dead) baby.
- Your baby may be born small.
- Your baby is more likely to die of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
- Your baby may be cranky, restless, and get sick more often.
- Your baby is more likely to have learning problems.
The good news is that quitting can help you have a healthy baby. It helps to quit at any time while you are pregnant. It's even better to quit before you get pregnant.
Adapted from Women and Smoking: A Report of the Surgeon General - 2001. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2001.
Many ex-smokers say quitting was the hardest thing they ever did. Do you feel hooked? You're probably addicted to nicotine. Nicotine is in all tobacco products. It makes you feel calm and satisfied. At the same time, you feel more alert and focused. The more you smoke, the more nicotine you need to feel good. Soon, you don't feel "normal" without nicotine. It takes time to break free from nicotine addiction. It may take more than one try to quit for good. So don't give up too soon. You will feel good again.
Quitting is also hard because smoking is a big part of your life. You enjoy holding cigarettes and puffing on them. You may smoke when you are stressed, bored, or angry. After months and years of lighting up, smoking becomes part of your daily routine. You may light up without even thinking about it.
Smoking goes with other things, too. You may light up when you feel a certain way or do certain things. For example:
- Drinking coffee, wine, or beer
- Talking on the phone
- Being with other smokers
You may even feel uncomfortable not smoking at times or in places where you usually have a cigarette. These times and places are called "triggers." That's because they trigger, or turn on, cigarette cravings. Breaking these habits is the hardest part of quitting for some smokers.
Quitting isn't easy. Just reading this guide won't do it. It may take several tries. But you learn something each time you try. It takes will power and strength to beat your addiction to nicotine. Remember that millions of people have quit smoking for good. You can be one of them!
Take the Nicotine Addiction Test to find out how much you depend on nicotine.
Smoking TriggersCertain things trigger, or turn on, your need for a cigarette. They can be moods, feelings, places, or things you do.
Take this quiz to find out what your triggers are.
Meet these triggers head-on
Knowing your triggers is very important. It can help you stay away from things that tempt you to smoke. It can prepare you to fight the urge when you are tempted.
- Stay away from places where smoking is allowed. Sit in the non-smoking section at restaurants.
- Keep your hands busy. Hold a pencil or paper clip. Doodle or write a letter. Carry a water bottle.
- Stay away from people who smoke. Spend time with non-smoking friends.
- Put something else in your mouth. Chew sugarfree gum. Snack on a carrot or celery stick. Keep your mouth and hands busy with a toothpick, sugarfree lollipop, or straw.
- Drink less or stay away from alcohol. Drinking alcohol often makes people want to smoke. Drink juice, soda, or ice water instead.
- Remember: The urge to smoke will come and go. Cravings usually last only for a very brief period of time. Try to wait it out....
You will find that you light up a lot without thinking about it. And you may be tempted to skip writing down some of the cigarettes you smoke. But keeping this journal is very helpful if you do it right. You'll learn about your smoking triggers. And you'll learn which cigarettes are your favorites. These facts will help you prepare to fight your urge to smoke.
Set a quit date.
T = Tell family, friends, and co-workers that you plan to quit.
A = Anticipate and plan for the challenges you'll face while quitting.
R = Remove cigarettes and other tobacco products from your home, car, and work.
T = Talk to your doctor about getting help to quit.
Set a Quit DatePick a date within the next two weeks to quit. That gives you enough time to get ready. But it's not so long that you will lose your drive to quit.
Think about choosing a special day:
- Your birthday or wedding anniversary
- New Year's Day
- Independence Day (July 4)
- World No Tobacco Day (May 31)
- The Great American Smokeout (the third Thursday of each November)
If you smoke at work, quit on the weekend or during a day off. That way you'll already be cigarette-free when you return.Tell Others your Plan to Quit
Quitting smoking is easier with the support of others. Tell your family, friends, and co-workers that you plan to quit. Tell them how they can help you.
Some people like to have friends ask how things are going. Others find it nosy. Tell the people you care about exactly how they can help. Here are some ideas:
- Ask everyone to understand your change in mood. Remind them that this won't last long. (The worst will be over within two weeks.) Tell them this: "The longer I go without cigarettes, the sooner I'll be my old self."
- Does someone close to you smoke? Ask them to quit with you, or at least not to smoke around you.
- Do you take any medicines? Tell your doctor and pharmacist you are quitting. Nicotine changes how some drugs work. You may need to change your prescriptions after you quit.
- Get support from other people. You can try talking with others one-on-one or in a group. You can also get support on the phone. You can even try an Internet chat room. This kind of support helps smokers quit. The more support you get, the better. But even a little can help.
Expecting challenges is an important part of getting ready to quit.
Most people who go back to smoking do it within three months. Your first three months may be hard. You may be more tempted when you are stressed or feeling down. It's hard to be ready for these times before they happen. But it helps to know when you need a cigarette most.
Look over your Craving Journal. See when you may be tempted to smoke. Plan for how to deal with the urge before it hits.
You should also expect feelings of withdrawal. Withdrawal is the discomfort of giving up nicotine. It is your body's way of telling you it's learning to be smoke-free. These feelings will go away in time.Remove Cigarettes and Other Tobacco From Your Home, Car, and Work
Getting rid of things that remind you of smoking will also help you get ready to quit. Try these ideas:
- Make things clean and fresh at work, in your car, and at home. Clean your drapes and clothes. Shampoo your car. Buy yourself flowers. You will enjoy their scent as your sense of smell returns.
- Throw away all your cigarettes and matches. Give or throw away your lighters and ashtrays. Remember the ashtray and lighter in your car!
- Have your dentist clean your teeth to get rid of smoking stains. See how great they look. Try to keep them that way.
- Some smokers save one pack of cigarettes. They do it "just in case." Or they want to prove they have the willpower not to smoke. Don't! Saving one pack just makes it easier to start smoking again.
Don't use other forms of tobacco instead of cigarettes
Light or low-tar cigarettes are just as harmful as regular cigarettes. Smokeless tobacco, cigars, pipes, and herbal cigarettes also harm your health. For example, bidi cigarettes are just as bad as regular cigarettes. Clove cigarettes are even worse. They have more tar, nicotine, and deadly gases. All tobacco products have harmful chemicals and poisons.Talk to Your Doctor About Getting Help to Quit
Quitting "cold turkey" isn't your only choice. Talk to your doctor about other ways to quit. Most doctors can answer your questions and give advice. They can suggest medicine to help with withdrawal. You can buy some of these medicines on your own. For others, you need a prescription.
Your doctor, dentist, or pharmacist can also point you to places to find support or toll-free quit lines. The National Cancer Institute's Smoking Quitline can help, too. It can help you find support in your area.
If you cannot see your doctor, you can get some medicines without a prescription that can help you quit smoking. Go to your local pharmacy or grocery store for over the counter medicines like the nicotine patch, nicotine gum, or nicotine lozenge. Read the instructions to see if the medicine is right for you. If you're not sure, ask a pharmacist.Medicines That Help With Withdrawal
When you quit smoking, you may feel strange at first. You may feel dull, tense, and not yourself. These are signs that your body is getting used to life without nicotine. It usually only lasts a few weeks.
Many people just can't handle how they feel after they quit. They start smoking again to feel better. Maybe this has happened to you. Most people slip up in the first week after quitting. This is when feelings of withdrawal are strongest.
There are medicines that can help with feelings of withdrawal:
- Bupropion SR pills
- Nicotine gum
- Nicotine inhaler
- Nicotine lozenge
- Nicotine nasal spray
- Nicotine patch
Using these medicines can double your chances of quitting for good. Ask your doctor for advice. But remember: Medicine alone can't do all the work. It can help with cravings and withdrawal, but quitting will still be hard at times.
Here is more information about the different medicines.
Nicotine Gum, Patch, Inhaler, Spray, and Lozenge (NRT)
Nicotine gum, patches, inhalers, sprays, and lozenges are called nicotine replacement therapy (NRT). That's because they take the place of nicotine from cigarettes. NRT can help with withdrawal and lessen your urge to smoke.
You need a prescription to buy the inhaler and nasal spray. But you can buy nicotine gum, nicotine patches, and nicotine lozenges on your own.
Bupropion SR is a medicine that has no nicotine. You need a prescription to get these pills. They seem to help with withdrawal and lessen the urge to smoke.
This medicine isn't right for:
- Pregnant women
- People who have seizures
- People with eating disorders
- Heavy drinkers
Ask your doctor, dentist, or pharmacist if this medicine is right for you. Make sure to use it the right way if your doctor prescribes it.
Thinking About Using NRT?
- Ask your doctor, dentist, or pharmacist if nicotine gum, the patch, or some other kind of NRT is right for you. These medicines can cause side effects in some people. Some people should not use NRT without a doctor's help. Pregnant women are a good example.
- Be patient. Using NRT correctly can take some getting used to. Follow the instructions and give it some time.
- Don't mix tobacco and NRT. Having one or two cigarettes while you use the gum, patch, nasal spray, inhaler, or lozenge is not dangerous, but your goal is to quit smoking for good. Use NRT only when you are ready to stop smoking. If you do slip up and smoke a cigarette or two, don't give up on NRT. Keep trying.
- Start out using enough medicine. Use the full amount of NRT in the instructions. Don't skip or forget to use your NRT after you first stop smoking.
- Slowly use less and less medicine. But don't stop completely until you're ready. You can set up a schedule with your doctor or pharmacist.
- Keep some of the medicine with you after you stop using it. This way you'll be ready for an emergency.
- Wait a half hour after using the gum, lozenge, or inhaler before you eat or drink anything acidic. Acidic foods and drinks can keep nicotine gums and inhalers from working. Acidic foods and drinks include tomato sauce, tomatoes, oranges, lemons, grapefruit, coffee, soda, orange juice, and grapefruit juice.
Bottom line: Read the instructions that come with the medicine. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist if you have any questions.Other Support
- Your state may have a toll-free telephone quitline. Call the quitline to get one-on-one help.
- Call the National Cancer Institute's Smoking Quitline at 1-800-QUITNOW (1-800-784-8669). This number works anywhere in the U.S. You can get one-on-one help quitting. Or you can ask where to get help in your state.
- Visit the National Cancer Institute's smokefree.gov Web site at http://www.smokefree.gov. This Web site offers science-driven tools, information, and support that has helped smokers quit. You will find state and national resources, free materials, and quitting advice from the National Cancer Institute and its partners.
- More and more workplaces have help for workers who want to quit. Some offer quit-smoking clinics and support on the job. Others will pay for outside programs for their workers. Ask at work about the choices open to you.
- Your doctor may know about a quit-smoking program or support group near you.
You may want to try a quit-smoking program or support group to help you quit. These programs can work great if you're willing to commit to them.
How do quit-smoking programs and support groups work? They help smokers spot and cope with problems they have when trying to quit. The programs teach problem-solving and other coping skills. A quit-smoking program can help you quit for good by:
- Helping you better understand why you smoke
- Teaching you how to handle withdrawal and stress
- Teaching you tips to help resist the urge to smoke
Today's the day you start your smoke-free life! Remind your family and friends that today is your quit date. Ask them to support you during the first few days and weeks. They can help you through the rough spots.
- Using your support program
- Keep busy
- Stay away from what tempts you
If you decided to use a support program, use it fully. Go to the sessions. Call your telephone quitline. Visit your Internet site. The more support you get, the more likely you will quit for good.
Are you using medicine to help you quit? If so, follow the directions. If you don't, you're more likely to go back to smoking. Also, don't rush to stop using the medicine. Stick with it for at least 12 weeks. Or follow your doctor's advice.Keep Busy
- Keep very busy today.
- Go to a movie.
- Take long walks.
- Go bike riding.
- Spend as much free time as you can where smoking isn't allowed. Some good places are malls, libraries, museums, theaters, department stores, and places of worship.
- Do you miss having a cigarette in your hand? Hold something else. Try a pencil, a paper clip, a marble, or a water bottle.
- Do you miss having something in your mouth? Try toothpicks, cinnamon sticks, lollipops, hard candy, sugarfree gum, or carrot sticks.
- Drink a lot of water and fruit juice. Avoid drinks like wine and beer. They can trigger you to smoke.
- Instead of smoking after meals, get up from the table. Brush your teeth or go for a walk.
- If you always smoke while driving, try something new: Listen to a new radio station or your favorite music. Take a different route. Or take the train or bus for a while, if you can.
- Stay away from things that you connect with
smoking. Do it today and for the next few weeks.
These may include:
- Watching your favorite TV show
- Sitting in your favorite chair
- Having a drink before dinner
- Do things and go places where smoking is not allowed. Keep this up until you're sure that you can stay smoke-free.
- Remember, most people don't smoke. Try to be near non-smokers if you must be somewhere you'll be tempted to smoke, for example at a party or in a bar.
Remember: The urge to smoke will come and go. Try to wait it out. Or look at the plan you made last week. You wrote down steps to take at a time like this. Try them! You can also try these tips:
- Keep other things around instead of cigarettes. Try carrots, pickles, sunflower seeds, apples, celery, raisins, or sugarfree gum.
- Wash your hands or the dishes when you want a cigarette very badly. Or take a shower.
- Learn to relax quickly by taking deep breaths.
- Take 10 slow, deep breaths and hold the last one.
- Then breathe out slowly.
- Relax all of your muscles.
- Picture a soothing, pleasant scene.
- Just get away from it all for a moment.
- Think only about that peaceful image and nothing else.
- Light incense or a candle instead of a cigarette.
- Where you are and what is going on can make you crave a cigarette. A change of scene can really help. Go outside, or go to a different room. You can also try changing what you are doing.
- No matter what, don't think, "Just one won't hurt." It will hurt. It will undo your work so far.
- Remember: Trying something to beat the urge is always better than trying nothing.
Find New Things To DoStarting today you may want to create some new habits. Here are some things you might try:
- Swimming, jogging, playing tennis, bike riding, or shooting baskets. It's hard to smoke and do these things at the same time. How about walking your dog?
- Keep your hands busy. Do crossword puzzles or needlework. Paint. Do woodworking, gardening, or household chores. You can also write a letter or paint your nails.
- Enjoy having a clean tasting mouth. Brush your teeth often and use mouthwash.
- Take a stretch when you're tempted to reach for a cigarette.
Set aside time for the activities that satisfy you and mean the most to you. There are natural breaks even during a busy day. After dinner, first thing in the morning, or just before bed are good examples. You'll also need plenty of rest while you get used to your smoke-free lifestyle.
Remember the Instant Rewards of QuittingYour body begins to heal within 20 minutes after your last cigarette. The poison gas and nicotine start to leave your body. Your pulse rate goes back to normal. The oxygen in your blood rises to a normal level.
Within a few days you may notice other things:
- Your senses of taste and smell are better.
- You can breathe easier.
- Your "smoker's hack" starts to go away. (You may keep coughing for a while, though.)
The nicotine leaves your body within three days. Your body starts to repair itself. At first, you may feel worse instead of better.
Withdrawal feelings can be hard. But they are a sign that your body is healing.
Finally...the Long-term Rewards of QuittingTobacco use in the United States causes more than 450,000 deaths each year. Of those deaths, 170,000 are from cancer.
After you've quit, you've added healthy, full days to each year of your life. You've greatly lowered your risk of death from lung cancer and other diseases including:
You've also cut back on dangerous second-hand smoke for your loved ones. Finally, by quitting smoking, you're setting a good example. You're showing young people that a life without cigarettes is a longer, healthier, happier life.
- Feeling depressed
- Not being able to sleep
- Getting cranky, frustrated, or mad
- Feeling anxious, nervous, or restless
- Having trouble thinking clearly
- Feeling hungry or gaining weight
Not everyone has feelings of withdrawal. You may have one or many of these problems. And they may last different amounts of time. The medicines described in this guide can help.
Many ex-smokers had to try stopping many times before they finally succeeded. When people slip up, it's usually within the first three months after quitting. Here's what you can do if this happens:
- Understand that you've had a slip. You've had a small setback. This doesn't make you a smoker again.
- Don't be too hard on yourself. One slip up doesn't make you a failure. It doesn't mean you can't quit for good.
- Don't be too easy on yourself either. If you slip up, don't say, "Well, I've blown it. I might as well smoke the rest of this pack." It's important to get back on the non-smoking track right away. Remember, your goal is no cigarettes - not even one puff.
- Feel good about all the time you went without smoking. Try to learn how to make your coping skills better.
- Find the trigger. Exactly what was it that made you smoke? Be aware of that trigger. Decide now how you will cope with it when it comes up again.
- Learn from your experience. What has helped you the most to keep from smoking? Make sure to do that on your next try.
- Are you using a medicine to help you quit? Don't stop using your medicine after only one or two cigarettes. Stay with it. It will help you get back on track.
- Know and use the tips in this booklet. People with even one coping skill are more likely to stay non-smokers than those who don't know any. START to stop again!
- See your doctor or another health professional. He or she can help motivate you to quit smoking.
Keeping Your Guard UpYour body has changed since you began to smoke. Your brain has learned to crave nicotine. So certain places, people, or events can trigger a strong urge to smoke, even years after quitting. That's why you should never take a puff again, no matter how long it has been since you quit.
At first, you may not be able to do things as well as when you were smoking. Don't worry. This won't last long. Your mind and body just need to get used to being without nicotine.
After you've quit, the urge to smoke often hits at the same times. For many people, the hardest place to resist the urge is at home. And many urges hit when someone else is smoking nearby. Look at your Craving Journal to see when you might be tempted. Then use the skills you've learned to get through your urges without smoking.Fighting The Urges
Review the tips in this guide to help you fight the urge to smoke. These tips are meant to help you stay a non-smoker.Staying Upbeat
As you go through the first days and weeks without smoking, keep a positive outlook. Don't blame or punish yourself if you do have a cigarette. Don't think of smoking as "all or none." Instead, take it one day at a time. Remember that quitting is a learning process.
Keep Rewarding Yourself For Not SmokingNow that you aren't buying cigarettes, you probably have more spending money. For example, if you used to smoke one pack per day:
* Prices are based on a 2001 average of $5.00 per pack. The cost of a pack of cigarettes may differ, depending on where you buy them.
Think about starting a "money jar" if you haven't already. Put your cigarette money aside for each day you don't smoke. Soon you'll have enough money to buy a reward for yourself.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Reducing Tobacco Use: A Report of the Surgeon General. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2000, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Smoking and Tobacco Control Monograph 10: Health Effects of Exposure to Environmental Tobacco Smoke. National Cancer Institute, August 1999, NRT Product User's Guides. GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare, Pittsburgh, PA, 2002, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Ed. (1994). American Psychiatric Association. Washington, D.C.
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