- Why Quitting Is Hard
- Can’t Quit Smoking? Blame Your Brain
- How Can I Quit Smoking?
- To People Who Want To Quit Smoking But Can’t Do It
- The Reason Why You Can’t Quit Smoking
- The First Step Towards Your Smoke-Free Life
- How to Go from I Can’t Quit Smoking to I Want to Quit Now
- How to Start and Finish Your Quit Smoking Journey
- How to Quit Smoking Plan – 8 Steps to Quitting For Good
- Table of Contents
- Nicotine Addiction
- Nicotine Withdrawal Symptoms
- How Long Do Nicotine Withdrawal Symptoms Last?
- How to Quit Smoking Plan (Step-By-Step)
- Step 1: Make the Decision to Quit
- Step 2: Understand Your High-Risk Times
- Step 3: Stock Up on Supplies
- Step 4: Pick a Quit Date
- Step 5: Let People Know
- Step 6: Remove All Smoking Reminders
- Step 7: The First 2 Weeks
- Step 8: Maintenance and Coping Strategies
- Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT)
- Which Nicotine Replacement Therapy?
- How Long Should You Use Nicotine Replacement Therapy?
- Can You Get Too Much Nicotine (Nicotine Overdose and Nicotine Poisoning)?
- How Safe is Nicotine Replacement Therapy?
- Smoking Cessation Medications
- Zyban (Wellbutrin, bupropion)
- Chantix (Champix, varenicline)
- Electronic Cigarettes
- Reasons to Quit Smoking: Some Things You Probably Don’t Know About Smoking
- Second Hand Smoke Facts
- Children and Second Hand Smoke
- For More Detailed Information …
Why Quitting Is Hard
One of the first steps is to learn why you feel like you need to smoke. Once you understand why you smoke, you can prepare yourself to find the best ways to quit. Build a Quit Plan to help you identify your smoking triggers, learn about managing cravings, and explore different quit methods.
One of the main reasons smokers keep smoking is nicotine. Nicotine is a chemical in cigarettes that makes you addicted to smoking. Over time, your body gets used to having nicotine. However, the more you smoke‚ the more nicotine you need to feel normal. When your body doesn’t get nicotine, you may feel uncomfortable and crave cigarettes. This is called withdrawal.
It takes time to get over withdrawal. Most physical symptoms go away after a few days to a week, but cigarette cravings may stick around longer. There are ways you can be prepared for withdrawal.
When you smoke, certain activities, feelings, and people become linked to your smoking. These may “trigger” your urge to smoke. Try to anticipate these smoking triggers and develop ways to deal with them:
- Go to places that don’t allow smoking. Shops, movie theaters, and many restaurants are now smokefree.
- Spend more time with non-smokers. You won’t want to smoke as badly if you are around people who don’t smoke.
- Keep your hands busy. Play a game on your phone, eat a healthy snack, or squeeze a stress ball.
- Take a deep breath. Remind yourself why you want to stop smoking. Think of people in your life who will be happier and healthier because you decided to quit.
Consider Using a Quit Smoking Program
Quit smoking programs help smokers understand 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 understand why you smoke.
- Teaching you how to handle withdrawal and stress.
- Teaching you tips to help resist the urge to smoke.
Get started using a quit program today:
- Try a text message program. Sign up for SmokefreeTXT online or text QUIT to 47848.
- . Our free apps help you track cravings and understand your smoking patterns.
- Visit Smokefree on social media. Grow your support network and stay connected.
- Talk to an expert at a quitline. Call the National Cancer Institute Quitline at 1-877-44U-QUIT (1-877-448-7848) Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. or find your state’s quitline by calling 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669).
- Chat with a quit smoking counselor. LiveHelp is Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Eastern time. LiveHelp is also available in Spanish.
Can’t Quit Smoking? Blame Your Brain
THURSDAY, Nov. 14, 2013 — Dustin Kennerley tried to quit smoking three times over the course of two years. The constant cravings and intense withdrawal symptoms made it impossible to get through the day without thinking about cigarettes, he said.
“I was very angry all the time, very edgy, very irritable about everything,” said Kennerley, a linguistics student at the University of California, Santa Cruz. “I lasted about three days and went and bought a pack of cigarettes.”
If, like Kennerley, you’re having trouble kicking your cigarette habit, your brain might be to blame, according to new research on mice published in the journal Current Biology.
Scientists at the Brudnick Neurophsyciatric Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts Medical School have pinpointed specific areas in the brain that could be responsible for nicotine withdrawal symptoms like nausea, headaches, irritability and weight gain that make it so difficult to go cold turkey.
About 69 percent of smokers say they want to quit smoking, but nicotine, the drug in tobacco products, may be as addictive as heroin and cocaine, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.
“We’re trying to understand what chronic nicotine does for the brain that makes it hard to quit,” said Andrew Tapper, PhD, a neuroscientist at UMass and co-author of the new study.
Why Is It so Tough to Quit?
In an effort to understand nicotine addiction, Dr. Tapper’s team gave mice nicotine-laden water for six weeks until their brains, much like human brains, were hooked on the chemical. Then they took the nicotine water away and watched as the mice went through their own version of withdrawals: excessive grooming, scratching, digging and shaking. The researchers looked at the mice brains and found activity within the interpeduncular nucleus, an area deep under the cortex in the middle of the brain.
“We found that when you get an animal dependent on nicotine and you take it away, this little brain region became overactive,” said Tapper.
The nicotine in cigarettes is a highly addictive chemical because when you smoke a cigarette, the nicotine travels to your brain and attaches itself to a nicotinic receptor. Those receptors then release a chemical called dopamine, which is also released after other fun things, like having sex or eating cupcakes. Dopamine makes you feel good, and your brain associates those good feelings with smoking.
Quitting is challenging because the brain becomes accustomed to constant doses of nicotine. If you stop smoking, the drug leaves your system, and neurons in the interpeduncular nucleus trigger withdrawal symptoms — irritability, anxiety, difficulty concentrating and weight gain — that might prompt you to smoke again.
“Even though you tell yourself, ‘No, no, no,’ your brain will find a way to convince you is a good idea,” said Kennerley, who finally gave up cigarettes in 2009 after many attempts. “It feels like your brain is tricking you. It will convince you against better judgment that is what you want.”
Smoking Addiction Kills
When Tapper activated neurons in the interpeduncular nucleus region in mice who weren’t addicted to nicotine, they, too, started exhibiting withdrawal symptoms. This suggests that there’s a strong connection between the this area of the brain and the negative side effects of nicotine detox.
If scientists could figure out how to placate these neurons and get rid of those withdrawal symptoms, more people might give up the habit, they theorize.
” is important for people who have a very hard time quitting,” said John Dani, PhD, a neuroscientist and nicotine addiction expert at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. “I’ve seen people standing outside in their hospital gowns smoking a cigarette — they just can’t quit.”
Tobacco use costs the U.S. $97 billion in lost productivity, and contributes to 5 million deaths worldwide every year. Statistics show that smokers die more than 10 years earlier than non-smokers.
“Adverse health consequences of smoking make it the most preventable cause of mortality in the world, and that’s why we’re working on it,” Tapper explained.
Tapper’s research is still preliminary and was conducted only in mice, but it seems to be a meaningful step forward that could provide targets for stop-smoking drug development, said Dr. Dani.
“This circuitry is working in a way that’s helping to perpetuate . The brain has been tricked into thinking is valuable, and that’s how addiction starts,” Dani said. “The better we understand how these circuits shape behavior, the more likely we are to be able to control them.”
The science behind why it’s so difficult to quit smoking is crystal clear: Nicotine is addictive – reportedly as addictive as cocaine or heroin.
Yet any adult can stroll into a drug store and buy a pack of cigarettes, no questions asked.
“From a scientific standpoint, nicotine is just as hard, or harder, to quit than heroin … but people don’t recognize that,” said Dr. Neil Benowitz, a nicotine researcher at the University of California, San Francisco.
Smoking is the world’s leading preventable cause of death. More than 1.1 billion people smoke worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. And more are continually joining the ranks. Every day in the U.S. alone, more than 3,200 youth 18 and younger smoke their first cigarette, while another 2,100 youth and young adults move from smoking occasionally to having a daily habit.
In 1964, the U.S. surgeon general’s famous report, “Smoking and Health,” linked smoking to cancer. Two decades later in 1988, another landmark surgeon general’s report on nicotine addiction declared nicotine to be as addictive as cocaine or heroin.
“Every drug of abuse, including nicotine, releases dopamine, which makes it pleasurable to use,” said Benowitz. “And when you stop smoking, you have a deficiency of dopamine release, which causes a state of dysphoria: you feel anxious or depressed.”
Nicotine also acts as a stimulant, said Benowitz. “It helps people concentrate, and if they don’t have a cigarette, they have trouble focusing.”
The Food and Drug Administration intends to implement new rules that would reduce the level of nicotine in tobacco products to “minimally addictive” or “non-addictive” levels. It’s not clear when the FDA will issue its new ruling.
Benowitz said he’s “cautiously optimistic” that the FDA will force tobacco companies to make cigarettes non-addictive. “If they did, I think that would really be the end of the cigarette epidemic,” he said.
Meanwhile, debate rages over increasingly popular e-cigarettes, which are marketed as a healthier alternative to traditional cigarettes. E-cigarette vapor doesn’t contain as many toxic chemicals as the smoke from regular cigarettes. However, most e-cigarettes contain nicotine and some deliver dangerous chemicals such as formaldehyde.
Critics of e-cigarettes complain that makers are marketing them to youth by selling them in a variety of kid-friendly flavors, from pizza to cookies-and-cream.
“We still need a lot of studies on all of these chemicals,” Benowitz said. “E-cigarettes may pose some harms we don’t yet know about.”
Many people find they are unable to stop smoking on their own. Benowitz said nicotine patches, nicotine gum and smoking-withdrawal medications are all proven ways to increase a person’s odds of quitting. Support groups and quit lines can also help.
Gary A. Giovino, a nicotine researcher at the State University of New York at Buffalo, said as helpful as medication can be, people who really want to quit smoking also have to be willing to modify their lifestyle.
“People need to focus on behavioral change … they need the right skills and knowledge and social support. They need a plan,” said Giovino, a professor and chair of his school’s Department of Community Health and Health Behavior, who quit smoking 40 years ago.
Giovino said good nutrition may be an important factor in helping people quit. He hopes to launch a study that will look at whether there is a correlation between smokers’ vitamin D levels and their ability to stop smoking. He said he’d also like to see researchers explore whether plant-based diets, B vitamins and hydration impact nicotine addiction.
Giovino advises people to tap into the “mind-body connection” and try yoga and deep breathing techniques to help them quit. “After a meal, instead of taking a long breath on a cigarette, (a smoker could) try taking a long, deep breath and exhale without the 7,000 chemicals,” he said.
It’s also important for those who have decided to quit to prepare themselves for how difficult it will be, Giovino said.
“There’s this real roller-coaster ride of not feeling well and being irritable and having cravings,” he said. “The first few days might be very intense, then it might level off and come back again. But the longer you’re off cigarettes, the more your brain goes through the process of neural adaptation, the more you recover. And eventually, the ride subsides.”
If you have questions or comments about this story, please email [email protected]
How Can I Quit Smoking?
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First, congratulate yourself. Just reading this article is a big step toward becoming tobacco-free.
Many people don’t quit smoking because they think it’s too hard, and it’s true that for most people quitting isn’t easy. After all, the nicotine in cigarettes is a powerfully addictive drug. But with the right approach, you can overcome the cravings.
Where to Start
Smokers often start smoking because friends or family do. But they keep smoking because they get addicted to nicotine, one of the chemicals in cigarettes and smokeless tobacco.
Nicotine is both a stimulant and a depressant. That means it increases the heart rate at first and makes people feel more alert. Then it causes depression and fatigue. The depression and fatigue — and the drug withdrawal from nicotine — make people crave another cigarette to perk up again. Some experts think the nicotine in tobacco is as addictive as cocaine or heroin.
But don’t be discouraged; millions of people have permanently quit smoking. These tips can help you quit, too:
Put it in writing. People who want to make a change often are more successful when they put their goal in writing. Write down all the reasons why you want to quit smoking, like the money you’ll save or the stamina you’ll gain for playing sports. Keep that list where you can see it. Add new reasons as you think of them.
Get support. People are more likely to succeed at quitting when friends and family help. If you don’t want to tell your family that you smoke, ask friends to help you quit. Consider confiding in a counselor or other adult you trust. If it’s hard to find people who support you (like if your friends smoke and aren’t interested in quitting), join an online or in-person support group.
Strategies That Work
Set a quit date. Pick a day that you’ll stop smoking. Put it on your calendar and tell friends and family (if they know) that you’ll quit on that day. Think of the day as a dividing line between the smoking you and the new, improved nonsmoker you’ll become.
Throw away your cigarettes — all of your cigarettes. People can’t stop smoking with cigarettes around to tempt them. So get rid of everything, including ashtrays, lighters, and, yes, even that pack you stashed away for emergencies.
Wash all your clothes. Get rid of the smell of cigarettes as much as you can by washing all your clothes and having your coats or sweaters dry-cleaned. If you smoked in your car, clean that out, too.
Think about your triggers. You’re probably aware of the times when you tend to smoke, such as after meals, when you’re at your best friend’s house, while drinking coffee, or as you’re driving. Any situation where it feels automatic to have a cigarette is a trigger. Once you’ve figured out your triggers, try these tips:
- Break the link. If you smoke when you drive, get a ride to school, walk, or take the bus for a few weeks so you can break the connection. If you normally smoke after meals, do something else after you eat, like go for a walk or talk to a friend.
- Change the place. If you and your friends usually eat takeout in the car so you can smoke, sit in the restaurant instead.
- Substitute something else for cigarettes. It can be hard to get used to not holding something or not having a cigarette in your mouth. If you have this problem, stock up on carrot sticks, sugar-free gum, mints, toothpicks, or lollipops.
Expect some physical symptoms. If your body is addicted to nicotine, you may go through withdrawal when you quit. Physical feelings of withdrawal can include:
- headaches or stomachaches
- crabbiness, jumpiness, or depression
- lack of energy
- dry mouth or sore throat
- a desire to eat
The symptoms of nicotine withdrawal will pass — so be patient. Try not to give in and sneak a smoke because you’ll just have to deal with the withdrawal longer.
Keep yourself busy. Many people find it’s best to quit on a Monday, when they have school or work to keep them busy. The more distracted you are, the less likely you’ll be to crave cigarettes. Staying active is also a good distraction, plus it helps you keep your weight down and your energy up.
Quit gradually. Some people find that gradually decreasing the number of cigarettes they smoke each day is an effective way to quit. But this strategy doesn’t work for everyone. You may find it’s better for you to go “cold turkey” and stop smoking all at once.
Look into using a nicotine replacement if you need to. If you find that none of these strategies is working, talk to your doctor about treatments like nicotine replacement gums, patches, inhalers, or nasal sprays. Sprays and inhalers are available by prescription only, and it’s important to see your doctor before buying the patch and gum over the counter. Different treatments work differently (for example, the patch is easy to use, but other treatments offer a faster kick of nicotine). Your doctor can help you find the solution that will work best for you.
If you slip up, don’t give up! Major changes sometimes have false starts. If you’re like many people, you may quit successfully for weeks or even months and then suddenly have a craving that’s so strong you feel like you have to give in. Or maybe you accidentally find yourself in one of your trigger situations and give in to temptation.
If you slip up, it doesn’t mean you’ve failed. It just means you’re human. Here are three ways to get back on track:
- Think about your slip as one mistake. Take notice of when and why it happened and move on.
- Did you become a heavy smoker after one cigarette? Probably not. It happened more gradually, over time. Keep in mind that one cigarette didn’t make you a smoker to start with, so smoking one cigarette (or even two or three) after you quit doesn’t make you a smoker again.
- Remind yourself why you quit and how well you’ve done — or have someone in your support group, family, or friends do this for you.
Reward yourself. Quitting smoking isn’t easy. Give yourself a well-deserved reward! Set aside the money you usually spend on cigarettes. When you’ve stayed tobacco-free for a week, 2 weeks, or a month, give yourself a treat like a gift card, movie, or some clothes. Celebrate again every smoke-free year. You earned it.
Reviewed by: Elana Pearl Ben-Joseph, MD Date reviewed: June 2016
To People Who Want To Quit Smoking But Can’t Do It
Do you ever think to yourself “I can’t quit smoking?”
Maybe you really want to quit, but it seems scary, overwhelming and hard.
So you keep postponing it for next week. And then the week after, and the one after that… until you forget about it.
Has this ever happened to you?
If yes, know that you are not alone.
See, all of us have felt stuck with this addiction. Wanting to quit and not wanting to.
Before I became a smoking cessation expert and created the CBQ quit smoking method that has 94% success rate, I was stuck with this filthy habit for a decade.
Smoking 10 years might not seem like a big deal.
Still, I found quitting excruciatingly hard, and I was baffled by these questions:
Why can’t I quit smoking?
What is wrong with me?
Am I that weak?
I was afraid of failing. And I was afraid that my life would be miserable without cigarettes.
I used to think that I want to quit smoking but I enjoy it too much.
But as I found out later, these are not the real reasons why we can’t stop smoking.
The Reason Why You Can’t Quit Smoking
The reason you can’t stop smoking although you want to.. has nothing to do with you.
Let me explain.
After sitting down and interviewing smokers who told me “I need to stop smoking but I can’t”… I realized that they all have 1 thing in common:
They don’t know HOW to get started!
There is a quote by Lao Tzu that says “The journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.”
Same way, your journey to your smoke-free life starts with a single step.
But to take that step, you have to know what it is.
If you don’t know how to start, you will always feel that quitting is beyond your reach.
But if you know what’s the first step, you will feel more confident in taking it.
So in this article, I will show you what the first quit smoking stage is.
This is one of the four stages of the CBQ method. This first stage will ease you into the quit smoking process.
Plus, I will give you 3 ways you can get started with this first stage as soon as you finish reading!
The First Step Towards Your Smoke-Free Life
Every change starts with a decision. Same goes for kicking the nicotine habit.
Think about it.
When you try to quit smoking without making a solid decision first, then your mind overflows with doubt.
You keep thinking “ I can’t quit smoking ” and this brings you down.
But when you decide, really decide, to quit… then you feel empowered. You never second guess yourself because you feel ready.
And when you feel ready, then you are the one in control; not the cigarettes.
That’s why the first step towards your new, healthy life is to Choose to Quit.
Before doing anything else, you have to make a firm decision to stop smoking.
You have to say:
“THAT’S IT. NO MORE! I have to do something.”
Think about it.
You’ve probably said: “I should, I could, or I want to stop smoking” many times before. But for some reason, you couldn’t stay motivated and quit.
It’s because you never really decided to quit.
Most people skip this stage because they mistake their desire to quit with a decision.
But the desire to quit doesn’t determine your commitment to follow through. A real decision does.
Ok, now you know what’s the first out of the 4 steps to a successful quit attempt.
So, let’s see the 3 best ways you can start with this first stage and decide to quit.
How to Go from I Can’t Quit Smoking to I Want to Quit Now
1. Make Quitting Less Overwhelming
Quitting can be an overwhelming goal because there are just so many things to do, too many things to consider.
This overload can be paralyzing.
So deciding when to stop smoking will help you move forward.
By setting a quit date, you are making your goal to be smoke-free more specific, more real, more tangible!
So pick a date that feels right but is challenging at the same time.
Quit in one week, two weeks or a month.
Just commit to it and note that day. Circle it in your diary or put a reminder on your phone.
And say it out loud: “I am quitting smoking on (your date)!”
2. Find Your “WHY”
After you set your quit date, you need to think about your reasons to quit smoking.
If you try to quit just because you have to.. then you won’t feel motivated for long.
But if you take a moment and reflect on the real reasons you want to be smoke-free, then your decision to quit will grow stronger. And you will quit smoking naturally.
So think with me now for a moment.
Why do you want to stop smoking?
Maybe your body has started giving you warning signs about your health and your energy.
Perhaps, you’re starting to realize that smoking has taken a toll on your pocket.
Or maybe you just want to live a long, healthy and happy life with those you love.
The problem is that all of these compelling reasons won’t stay on top of your mind when you have a craving.
That’s why you have to write them down and keep them with you at all times.
These reasons – your whys- will help you stay motivated without using your willpower.
Let’s do this together now.
Ok, so what is your reason for quitting?
I need to quit smoking because I want to…
- be healthy once again
- be there for my family and loved ones
- get my peace of mind back
- breathe better
- get rid of the cigarette smell
- stop wasting a fortune on cigarettes
- or feel vibrant and healthy
Whatever it is for you, just write it down!
3. Clear Your Mind from Doubt
After writing down the reasons you want to stop smoking, you’ll probably feel there’s still something holding you back.
That something is doubt.
You may feel uncertain about whether or not you can do this.
Or you may think that you should wait for a better time to quit.. a less stressful time.
All this hesitation is normal. It’s part of the process.
But if doubt stays in your mind, then it gets magnified, and it can keep you stuck. Every problem seems worse inside our head.
For example, have you ever been worried sick about something… thinking it over and over again…
…and when you talked about your worry with someone else.. you realized that it wasn’t as bad as you thought it was?
Well, doubt about quitting can be reduced the same way:
By taking it out of your head and putting it into words; either by writing it down or by talking about it with someone else.
So take a piece of paper now and write down every single thing that makes you doubt your decision to stop smoking.
Write, I believe I can’t quit smoking because…
- It’s too hard
- I don’t want to fail
- I think I won’t enjoy life as much without cigarettes
- I don’t have the support I need
- I live with other smokers
- I won’t be able to control my behavior
And keep on writing until your mind is empty.
And remember, you are not alone in thinking all those things.
Every ex-smoker went through this.
After all, fear and doubt about quitting are totally eliminated during the second quit smoking stage.
So for now, all you need to do is articulate and express what is worrying you.
How to Start and Finish Your Quit Smoking Journey
To quit smoking naturally and easily so that you will never miss cigarettes again, you will need to go through all of the 4 quit smoking stages of the CBQ method.
Following these 4 stages, in the right sequence, will free you from your cravings and remove the enjoyment you get from smoking.
So if you want to know more about the first stage as well as what to do after you decide to stop smoking…
It’s 100% free.
All you need to do is enter your name and email address. And make sure you watch it all because there is a free gift at the end of that video.
Get the 4 stages of the CBQ method now.
How to Quit Smoking Plan – 8 Steps to Quitting For Good
You can quit smoking with a little help. If you’re anxious about quitting, this website will take you through the stages of quitting smoking step-by-step. You will learn how to get ready, how to quit, and how to make sure that you don’t relapse. You will also learn tips that make quitting easier.
You are probably at the stage where part of you wants to quit smoking, but part of you doesn’t. Maybe you’re worried about withdrawal, or afraid that you’ll fail. Put those thoughts aside for now. Focus on why you want to quit, and that will give you the motivation to succeed.
The good news about smoking is that it doesn’t matter how much you’ve smoked, or how long you have smoked. If you quit now, your body will begin to repair itself and will take care of you even after years of neglect.
Table of Contents
Step By Step Quit Smoking Plan
Nicotine Replacement Therapy
Smoking Cessation Medication
Reasons To Quit Smoking
An average smoker gets about 200 hits of nicotine a day, and over 70,000 hits per year. Ten puffs per cigarette, times 20 cigarettes a day gives you about 200 hits of nicotine a day. That’s partly why smoking is so addictive. Your brain constantly waits for the next nicotine hit. Some studies have suggested that nicotine is as addictive as crack cocaine.
Nicotine Withdrawal Symptoms
- Irritability, Anxiety
- Difficulty concentrating
- Food cravings
- Cravings for cigarettes
What causes nicotine withdrawal? Smoking increases the number of nicotine receptors in your brain. When you stop smoking, those receptors continue to expect nicotine, and when they don’t get it, they begin to adjust. That adjustment process, is what causes cravings and withdrawal.
How Long Do Nicotine Withdrawal Symptoms Last?
Nicotine is out of your body 72 hours after you quit smoking. Nicotine withdrawal symptoms usually reach their peak 2 to 3 days after you quit, and are gone within 1 to 3 months.(1) It takes at least 3 months for your brain chemistry to return to normal after you quit smoking.(2) The last two symptoms to go usually are irritability and low energy.
Any effective smoking cessation program has to take into account this long adjustment period. It is why some doctors recommend weaning off nicotine slowly with nicotine replacement therapy.
In summary, most people start to feel better after 1 week, and the symptoms are usually gone within 3 months.
How to Quit Smoking Plan (Step-By-Step)
A step by step plan to help you quit smoking. It contains best practices, tips, and guidelines to help you successfully quit for good. The basic steps are the following:
- Make the Decision to Quit
- Understand Your High-Risk Times
- Stock Up on Supplies
- Pick a Quit Date
- Let People Know
- Remove Smoking Reminders
- The First 2 Weeks
- Maintenance and Coping Strategies
Step 1: Make the Decision to Quit
Identify your reasons for quitting smoking. Quitting is challenging. You can rise to the challenge, but it helps if you have your goals in mind. Review your mental list as you approach your quit date.
If you have tried to quit smoking before and failed, don’t let that be an obstacle. The more times you try to quit, the greater your chance of success. Maybe you weren’t ready last time. Maybe you didn’t take the rights steps.
Step 2: Understand Your High-Risk Times
Smoking is more than just a physical addiction to nicotine. It is also a psychological addiction. Why do you smoke? Is it a break from your hectic day? Is it a moment of peace when you can be alone with your thoughts? Most people smoke for the same reasons alcoholics drink. It’s a chance to escape, relax, or reward yourself.
Anticipate your high-risk situations and plan for them. This will help you deal with them better. Here are some common triggers for smoking cravings:
- Drinking coffee
- Finishing a meal
- Driving your car
- Using the phone
- Stressful situations
- Drinking alcohol
- Social events
These are some strategies for dealing with your triggers:
- If you smoke with your morning coffee, plan to have your first coffee at work where you probably can’t smoke.
- If you smoke while driving, plan to take a different route. It will keep your mind occupied, so that you won’t be on autopilot.
- If you smoke after meals, plan to get up after a meal. Go for a walk, brush your teeth, do something.
- If you smoke when you’re on the phone, put one of those stress balls next to your phone to keep your hands occupied.
- Plan to keep yourself busy in the beginning. Too much unstructured time is not a good thing when it comes to smoking cessation.
What should you do if you slip? A slip is also a high risk time. You don’t need to slip. Many people have quit without a slip. But if you do, it’s good to have a plan.
- The most important thing you can do is avoid all or nothing thinking. Don’t give up and let a slip turn into a major relapse.
- Throw out the rest of the pack.
- You’re not a failure if you slip.
- The more times you try to quit, the greater your chance of success.
- Learn from your experience. What you could have done differently.
- Never forget your reasons for quitting in the first place.
Step 3: Stock Up on Supplies
Every smoker understands that smoking is also an oral addiction. When you quit smoking your brain will still crave the oral sensation of a cigarette. As part of your smoking cessation plan, stock up on oral substitutes like gum, raw vegetables, carrot sticks, hard candy, coffee stirrers, straws, etc.
If you’re planning to use nicotine replacement or smoking cessation drugs, talk to your doctor at this point. Learn how to use them. Find out about potential side effects and what to look out for.
Step 4: Pick a Quit Date
A quit date is a personal commitment. It is important because it prepares your mind subconsciously. Pick a date within the next month. It doesn’t have to be a special day.
Avoid a day when you know you’ll be busy, tense, or have a special event that could be a trigger. Write down your quit date somewhere, and look at it every day. Let your determination build as you get closer.
If you are going to use smoking cessation medication like Zyban (Wellbutrin, bupropion) or Chantix (Champix, varenicline), your doctor may have suggested that you start using them early. Ask your doctor how far ahead of your quit date you should start taking your pills.
Step 5: Let People Know
Quitting is easier with support. Choose people who you think will be helpful. Tell them your plan and how they can help. Also tell them how they cannot help.
- Friends can help distract you.
- They can listen to you.
- Sharing your struggles makes them lighter.
- But explain that you want to keep your conversations light. Nothing serious that will add to your tension.
Step 6: Remove All Smoking Reminders
Smoking like any addiction is triggered by people, places, and things. For other addictions, the objects that are triggers are usually drug paraphernalia. In this case the paraphernalia include cigarettes, matches, lighters, and ashtrays. Get rid of all of them. Don’t save anything “just in case.”
Freshen your environment at home, work‚ and in your car. The smell of cigarettes is definitely a trigger, especially in the beginning.
Step 7: The First 2 Weeks
The first two weeks are critical for your success. If you can get though the first two weeks your chance of success is much higher.(3) Therefore it is important to give yourself the best chance you can during these critical weeks.
The first two weeks are all about distractions, keeping busy, and being good to yourself. Keep busy with fun, low stress activities and avoid high stress ones.
- Plan lots of dates with friends. Get out of the house. Go for walks, bike rides, or go to the gym. Go to a movie. Be good to yourself.
- Keep your hands busy. Some people like to use a pen, a straw or a coffee stirrer.
- Drink lots of water.
- Call the people who have offered to help. Everyone understands how difficult this is. People will be happy that you’re doing it. Don’t try to do it alone.
- If you just sit there with your cravings, you are giving them room to grow.
- Relax and breathe deeply.
Avoid High Risk Situations
- Don’t hang out with smokers. That’s like a crack addict hanging out with crack addicts. No matter how friendly and supportive your smoking friends are, they are still a high risk environment for at least the first several months.
- Practice saying, “No thank you, I don’t smoke anymore.”
- Understand that you will encounter high risk situations that you haven’t thought of. If you find yourself triggered, plan to get up and leave quickly.
- A change of scenery can make all the difference.
Talk to Yourself
- Most cravings only last 10 – 20 minutes. Distract yourself, and the cravings will pass. When you think about using, talk to yourself and keep yourself busy.
- “I refuse to believe that smoking is more powerful than me.”
- “I won’t give smoking any more power over my life.”
- “I chose to be a non-smoker.”
- “One day at a time.”
Step 8: Maintenance and Coping Strategies
Quit smoking one day at a time. Don’t think about quitting forever. That can be overwhelming. Deal with right now, and the days will start to add up.
Be good to yourself. This is probably the most important and undervalued coping strategy in quitting smoking. It is one of the most difficult things for anyone to do, especially someone with an addiction.
Your tendency will be to not reward yourself while you’re quitting. You’ll think that you don’t deserve it yet. You will think that you only deserve a reward once you have had a long stretch of not smoking. But that’s old thinking. This is your opportunity to learn better coping strategies.
How you can be good to yourself is different for everyone. Pursue new ways of rewarding yourself the same way you pursued your addiction. You are learning new thinking patterns that will be helpful in the rest of your life.
Don’t try to diet while quitting smoking. Too much deprivation is bound to backfire. Instead, try eating more fruits and vegetables.
Celebrate Your Victories
Don’t focus on your struggles and ignore your successes. You probably tend to disqualify the positives and focus on the negatives. But don’t underestimate how far you have come. Reinforce your victories.
- Take the money you’ve saved and buy yourself a treat once a week. Or save the money for something bigger like a trip.
- Plan ahead for your milestones and make sure you recognize them with some celebration, big or small.
- Rewards don’t have to be financial. You could plan to get together with your friends and do something.
- Get plenty of rest and eat healthy. Lack of sleep and excessive sugar are known triggers.
- Use substitutes for oral cravings like gum, raw vegetables, carrot sticks, hard candy, coffee stirrers, straws.
- Stress is a big trigger for smoking.
- Relax by taking a few slow, deep breaths. Inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth. Repeat it 5 times and see how you feel.
- When you have cravings, think of how strong you have been so far.
- Remember your reasons for quitting.
- Refuse to let your addiction win.
- Think of the benefits to your health, finances, and family.
- Remind yourself that there is no such thing as just one cigarette.
- Start to see yourself as a non-smoker. That is the ultimate payoff. You are freeing yourself from the control of your addiction.
For more detailed information visit the companion website WantToChangeMyLife.org for help with dealing with stress and negative thinking that can contribute to anxiety, depression, or addiction.
Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT)
Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) helps reduce nicotine withdrawal symptoms that many smokers say is their main reason for not quitting. Nicotine replacement therapy increases the rate of quitting by 50 to 70 percent (4)
Nicotine replacement therapy is not a substitute for coping strategies. It deals with the physical addiction to nicotine, but does not deal with the behavioral or psychological addiction to smoking. So some sort of smoking cessation program and strategy is still important.
IMPORTANT: What follows is general medical information, and is not tailored to the needs of a specific individual. Some people may not be able to use nicotine replacement therapy because of allergies or other conditions. You should always consult your physician when making decisions about your health.
Which Nicotine Replacement Therapy?
There are three broad categories of nicotine replacement therapy: nicotine that is absorbed through the skin, mouth, and airways. Here are some important points to help you decide:
The nicotine patch is convenient because it provides long term relief from nicotine withdrawal, and you only have to think about it once a day.
The nicotine patch is the most studied type of nicotine replacement therapy, and significantly increases your chances of success by 50 to 70 percent
Nicotine Lozenges and Nicotine Gum
Nicotine lozenges and nicotine gum provide short term relief from nicotine withdrawal symptoms. They also help deal with oral cravings that a nicotine patch cannot.
The most effective smoking cessation combination is a nicotine patch for long term relief, and nicotine lozenges for breakthrough carvings.(5)
The nicotine in lozenges and gum is absorbed through the inner surface of your mouth rather than through your stomach. Food and drinks can affect how the nicotine is absorbed. Therefore you shouldn’t eat or drink for at least 15 minutes before using nicotine gum or lozenges, and you shouldn’t eat or drink while you are using them.
Most people find nicotine lozenges easier to use than nicotine gum. Nicotine gum can stick to dental work.
How do you use nicotine lozenges? Suck on a lozenge until it is fully dissolved, about 20 to 30 minutes. Do not bite or chew it like hard candy, and do not swallow it.
How do you use nicotine gum? Chew the gum slowly until you get a peppery taste or tingle in your mouth. Then hold it inside your cheek (park it) until the taste fades. Then chew it again to get the tingle back, and park it again.
Nicotine Inhalers and Nicotine Nasal Spray
Nicotine inhalers and nasal sprays are the most fast acting of all nicotine replacement methods. But because they work so quickly they have a higher risk of becoming addictive.
Nicotine inhalers mimic the use of cigarettes, which can make them even more addictive.
Both nicotine inhalers and nasal sprays require a doctor’s prescription.
How Long Should You Use Nicotine Replacement Therapy?
The US Food and Drug Administration suggests the following. “Users of Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) products should still use the product for the length of time indicated in the label – for example, 8, 10 or 12 weeks. However, if they feel they need to continue using the product for longer in order to quit, it is safe to do so in most cases.”(6)
The American Cancer Society notes that “The FDA has approved using the patch for a total of 3 to 5 months.”(7)
In other words, follow the instructions, but it is reasonable to use the patch for up to 5 months, if you have the approval of your health care professional.
In my experience, most people relapse when they taper down too quickly from the full strength 21 mg patch to the 14 mg patch.
Can You Get Too Much Nicotine (Nicotine Overdose and Nicotine Poisoning)?
Yes, if you use nicotine replacement therapy incorrectly. Speak to your health professional about the correct way to use it.
Here are some symptoms of nicotine overdose or nicotine poisoning:
- Agitation, restlessness. tremors
- Fast or irregular heartbeat
- Nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea
- Cold sweats, pale skin
If you experience any of these symptoms call your doctor. More serious symptoms of nicotine overdose or nicotine poisoning include:
- Disturbed vision or hearing
- Dizziness or faintness
- Rapid breathing
Call Poison Control and get emergency help if you suspect nicotine overdose or nicotine poisoning.
How Safe is Nicotine Replacement Therapy?
Nicotine replacement therapy is considered safe for smokers with a history of cardiovascular disease. It does not increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes in smokers with a history of cardiovascular disease.(4)
There is not enough evidence to be absolutely sure that nicotine replacement therapy is safe for pregnant women.(8) However, many physicians feel that nicotine replacement therapy is much safer than smoking.
Smoking Cessation Medications
There are prescription drugs that can help you quit. Some can be used along with nicotine replacement therapy. Most have to be started before your planned quit day, and all need a prescription.
IMPORTANT: This is general medical information, and is not tailored to the needs of a specific individual. You should always consult your physician when making decisions about your health.
Zyban (Wellbutrin, bupropion)
Zyban (Wellbutrin, bupropion) is a prescription antidepressant that was later discovered to reduce nicotine cravings and help people quit smoking. It does not contain nicotine. It acts on chemicals in the brain that cause nicotine cravings. Large scale studies have shown that Zyban is at least as effective as nicotine replacement therapy in smoking cessation.(9)
Zyban works best if you start it 1 to 2 weeks before you quit smoking. The usual dosage is 150 mg tablets once or twice per day. Your doctor may want to continue it for 8 to 12 weeks after you quit smoking to help reduce the chance of relapse.
The most common side effects include: dry mouth, trouble sleeping, agitation, irritability, indigestion, and headaches.
Antidepressants may increase the risk of suicide in persons younger than 25. When prescribed for smoking cessation, there have been four suicides per one million prescriptions and one case of suicidal ideation per ten thousand prescriptions.(10)
Zyban (Wellbutrin, bupropion) should not be taken if you have or have ever had the following:
- Seizures (Bupropion can cause or worsen seizures)
- Heavy alcohol use, or cirrhosis
- Serious head injury
- Bipolar (manic-depressive) illness
- Anorexia or bulimia
- If you’re taking sedatives or have recently taken an MAOI, (an older type of antidepressant).
Combining Zyban (Wellbutrin, bupropion) and Nicotine Replacement Therapy
Combining Zyban and nicotine replacement therapy, is usually more effective than either treatment alone.(11) Both medications work in different ways. Zyban reduces cravings by working on brain chemistry, and nicotine replacement therapy works by gradually weaning your body off nicotine.
Zyban combined with nicotine replacement therapy can slightly increase your blood pressure. Therefore monitoring of blood pressure is recommended in these cases.(12)
Chantix (Champix, varenicline)
Varenicline is a prescription medication that can reduce cravings and increase your chances of success.
How Does Chantix (Champix) Work?
Chantix is a partial nicotine agonist. It partially stimulates the nicotine receptors in the brain so you get a mild effect as if you were smoking, but at the same time it blocks the receptors from giving the full effect of smoking. This lessens the pleasure you get from smoking, and reduces nicotine withdrawal. Chantix (Champix, varenicline) should be started a week before your quit day.
Side Effects of Chantix (Champix)
Chantix (Champix, varenicline) significantly increases the risk of depressed mood, thoughts of suicide, and attempted suicide. One study looked at all serious side effects between 1998 and 2010 in the FDA’s Adverse Event Reporting System (AERS). It concluded “Varenicline shows a substantial, statistically significant increased risk of reported depression and suicidal/self-injurious behavior. The findings for varenicline, render it unsuitable for first-line use in smoking cessation.”(13)
One of the main concerns with electronic cigarettes is that they mimic the use of regular cigarettes. If part of your reason for quitting smoking is that you don’t want to be controlled by your nicotine addiction, then electronic cigarettes would not be a good choice.
Studies have also shown that the vapor from electronic cigarettes has potentially harmful toxins.(14)
Reasons to Quit Smoking: Some Things You Probably Don’t Know About Smoking
Here are just a few smoking facts. Not a long list, but some key facts about the dangers of smoking.
Smoking causes more deaths each year than all of the following causes combined:(15)
- Alcohol abuse
- Illegal drug use
- Motor vehicle accidents
- AIDS and HIV
If you are recovering from drug or alcohol abuse, it doesn’t make sense to have worked hard for your recovery, and then drop dead from smoking.
Both the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous, Dr. Bob and Bill W. dropped dead from smoking. Smoking statistics tend to feel impersonal. But if you’re in recovery, that makes it up close and personal.
Smoking kills 6 million people each year worldwide.(16) In the United States, smoking kills more than 480,000 people each year.(17) That is the equivalent of two jumbo jets crashing every day with no survivors. (The number of passengers in two jumbo jets crashing every day for one year: 500 * 2 *365 = 365,000.)
More smokers die of heart disease and stroke rather than lung cancer. This is why people often underestimate how deadly smoking is. Perhaps your grandfather smoked his whole life and never died of lung cancer. Most smokers die of heart disease or stroke.
Smoking causes type 2 diabetes. Smokers are 30 – 40 percent more likely to develop diabetes.(17)
Those are just a few of the diseases caused by smoking. There is not an organ or system in your body that is not affected by the dangers of smoking. The full list of smoking diseases is too long and depressing.
Here are some reasons why people quit smoking:
- Are you worried about your health?
- Do you resent being controlled by your addiction?
- Do you know someone who has had health problems because of smoking?
- Are you trying to be a positive role model for your family?
- Do you want to save money?
- Smoking costs $2,500 to $5,000 a year. That’s the price of a good vacation.
Second Hand Smoke Facts
Second hand smoke causes the same kinds of deaths as smoking.(18) There is no safe level of second hand smoke. Here are just two of the consequences of living with a smoker or working in a smoking environment.
Nonsmokers exposed to second hand smoke at home or at work are at higher risk of the following:(17)
- 25 – 30 percent more likely to develop heart disease and stroke
- 20 – 30 percent more likely to develop lung cancer
Children and Second Hand Smoke
Second hand smoke has been proven to damage children’s health and increase the risk of the following:(19)
- Asthma, pneumonia, and bronchitis
- Ear infections and the need for ear tubes
- Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
Isn’t it time you said – enough?
For More Detailed Information …
www.IWantToChangeMyLife.org is the companion website with more detailed information on anxiety, depression, and addiction.
Last Modified:January 5, 2020