Get Ready to Quit

Rehearsing how to quit smoking is a key to success

Some people can just quit cold turkey, but most of us need to make some changes first. Think of it as rehearsal before opening night. Good preparation, it turns out, can improve your odds of quitting, and make the process easier.

The first step is to think about why you smoke. Did you start puffing because friends or family did? Do you enjoy smoking because it makes you feel focused or relaxed, or because it lets you take a break or helps you control your weight? Identifying these reasons can help you avoid your trigger later and prevent a setback.

Now think about why you want to quit. But don't just think about them?write them down. Make a list of all the reasons you want to stop smoking: to improve your health, to improve your family's health, to look better, to save money, to have a cleaner home and car. Make it specific and personal?your reasons.

Now start making your plan for quitting. Smoking cessation experts have come up with a handy way you can START to quit. Here's how:

  • Set a quit date. It might help to pick a special time, such as Valentine's Day or the first day of spring. If you have a birthday coming up, that's a good date. A loved one's birthday on the horizon? Quitting could be the perfect gift.

    Don't wait too long, though. The American Cancer Society suggests that you choose a specific date within the next month and circle it on your calendar. You want enough time to prepare but not so much time you come up with excuses to keep puffing.
  • Tell relatives, friends and coworkers that you're quitting. Tell them whether or not you want them to keep checking on how you're doing. Ask them for patience during the trying weeks ahead. If any of them smoke, see if they want to quit with you, and if not, ask them not to smoke around you while you're quitting.
  • Anticipate and prepare for the obstacles you'll meet. Think about what triggers you to smoke. Do you smoke more when you're alone, or with certain friends? At work? While having coffee, after meals, talking on the telephone or in bars? The federal government's Smokefree program suggests keeping a "Smoker's Diary" for a few weeks before you quit. It's a day-by-day record of every cigarette you smoke including the time of day, craving level, what you were doing, who you were with and how you were feeling. You'll find it a useful resource as you develop strategies to deal with tempting situations.

    If you tried to quit before, think about what the problems were and why you had a relapse. Did you feel swamped by financial, workplace or family stress? Did you gain weight? Were you surrounded by smokers at a party? Consider what new strategies might address these areas. It may help to write this down in your journal.

    Stock up on supplies that may help, such as nicotine replacement products, helpline contact information, celery and carrot sticks, sugarless candies and exercise equipment.
  • Remove smoking products from your home, workplace and car. This includes matches, lighters and ashtrays. Be sure you don't make the mistake of stashing away an "emergency" pack of cigarettes.

    Also, visit your dentist to get your teeth cleaned. Your newly bright smile will be a visual reminder of how quitting will improve your appearance. Give your car, clothes and curtains a good cleaning as well to remove the smell of tobacco.

    Consider saving your tobacco money and using it to reward yourself when you reach a predetermined smoking cessation goal.

  • Talk to your doctor about ways to help you quit. The many approaches include counseling, support groups, relaxation training and medications.

    Note that nicotine affects some medications. Ask your doctor and pharmacist if any of your prescriptions will have to be adjusted after you quit.

Quitting smoking is a huge challenge. By breaking it down into a series of simpler tasks, you've already improved your chance of success. Ready, set...

Reviewed by: Timothy Yarboro, MD

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