How to stop smoking – that’s the question millions of people ask every day. Roughly 20% of the global population is smoking cigarettes or other tobacco products. Despite the well-known and thoroughly documented dangers associated with this bad habit, tobacco control policies and targeted campaigns, around 7 million people die each year as a result of exposure to tobacco smoke, with a staggering 890.000 falling victim to exposure to second-hand smoke. The risks of cardiovascular and lung diseases, impotence in men, cancer, and numerous other diseases and complications are often enough to make people consider quitting smoking and living healthier lives.
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However, even with the awareness of all the dangers and risks, both those concerning themselves and those that concern their surroundings (like second-hand smoke), many smokers have troubles actually quitting, even if they have strong intention to do so. And this is not without reason – nicotine is a highly addictive substance and quitting involves very unpleasant withdrawal effects and regular cravings which is why most experts recommend the use of smoking cessation medications which significantly improve the odds of quitting smoking for good and reduce the chances for a relapse.
At the same time, many ex-smokers claim that quitting “cold turkey” is absolutely the best, if not the only way to go. So is there “the right” way to quit smoking? What would be the best smoking cessation method for you? What are the things you need to know before you start fighting against your nicotine addiction?
Quit smoking tips
No matter which method you’ll use to quit smoking, there are some tips and tricks that can make the whole process much less uncomfortable. While no one can deny that stopping smoking is hard and that cravings and withdrawal symptoms are unavoidable, there are some things that you can do that can make the process easier.
Reason and motivation
There is no shortage of reasons to stop smoking – from yellow teeth, bad skin, hair and nails to serious health issues like cardiovascular diseases and several types of cancer, smoking is responsible for numerous health issues and it’s proven that it affects physical appearance. And that is without mentioning that smoking is also expensive so by quitting, you are not only taking care of your health and look, but also about your budget. But, most smokers already know those facts, so it’s important to find a reason that will really keep you motivated. Maybe you really do want to start living a healthier lifestyle and ensure a long and healthy life, or maybe you want to buy a new computer or phone and you could use the extra money you will save by quitting smoking. In any case, it is important that you find a reason that really means something to you and can be something to which you can return for motivation once the cravings start.
Preparation & Setting the quit date
While it might seem ideal that one day you’ll just throw away your cigarette pack and be done with it, it is rarely so in reality. Nicotine addiction is a serious issue and if you’ve been smoking for multiple years, quitting won’t be easy. So it is important to prepare – be aware of the issues and challenges that you’re going to face, and keep in mind why it is important to overcome them. Also, it might be helpful to tell your friends and family in advance so they can provide you support during the first couple of weeks. Finally, it is a good idea to talk to your doctor and ask about recommended methods and support groups in your neighbourhood. When you start preparing, it is advisable that you set the quit date and try to reduce the number of cigarettes you smoke each day until you finally quit on the set date.
Find new ways to relax
When asked about why they smoke, nine out of ten smokers will reply that it helps them relax. On a conscious level, you might be aware of the fact that nicotine doesn’t really help you relax, but you just learned to associate satisfying your nicotine craving with stress relief. Despite this, it can be hard to ignore stress levels which can go through the roof once the cravings hit, so in order to prepare for this in advance, you should find something that will keep your mind of things and help you relax. For some it is also helpful to keep their hands busy, so aside from things like a cup of tea, or a relaxing walk in the park, you might find with a lollipop or a memory game on your smartphone useful to distract yourself.
Before quitting, carefully consider all the common triggers. When are you smoking cigarettes? When drinking coffee or alcohol? While you’re at a party or some other social event? With a co-worker when you come to your workplace in the morning? Try to identify as many triggers as possible and avoid them once you do quit. If you’re a social smoker, it’s important to notify your smoking friends that you’re going to quit and might not spend as much time with them as before, until you are ready to be surrounded by cigarettes and not give in to temptation.
Clean your house from the smell of cigarettes
Once you quit smoking, it is advisable that you throw out the ashtrays and wash all your clothes to get rid of the smell of cigarettes. Most ex-smokers report that getting rid of the things that are associated with their habit helped them a lot in coping with the cravings. Also, the smell of cigarettes can be a potent trigger during the first couple of days. But, as you start getting used to a life without smoke, you will start to notice how unpleasant and foul it is. But, during the first period, it is probably better to stay away from cigarettes as much as possible to make the whole process easier.
Best way to quit smoking
Quitting smoking isn’t easy – one should never forget that smoking is an addiction and a serious one at that! One cannot simply acknowledge that it’s harmful and stop the very same moment, as many smokers can confirm from their own experience. Most smokers continue their habit despite the knowledge of consequences, while trying to stop smoking from time to time and relapsing sooner or later. And for many, the failed attempts to quit just serve as a reminder of the seriousness of their addiction and their perceived lack of control over it and by extension, over their health and their lives.
So, quitting smoking is hard – but not impossible! Hundreds of ex-smokers are there to testify that the struggle against this dangerous addiction can be won and that it’s worth the coping with all the cravings and withdrawal effects. Because it is possible to get to the final destination of that journey – quitting smoking for good and living a healthy smoke-free life.
Stop smoking “cold turkey”
Quitting smoking “cold turkey” is a common term for a method that includes simply stopping consuming tobacco products at some point and resisting the cravings until they diminish over time and gradually disappear, without using any medicaments or therapies that could help alleviate the withdrawal symptoms. This quit smoking method can be rather effective, but only in a small fraction of people who have the willpower and dedication which are the necessary resources needed to successfully stop smoking “cold turkey”. For many others, it can be very difficult and lead to a cycle of unsuccessful attempts that end in relapse. So if you plan to quit smoking “cold turkey” it is very important to prepare mentally in advance and know that the first week and especially first couple of days without nicotine won’t be easy, but the results are well worth the effort.
Nicotine replacement therapy
Nicotine replacement therapies or NRTs for short are probably the most common quit smoking method, successfully used by countless people around the world. This method for stopping smoking stems from the fact that nicotine addiction has two sides – physiological one that is related to the interaction of nicotine and dopamine in the brain, and the psychological one which more related to the idea of habit or inhaling smoke or holding a cigarette or a pipe in your hand. NRTs let you tackle those aspects one by one – nicotine gums or nicotine patches still let you get your nicotine fix which will diminish withdrawal effects and cravings, but without the usual behavioural pattern that accompanies the satisfying of nicotine cravings. In that way, one can slowly change one’s own behaviour and through time, get rid of the habit of smoking.
Stop smoking tablets
Stop smoking tablets rank as one of the quit smoking methods with highest success rates. Opposed to nicotine patches and gums, they are prescription drugs which do not contain nicotine. Currently, there are two available on the market – Champix with varenicline as an active ingredient and Zyban which is based on bupropion. Since they don’t contain nicotine, stop smoking tablets rely on a unique mechanism of action which directly affects the neurophysiological root of nicotine addiction. Champix and Zyban achieve this in different ways, which in turn lead to different success rates for different people and also to different side effects.
Quit smoking online: can I get help?
With the ever-growing impact of the internet and modern information technology on our lives, it is not surprising that today it is rather easy to find resources that can help you quit smoking online. From different online communities that are there to provide support and encouragement during the process of giving up cigarettes, to digital consultations with certified and accredited doctors and even numerous stop smoking apps that will track your progress, providing you detailed information on how much has your body recovered, how much money have you saved and how much have you left before your body completely recovers from the damage caused by smoking.
Online doctor consultations
Several websites and online clinics provide you with the opportunity to consult with a certified doctor about recommended methods for quitting smoking and a number of them even offer a complete digital medical service – from consultations with the doctor to issuing a prescription and delivering the medicine to your doorstep. However, if you do decide to try online doctor consultations, always make sure that the service is genuine. For most of the time, websites that offer you a complete service can be considered more credible since only an accredited medical expert can legally recommend treatment and ask a pharmacist for prescription drugs such as Champix. Those websites which offer medical consultations, but without the possibility for issuing a prescription might employ individuals which aren’t experts in the required medical field, so it is best to take their recommendations with a grain of salt.
Stop smoking app
As smartphones became an integral part of our lives we rely more and more on numerous apps and widgets to organize and get the important information we need, and also on mobile games to pass the time. So, it comes as no surprise that many teams decided to use the functionality of smartphone technology to help people stop smoking.
Stop smoking apps usually combine multiple features into a single application, for example, they provide scientifically proved smoking-related statistics to keep you motivated, automatically calculate and display health benefits and money saved since the time you put out your last cigarette, allow you to connect with other users and share your experience with them and provide you with video games that can distract you when nicotine cravings hit hard.
A quick visit to Google PlayStore will provide you with dozens of different stop smoking apps, some of which are even reviewed by doctors and developed in collaboration with several medical experts and advisers. This unconventional, digital smoking cessation aid can be of great help to many smokers who wish to quit, and one cannot help but notice the irony of reaching into one’s pocket to take a look at their stop smoking app instead of taking out a pack of cigarettes!
Coping with nicotine withdrawal
The first couple of days of quitting smoking are always the hardest. It is because smokers’ minds and bodies are accustomed to regular daily nicotine doses. And while nicotine isn’t as dangerous in itself, it is the substance that causes addiction. On the other hand, a number of different compounds present in cigarette smoke (like tar or carbon monoxide) present much greater danger for your health. Once you quit smoking, the lack of nicotine in your body will be the biggest problem, manifested as symptoms of so-called nicotine withdrawal.
While these first days can be especially difficult to make through, according to NHS, after 28 days without smoking you are extremely likely to stop smoking for good. However, it won’t take this long for symptoms of nicotine withdrawal to diminish – in fact, the first minor signs of improvement can be noticed as early as 48 to 72 hours without cigarette. But, somewhere around the beginning of second week without smoking is when they should start to decrease in intensity and frequency.
What are nicotine withdrawal symptoms?
If you have just quitted smoking, you should prepare yourself for the onset of initial withdrawal symptoms. Some of the most common ones include:
- Bad mood
- Problems focusing
- Increased appetite
- Mouth ulcers
- Nicotine cravings
If you are interested in learning more about nicotine withdrawal, you might be interested in our article that details the stages of stopping smoking. There you can find additional info on this topic.
When will it get easier?
While there is no definitive answer to this question and individual differences play a crucial role in determining the exact time when nicotine withdrawal symptoms will begin to diminish, some experts argue that third and fourth day following quitting smoking tend to be the hardest. After this period, all the nicotine will leave your body so most of the symptoms will be related to psychological and not physical addiction.
How to remain positive?
Staying positive is crucial to quitting smoking – you need to stay motivated in order not to give in to temptation. Of course, the way you will do this will depend entirely on you. While some found keeping a quitting diary very beneficial when it comes to staying positive, others still prefer real face-to-face support from friends, family or even a local stop smoking support group.
In addition to this, making some short-term adjustments to your lifestyle can also go a long way in helping you quit smoking successfully. So, while you will probably miss a social event or two in order to avoid triggers, you should fill in the time with other activities that can keep you distracted from cravings.
Will the cravings ever go away?
Although it seems odd from the perspective of someone who is just trying to quit, yes, the cravings will go away in time and will eventually get replaced by repulsive feelings towards cigarettes. The best way to minimize the cravings and make them stop as soon as possible is to stop smoking completely and not give in to temptation – not even one puff! It might seem drastic, but it is a method that has been proven to work and be efficient.
What can make an ex-smoker relapse?
There are numerous situations that can cause an ex-smoker to relapse. It can be a period of stress or a stronger trigger. At the core of all these possibilities is not a real craving (providing that a relapse is happening months after successfully quitting smoking), but a memory association. Many ex-smokers tend to find their former habit repulsive, but for some a thought about how nice a cigarette would be can just pop in the mind from time to time.