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10 steps to quit smoking

By The Health News Team | May 31, 2023
Cigarette taped to a wall

These days, most people are aware of the dangers of smoking. Yet cigarette smoking remains the leading cause of preventable disease, disability and death in the U.S.

Nicotine addiction, withdrawal symptoms and habits developed over time can make it difficult to quit. Having a plan in place and using the right strategies can make it possible to live smoke-free and improve your overall health.

“Quitting is a gradual process that requires time, energy and commitment,” says Kim Smith, LMFT, CWHC, a wellness education specialist with Sharp Rees-Stealy’s Center for Health Management.

Smith offers a 10-step action plan to help you or a loved one quit smoking:

1.) Think about the reasons you want to quit.
Make a list of the personal reasons you want to quit and put them somewhere you’ll see them, such as on your bathroom mirror or your smart phone home screen. Talk to family, friends and your doctor about quitting, and begin to visualize yourself as a nonsmoker.

2.) Examine your smoking patterns.
Start a smoking journal and record each cigarette you smoke. Include details such as who you are with when you smoke and what you are feeling at the time.

3.) Decide to quit.
Using your smoking journal, identify trigger situations in which you are more likely to smoke. List your triggers and have a plan in place to avoid or get through them with different coping techniques.

4.) Set a quit date.
Make a contract with yourself to quit and set a specific date. Have clear goals and make a list of rewards you can give yourself for achieving each goal.

5.) Get support.
Line up support in advance by developing a nonsmoking support system. Tell family and friends about your plans to quit and ask for their support. Explore online resources, including Kick It California, the American Cancer Society and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

6.) Consider tobacco cessation medications.
There are products available to assist in kicking the habit. They come in patch, pill, nasal spray, gum, lozenge and inhaler forms. These products greatly increase your success in quitting. Talk with your doctor about your options and potential drug interactions.

7.) Quit for 24 hours.
Discard all smoking materials, including ashtrays and lighters. Plan your “quit day” activities in advance and schedule coping techniques, such as exercise and stress management. Limit caffeine and alcohol consumption, and use your support system by reaching out for help when you need it.

8.) Complete your first week as a nonsmoker.
Those who successfully complete one week without tobacco are nine times more likely to successfully quit. Reward yourself daily for achieving your goals.

9.) Complete your first month.
Focus on your new, healthier lifestyle. Make a list of all the positive aspects of quitting, such as improved sense of smell and taste, increased energy and stamina levels, and the other benefits you discover along the way.

10.) Maintain your tobacco-free status.
After you quit, plan to celebrate the milestones in your journey. Gradually increase your exercise activities, work on stress reduction techniques, and continue to reward yourself for a job well done.

It may take you a few tries before you find success in quitting, but don’t give up. Quitting smoking is about changing your behavior and learning to manage craving and withdrawal symptoms in the short term. And then it’s about making long-term lifestyle changes to support your continued success.

“Remember, smoking cessation is a journey,” says Smith. “Each time you resist a craving, you're one step closer to quitting for good.”

Register for a free smoking cessation webinar; get the latest health and wellness news, trends and patient stories from Sharp Health News; and subscribe to our weekly newsletter by clicking the "Sign up" link below.

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