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Ready to Put Smoking Behind You? 

In November every year, we observe the national Great American Smokeout. It’s an opportunity for smokers to choose to quit smoking, make a plan to quit… at least quit for the day.

While it takes a commitment to quit smoking, anyone can do it.

How Can Smokers Quit?

When you, or people you care about, are ready to quit smoking, here are some tips from that will help pave the way for success in beating a nicotine addiction:

1. Get Ready

  • Set a date to quit completely. Before that date, plan how you can reduce your cigarette use. Remember, no level of smoking is safe.
  • List reasons why you want to quit and both the short- (for example, financial savings) and long-term benefits (such as better health and longer life).
  • Tell your friends your plan to stop smoking and the date. They can help support you.
  • Discard all your cigarettes just before your quit date (or don’t buy enough cigarettes to last past your stop date). Clean your clothes and furniture so they don’t smell like smoke
  • Identify times when you’re most likely to smoke. Awareness of your routines can help you choose more healthful behaviors.
  • Plan what you’ll do instead when you used to smoke. Think of each smoking routine you have and plan specifically what you’ll do instead.
  • Remove cigarettes from the car. Try keeping a snack like pretzels there instead.

2. Change Your Habits

  • Focus your mind and your hands on different activities. Consider games, puzzles, crossword puzzles, crafts or another enjoyable pastime. Keep the activities non-stressing and non-fattening.
  • Change your daily schedule and habits.
  • Satisfy your oral habits in other ways. Try celery or another low-calorie snack. Chew sugarless gum. Use a straw to simulate smoking.
  • Get more exercise. It helps relieve the urge to smoke. Take a walk or ride your bike.

3. Set Goals and Follow Through

  • Set goals. Reward yourself for reaching short-term goals, such as quitting for a certain amount of time. Put money you used to spend on cigarettes into a jar. Then spend the money on something you like.
  • Take quitting a day at a time.
  • Remember, your craving for cigarettes will be strengthened by having one cigarette or even a puff.
  • Slipping up is normal. Just because you have one cigarette, doesn’t mean you need to have another.

4. Additional Steps

Research has shown smokers are most successful quitting when they have support.

  • Visit with your health care professional about effective ways to stop smoking. Medicines, patches, gum, lozenges and sprays are available that can help you quit tobacco and nicotine.
  • Enroll in a stop smoking support program through your local hospital, community center or, in some cases, where you work.
  • Use a telephone smoking-cessation hotline.
  • Join a smoking cessation support group — in person or online.
  • Seek counseling.
  • Use a smoking-cessation book.
  • Get encouragement and support from friends and family.

If you need some motivation to complete the steps and keep at it, the American Cancer Society highlights these benefits you’ll enjoy when you quit smoking.

While saving money is the most obvious, there are many health benefits to quitting smoking:

2 Weeks to 3 Months After Quitting

  • Improved circulation
  • Walking becomes easier
  • Lung function increases up to 30%

1-9 months after quitting

  • Coughing, sinus congestion, fatigue and shortness of breath decrease
  • Increased ability to clear lungs of mucus

1 year after quitting

  • Risk of coronary heart disease is decreased to half that of a smoker

5 years after quitting

  • Stroke risk is reduced to that of a person who has never smoked

10 years after quitting

  • Lung cancer death rate drops to half that of a continuing smoker
  • Risk of cancer in the mouth, throat, esophagus, bladder, kidney and pancreas decreases

15 years after quitting

  • Risk of occurrence of coronary heart disease is similar to that of a person who has never smoked

If you’re quitting smoking and wavering, remember:

 Cigarette smoking is responsible for 480,000 deaths — nearly one in five — every year in the U.S.

  • More than 10 times as many Americans have died prematurely from cigarette smoking than have died in all the wars fought by the U.S.
  • Smoking causes about 90 percent of all lung cancer deaths in the U.S.
  • More women die of lung cancer than die of breast cancer.
  • Cigarette smoking increases the risk for death from all causes in women and men. 

Don’t get discouraged when you quit smoking. It takes determination to get past a nicotine addiction. It may take more than one try and you may need to use different strategies, but you can succeed and improve your health and your quality of life.

If you have questions about your lung health, see your health care provider. A lung screening (such as a CT scan) may be suggested. To learn about the Aurora Health Care screening program, call 855-229-0924.

Meet the Author

Steven L. Leh, MD, is a board-certified, fellowship-trained and highly credentialed pulmonary medicine physician at Aurora St. Luke's Medical Center.

Read more posts from this author

The information presented in this site is intended for general information and educational purposes. It is not intended to replace the advice of your own physician. Contact your physician if you believe you have a health problem.

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