How to Quit Smoking

  • How to Quit Smoking

    Here's a simple step-by-step plan to help you stop smoking.

    You decided to stop smoking? Great — it's one of the best things you can do for your health.

    But quitting isn't easy. Nicotine — the addictive ingredient in tobacco — is as addictive as heroin or cocaine, according to the American Cancer Society.

    In fact, the average person attempts to quit six times before succeeding.

    Fortunately, there are steps you can take to set yourself up for success and kick the habit for good.

    Set a date: Pick a day and time in the near future that you expect to be relatively stress-free so you can prepare to quit smoking.

    Quitting when you have a big project due at work, or even when you have something happy on your calendar like a birthday party (if you tend to light up when you are drinking or socializing), can be more challenging.

    Write down your reasons: Consider why you want to stop smoking and jot the reasons down. You can refer to them once you quit when you get a craving. A few universal benefits:

    • My risk of cancer, heart attacks, chronic lung disease,stroke, cataracts, and other diseases will drop.
    • My blood pressure will go down.
    • I'll look better. My skin will be more hydrated and less wrinkled, my teeth will look less yellow and my fingers won't be stained with nicotine.
    • I'll save money.
    • My hair, clothes, car, and home won't reek of smoke.
    • I'll have more energy.
    • I'll set a better example for my kids, friends, and family.
    • I'll live longer.

    Get your friends and family on board: The more support you have, the more likely you are to quit smoking.

    Ask your loved ones to help keep you distracted by taking walks or playing games, and bear with you if you become cranky or irritable as you experience nicotine withdrawal.

    Tell any smokers not to smoke around you, or better yet, ask your smoking buddies to quit with you.

    Identify your triggers: You'll be most tempted to smoke during the same times you do now. Knowing your habits and what situations may set off a craving will help you plan ahead for distractions.

    For example, you may typically smoke while driving, drinking, or after dinner, or it may be that you reach for a cigarette when you're feeling stressed, lonely, or depressed.


    Create healthy distractions to head off potential smoking triggers. If you smoke while you drive, keep a pack of gum on hand, or if you smoke after dinner, plan to take a walk or chat on the phone with a friend.

    Anticipate cravings: It's expected that you'll experience nicotine cravings as your body begins to go through withdrawal.

    The good news is that cravings aren't endless. They generally last for five minutes and no longer than 10.

    When cravings strike, focus on something else: Drink a glass of water, review your list of reasons for quitting, take deep breaths, play with your cat or dog — do whatever it takes until the craving subsides.

    Distract yourself: Keep celery stalks, carrot sticks, nuts, or gum handy to give your mouth something to do when cravings occur.

    And finding some way to occupy your hands — knitting, woodworking, cooking, yoga, or yard work — will help keep your mind off smoking.

    Expect to feel a little off: Nicotine withdrawal can make you feel anxious, cranky, sad, and even make it hard for you to fall asleep.

    It helps to know that all these feelings are a normal and temporary part of the process.

    Throw out all your cigarettes: Yes, even that emergency one you stashed away.

    If you don't have cigarettes on hand, it will make it that much easier to stay the course when a craving hits.

    Reward yourself: With all the money you'll save by not buying tobacco, you can buy new clothes, splurge on dinner, or start a new hobby.


    Some people keep their cigarette money in a jar, then reward themselves with a treat each week.

    Talk to your doctor about cessation medications: If you're not sure you can go cold turkey, don't.

    Speak with your doctor about over-the-counter (OTC) andstop-smoking medications that can make quitting easier.


    When it comes to smoking, there are clear differences between how men and women think about it and react to it.

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    Old Hollywood is replete with images of men who smoked cigarettes — from rough-and-tumble cowboys like John Wayne to debonaire leading men like Humphrey Bogart. And famous women were known for smoking, too: Many images of stars like Marlene Dietrich feature a glamorous woman elegantly posing with a cigarette in hand.

    Smoking used to be considered more of a male pursuit, with much higher numbers of men smoking than women. Back in 1965, about 52 percent of men smoked, compared with 34 percent of women. Forty years later, 24 percent of men smoked compared with 18 percent of women. Though the overall percentage of people who smoke has come down, the smoking "gender gap" has narrowed over time, putting both sexes at more equal risk of the dangers of smoking.

    Gender Differences in Smoking

    Smoking is a very different experience for men and women, research has found. Men and women differ on:

    • Why they smoke
    • How they feel about the dangers of smoking
    • What addicts them to smoking
    • Why they may or may not quit




    Some of the specific differences found between male and female smokers include:

    • Reasons for smoking. Studies have found that men smoke to feel more alert and vigorous, enjoying the positive feelings associated with the habit. Women smoke because they find it relaxes them and relievesstressNicotine appears to promote aggression in men, but has a calming effect on women. Women also appear to be more likely to take up smoking to help control their weight.
    • Enjoyment of smoking. Women appear to smoke less for the nicotine and more for other factors, such as enjoying the sight and smell of tobacco smoke or the pleasure involved in interacting with other people while smoking. For example, men on cigarette breaks tend to smoke alone, while women taking smoke breaks gather in groups.
    • Intensity of smoking. Men tend to consume more cigarettes than women. About 15 percent of male smokers have more than 24 cigarettes a day, compared to just 8 percent of female smokers. Women overall smoke fewer cigarettes per day than men and are less likely to inhale deeply when they smoke.
    • Health concerns. While many of the dangers of smoking cross gender lines, men and women smokers do face some unique risks. Male smokers may experience a decline in sexual potency and fertility. Female smokers have an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, particularly if they are taking oral contraceptives, and they also risk early menopause, cervical cancer, bone fractures, and reproductive difficulties.




    Gender Differences in the Ability to Quit Smoking

    Overall, women may find it much harder to stop smoking than men do. Both genders cite health concerns regarding the dangers of smoking as the top reason for quitting smoking, but the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that while 29 percent of male smokers have been able to quit, only 19 percent of female smokers have permanently broken the habit. Women are three times more likely than men to relapse while trying to quit smoking without any help.

    Researchers have found a number of reasons why it’s harder for women to stop smoking. Women tend to suffer withdrawal more intensely than men, especially during the last two weeks of their menstrual cycles. They may find nicotine replacement therapies like nicotine patches and nicotine gum to be less helpful than men do, and tend to worry more about weight gain if they stop smoking. Women are also more likely to relapse under stress.