You CAN Quit Smoking


Healthy Lifestyles: How to Quit Smoking

Giving up smoking is the easiest thing in the world.  I know because I've done it thousands of times.

- Mark Twain

Cigarette sales would drop to zero overnight if the warning said "CIGARETTES CONTAIN FAT."

- Dave Barry

How will my health improve by becoming a non-smoker?

bulletQuitting smoking helps your circulation, your stamina, your skin, and your general health.  Your risk for coronary heart disease, the most common cause of death in the US, is cut in half after only a year without smoking.  Quitting smoking also reduces the likelihood of having breathing problems and lung and other cancers.
bulletStudies have shown that smoking affects others as well as yourself.  Children of parents who smoke around the house are more likely to get respiratory infections than children from nonsmoking homes.  Smoking is an addictive habit.  Quitting smoking isn't easy but it can be done.  Most former smokers make several attempts to quit before they are finally successful.  So, never say, "I can't."  Just keep trying!

What are the first steps to becoming a non-smoker?

bulletSet a quit date.  Setting a quit date is one of the most important steps in being successful with your quit plan.  Pick a date when you will stop smoking as soon as possible and mark it on your calendar.  Don't buy cigarettes to carry you beyond your last day.
bulletThrow away all your lighters, ashtrays and cigarettes.  If you keep cigarettes around, sooner or later you'll break down and smoke one, then another, then another, and so on.  Throw them away.  Make it less easy to start again.
bulletTell your family and friends you plan to quit, and ask for their support and encouragement.  Ask them not to offer you cigarettes.

What can I expect when I do stop smoking?

bulletThe first 10 days you may feel tired, irritable, and develop headaches or a cough.
bulletYou may also have problems concentrating as your body goes through nicotine withdrawal.  These symptoms usually only last one to two weeks.

How can I alleviate withdrawal symptoms?

bulletTo help alleviate withdrawal symptoms, drink plenty of water, eat at least 3 meals per day, exercise, avoid alcohol and get plenty of rest as nicotine goes out of your system.
bulletTry chewing gum, pretzel sticks, raw fruit or raw vegetables as a substitute for cigarettes.
bulletTake deep breaths, keep busy and reward yourself for not smoking.  These techniques will help you handle cravings to smoke.

What else can I do?

bulletSpend time with nonsmokers rather than with smokers.  Think of yourself and identify yourself as a nonsmoker (for example, in restaurants).  Stay away from "smoker's havens," such as bars.  Avoid spending time with smokers, at least for the first few weeks of quitting.  You can't tell others not to smoke, but you don't have to sit with them while they do.  Old habits die hard and one of your old smoking buddies is sure to offer you a cigarette.  Plan on walking away from cigarette smoke.
bulletKeep your hands busy.  You may find you don't know what to do with your hands for a while.  Pick up a book or a magazine.  Try knitting, drawing, making a plastic model, or doing a jigsaw puzzle.  Join special interest groups that keep you involved in your hobby.
bulletTake on new activities.  Take on new activities that don't include smoking.  Join an exercise group and work out regularly.  Sign up for an evening class or join a study group at your church.  Go on more outings with your family or friends.
bulletConsider using nicotine gum, patches, spray or other pharmacologic therapies.  Nicotine is the drug that is in tobacco.  You can use nicotine patches or gum, available without a prescription at your local pharmacy, to quit smoking.  It is a two-step process.  First you learn to live without smoking, but not without nicotine.  On your quit day, you discontinue smoking and start using the patches or gum.  Continue using the patches or gum to gradually wean yourself off the nicotine, which usually takes about 6 - 8 weeks.
   Zyban, a prescription medication, can also be used to help you quit smoking.  Zyban should be started about 7 - 10 days before your quit date.  Ask your primary care physician about using this form of medication.
    You may prefer to be involved in an organised quit-smoking program while you are using the patches, gum or Zyban.  Neither the patches nor the gum nor Zyban is a miracle cure.  You still need to learn to live without cigarettes in your daily life.  Your personal decision to quit smoking combined with learning the skills to be smoke-free can help you be successful.
bulletJoin a quit-smoking program.  Some people do better in a formal class with a set of instructions to follow.  Group support is another reason to consider a formal quit smoking program.  Others quitting at the same time provide support and encouragement for each other.  Remember, the aim is to quit smoking.  It doesn't matter how you do it.

How can I prevent a relapse?

bulletIf you are unable to resist the urge and give in to the temptation to smoke, follow these guidelines to keep this slip from turning into a relapse.  Do not finish the cigarette: put the cigarette out before you finish and throw the pack away.  Keeping the pack means you are giving yourself permission to smoke again.  Understand that a slip is different from a relapse.  A slip is an error or mistake that anyone can make.  The best strategy is to contain the damage and get on with your larger goals.  Learn from the slip.  Review the incident to decide what you can do differently should the same thing happen again.  Realise that negative feelings you may have about the incident will pass if you let them.  With a little self-awareness you can refocus and back on track.
bulletHave fun with the money you'll save by not smoking.  Make a list of things you'd like to buy for yourself or someone else.  Estimate the cost in terms of packs of cigarettes and put the money aside to buy these presents.


Do You Have a Sense of Humour?

Smokers' Cruise

Source: Affluenza: the All-Consuming Epidemic by de Graaf, Wann and Naylor © Adbusters 1996

How to Stop Smoking

Attention, smokers!  Your big day is almost here.  It's the day your friends and family have been waiting for-the day you quit smoking.

Thursday 19 November 1998 was the Great American Smokeout, when millions of nicotine addicts stubbed their butts for a day.  Dr Eric Westman is the director of the smoking research laboratory at the Duke University Medical Centre, where the "patch" was invented.  The following is a transcript of Dr Westman's live chat on

Jared Klein from 3:00pm ET - What are advantages/disadvantages to quitting "cold turkey"?
Dr Eric Westman 3:02pm ET - The advantage of cold turkey quitting is that you don't have to take any medication.  The disadvantage is that it may be more uncomfortable without medication.  Personally, I don't recommend merely cutting down cigarettes in order to quit - the cigarettes that remain become harder to stop smoking!

Spencer from 3:03pm - When quitting smoking, is it advisable to quit during periods of intense stress in one's life, especially if smoking is a stress reliever for an individual?  Thanks.
Dr Westman 3:05pm - Stress is probably the main reason for going back to smoking after attempting to quit.  No life is stress-free, however.  We try to work on new ways of coping with stress when quitting smoking: exercise, deep breathing, et cetera.  In the end, keep trying, even in the presence of stress.

Shanyn Saving from [] 3:05pm - It's common knowledge among smokers that when you quit the hardest time to stick to your resolve is when you're drinking - one sip of beer and you're searching for that pack.  Has any physiological connection been established between alcohol and cigarettes, or is it all mental?  How do you fight it?
Dr Westman 3:07pm - Drinking alcohol decreases inhibitions, and thereby probably leads to smoking relapse.  If this is a particularly vulnerable time for you, it's best to avoid drinking alcohol, going to bars, et cetera, for several weeks after you attempt to quit smoking.

Paul G from [] 3:07pm - I quit smoking on 6 September 97, have not had a single puff since that date.  Even now, 14 months later, I still get cravings when I see others smoking.  Will these cravings ever stop?
Dr Westman 3:09pm -I've heard some smokers say they have cravings many, many years after quitting - but the knowledge that it's not worth starting again overpowers that craving.  Some things are just too risky.  Most smokers find that these cravings go away or decrease dramatically after quitting.

Steve from 3:12pm - I only smoke about 5-10 cigarettes a day.  Sometimes none.  Are there any risks just being a casual smoker?
Dr Westman 3:13pm - Cigarettes are not harmless.  Although there is a "dose-response" relationship between the number of cigarettes you smoke and the risk of heart and lung disease, we cannot really ever say there is a "safe" level of smoking.

jeff from 3:14pm - How effective is hypnosis as a "cure"?
Dr Westman 3:15pm - There's scant scientific data to support hypnosis as a treatment for smoking.  I've met many people who were successful with hypnosis, but I'm not aware of studies to scientifically support these experiences.

Mary from 3:15pm - I want to quit smoking for myself and my family.  I have tried countless times with countless programs to quit.  How can I ensure that this time is for real?  What is the best way to mentally prepare myself?  I'm scared!
Dr Westman 3:17pm - You're not alone.  It takes many tries for people to quit smoking.  You can maximise your chances of quitting by enrolling in a comprehensive behavioural program (usually run by a trained psychologist) AND using some sort of medication therapy at the same time.

john from 3:17pm - I heard there is a new pill that works better than the patch.  Is there any truth in this?
Dr Westman 3:18pm - There is a new pill called Zyban that is FDA approved for smoking cessation.  It is available by prescription, and improves your chances of success with quitting.  Ask your doctor about it.

Amy in Boston from 3:18pm - What do you think is the best method to quit smoking?
Dr Westman 3:20pm - The best method to quit smoking is one that works!  Many people do it cold-turkey (9 out of ten in some series), others with the help of OTC nicotine patches and gum, others with the help of prescription medications like Zyban, Nicotrol nasal spray, or Nicotrol inhaler.  I recommend to most people that they first try quitting on their own, and if unsuccessful then ask their doctor about other alternatives.

Elly from 3:21pm - I tried to quit about 30 years ago.  It lasted a couple of weeks.  What I remember most is how horrible the first day or so was for me.  On the first day I was so disoriented I felt like I was drunk.  This experience scared me so bad that I never even tried to quit again, although I have thought about it many times.  Any suggestions how to cope the very first 24 hours?  Other than go to bed and don't get up?
Dr Westman 3:22pm - You may have experienced very severe nicotine withdrawal.  It is not certain that you will experience it again.  Also, there are many effective medicines to relieve these withdrawal symptoms (see message above).  Also, time has passed, so why not try again?

Kirsten from 3:23pm - Are there any herbal supplements to help relieve the cravings and anxiety?
Dr Westman 3:24pm - I'm not aware of any herbal remedies that have passed the rigorous research necessary for FDA approval for smoking cessation.

becky from 3:24pm - I've seen the commercials for that inhaler thing that you can use to quit smoking.  How effective is that compared to the patch?
Dr Westman 3:26pm - The Nicotrol inhaler is a smoke-less form of nicotine delivery and has been approved by the FDA for smoking cessation.  It appears to have about the same effectiveness as the other medications available, but may be especially helpful if you have intense need for something to do with the hands or mouth when quitting.  It is available by prescription.

kpharr from 3:26pm - Is there an effective strategy for getting family members to quit??  We need help!
Dr Westman 3:28pm - There is a fine line between caring support and nagging!  The best approach is to steer your family members toward effective behavioural and medical treatments if they are unable to quit on their own.  Tell them you love them and want to help them quit those cigarettes!

Linda from [] 3:29pm - I am a 40-year-old woman and have been smoking for over 22 years.  If I would quit now, would my body be able to recover from the damage that I have done in order to increase my life expectancy over what I could expect if I hadn't quit smoking?
Dr Westman 3:30pm - At just about any age, you'll live longer if you quit smoking, and you'll feel better!  After quitting for just 1 year your risk of heart disease will go to that of a non-smoker.  You'll also have more energy, wind - the list goes on.

Half Pack from [] 3:31pm - Dr Westman, were you ever a smoker?  Do you think there's any merit to the argument that you couldn't fully understand the grip of nicotine unless you've been held in it's sway?
Dr Westman 3:33pm - I've smoked only for research purposes.  Much like the surgeon who has never had appendicitis, because I haven't smoked doesn't make me unable to help those that do!

Mary from 3:33pm - Would I significantly increase my chances for success if I started exercising the same day that I quit?
Dr Westman 3:34pm - Yes.  Exercising while quitting will give you another way to handle stress and cigarette cravings.  It also will help to diminish weight gain after quitting.

Mike from [] 3:35pm - Do nicotine replacements like the patch just delay the withdrawal symptoms that make it so hard to quit in the first place?
Dr Westman 3:35pm - No.  They really do decrease the withdrawal symptoms, not just delay them.  Quitting nicotine replacement products is much easier than quitting smoking.

Maddie from [] 3:37pm - I get very, very sleepy the many times I've tried to quit smoking.  Why does this happen and how long does it last?
Dr Westman 3:38pm - Sleepiness, irritability, craving-these are all nicotine withdrawal symptoms.  Nicotine withdrawal symptoms typically peak in the first week of quitting, then decrease over the next few weeks.  You can combat the withdrawal with any of the approved medical therapies (listed above).

Mary Kay from 3:39pm - Why is it so hard to quit smoking?
Dr Westman at 3:40pm - Smoking is understood as an addiction to the drug nicotine - that is the main reason why it is hard to quit.  There are many other factors involved in smoking, but we believe that if nicotine were not in cigarettes, not many people would smoke cigarettes.

Sabrina from 3:41pm - Does the itching from the patch go away after a while?
Dr Westman 3:42pm - The nicotine patch commonly causes mild itching and redness on the skin where the patch is placed, and resolves over 1-2 days.  Most people do not find it objectionable.  If it persists, or causes a rash somewhere else than under the patch site, then consult your physician.

Amy from 3:42pm - Any suggestions to help a smoker with his bad moods when he is quitting smoking?  It can be hard on us non-smokers who are close to the person.
Dr Westman 3:45pm - I've heard one smoker say that his wife told him to go back to smoking after just one day of quitting because she liked him better when he was smoking.  THIS IS A NICOTINE WITHDRAWAL SYMPTOM AND WILL NOT LAST!  If you love someone you will put up with him or her while they quit (or tell them to get some medicine to help decrease this withdrawal symptom, or else tell them to quit when they are on a business trip away from the house...)

Elly from 3:46pm - I have heard people say that nicotine is more addictive and harder to quit than even heroin.  Any thoughts on this?  Be honest!
Dr Westman 3:47pm - Honestly, yes.  For some people it may be harder to quit smoking than to quit these other drugs.  I've heard over and over again, "Dr Westman, quitting smoking is the hardest thing I've ever done."

Darlene from 3:47pm - What are the side effects with Zyban?
Dr Westman 3:48pm - Zyban is an FDA approved pill for smoking cessation.  It's tolerated very well: the main side effects are dry mouth and insomnia.  You don't want to use Zyban if you have a history of seizures or eating disorder.  It is available by prescription through your doctor.

Amy from 3:48pm - Is it true that antidepressants are now being used as a method help people quit smoking?
Dr Westman 3:50pm - Yes.  Zyban was discovered when several patients treated for depression with Wellbutrin came back and said they did not want to smoke anymore.  Zyban is the same drug as Wellbutrin which is an antidepressant.

Mary from 3:51pm - Some people I know seem to be able to have a cigarette or two at parties.  They are social smokers.  If I could limit smoking to social situations I would love it.  Do genetic backgrounds and/or makeups create a predisposition to smoking addiction?
Dr Westman 3:53pm - There are a lucky few (<5%) of smokers who can limit their smoking to fewer than 5 cigarettes a day, and don't seem to increase up to a pack a day like most smokers.  I don't think this phenomenon is fully understood.  (Personally, I don't want to take the risk to find out if I could do it.)

April from [] 3:55pm - I have tried the 21mg and 14mg patches and get dizzy when I use them.  I now have the 7mg patch.  How long should I use it?
Dr Westman 3:56pm - Nausea, dizziness, and vomiting are the main symptoms of too much nicotine.  If the 7 mg nicotine patch is working to reduce the cravings I would continue for 4 - 6 weeks so that you can "unlearn" the habit.  Then it should be easy to stop the patch.

copper from 3:57pm - How about snuff and other related tobacco products?  How much of a health hazard are they and are they any easier to quit?
Dr Westman 3:58pm - All use of tobacco carries risk, I'm afraid.  For some people it is very difficult to stop dipping or chewing, and they go through nicotine withdrawal just like smokers trying to quit smoking.  It's best not to start.

Lee Ann from 3:59pm - I'm having the hardest time quitting because I always think I can start tomorrow.  Are there any words of inspiration?
Dr Westman 4:02pm - Give it a try.  It probably won't be as bad as you think.  Sometimes I wonder if by focusing on nicotine withdrawal and how bad it is, we have the unintended effect of keeping some people from trying.  Good luck!

Moderator 4:03pm - That's all the time we have.  Thanks for being here.  Good luck to all of you in your efforts to stop smoking.  The Great American Smokeout was 19 November.  Thanks to Dr Westman for taking questions.

Source: ©1998 ABCNEWS and Starwave Corporation

Your Initial Keys to Freedom

I phoned my dad to tell him I had stopped smoking.  He called me a quitter.

- Steven Pearl

bulletBelieve in yourself
bulletSit down and write out your plan for quitting
bulletWrite down the pros and cons of quitting
bulletWrite down your smoking triggers
bulletAsk for family support during your cranky times
bulletSet a quitting date
bulletStart mild exercise program (unless you have a medical condition that restricts your activity)
bulletStart a vitamin and nutritional rejuvenation plan
bulletSpend 15 minutes a day walking and thinking
bulletSpend 5 minutes a day in quiet place practicing deep breathing
bulletDrink plenty of water
bulletQuit "cold turkey"
bulletFind something else to put in your mouth such as gum or a straw
bulletPut the money saved from smoking in a coffee can and buy yourself something after the first week, and then every month afterwards
bulletDon't let weight gain be the excuse to smoke again - studies show that the average weight gain in the first year after you stop smoking is 20 pounds but if you know what to expect then it is easier to make a plan to avoid weight gain (instead, become and expert on proper eating habits)
bulletRemember your mind has the unique ability to perform a really easy task - selective amnesia!!! - you will soon forget the initial difficulties you had trying to grab back your power and realise you deserve to be in control of your health, not some cigarette or tobacco


For more on why people smoke (but if you're a smoker, you already know) see also:

bulletWhere There's Smoke There're Cigarettes (in the Drugs section) - Many smokers regard their cigarettes as "a close friend" that helps them connect socially and assists the flow of a regular day.  Ms Carter said the bond between smokers and cigarettes could become a big barrier to quitting.  "For many smokers, cigarettes are an old and trusted companion.  Quitting is like finding the strength to kill your best friend..."
bulletDogged by Addiction (the next page in this section) - for cigarette ingredients and two funny Flash files (they are about 4 meg each and require a Flash plugin).
bulletAn Obituary for R J Reynolds (in the Money, Politics and Law section) - that whole family has been decimated by smoking-related diseases...

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