Quitting smoking isn't easy, but it has major health benefits. Many people wrongly assume that kicking the habit won't make a difference. They may tell themselves, "I've been a smoker all of my life, so there's no point in quitting now." Plus, it becomes part of their routine. But both data and experiences show it's never too late to stop. In fact, some of the health benefits happen pretty quickly. Blood pressure, for example, drops fairly quickly after not smoking.
Need more convincing? Consider these milestones from the U.S. Surgeon General:
Source: Department of Health and Human Services
Be part of one in a million. Each year, 1.3 million Americans quit smoking. You can do it. Today there are more former smokers than current smokers.
If you want to stop smoking or help a loved one quit, take the time to map out a plan. Here are some steps you can take:
Most smokers become addicted to nicotine that is found in tobacco. Talk with your health care team about smoking cessation programs and whether you need medicine to help your body steadily taper off nicotine—products such as patches, gum, lozenges, or sprays or inhalers. Some of these products are available for purchase at your local pharmacy, while others require a prescription. Make sure to enlist the help of trusted family members and friends who can provide ongoing support. Then, set a date and mark it boldly and proudly on all of your home and electronic calendars.
Think about and write down the reasons you want to quit. Include both short- and long-term benefits. Post notes to yourself where you can’t miss them; for example, to live longer, prevent heart disease or stroke, see my kids get married, not smell like tobacco, or save money.
Remember, when you stop smoking, you take an important step to immediately reduce your risk of lung and throat cancer, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, cataracts, gum disease, as well as cardiovascular disease, among other related health issues!
There’s no denying that certain feelings, places, activities, and even people will trigger your desire to smoke. Try to think about when you might be hit with the urge to light up—for example, after a meal, during a work break, with your morning coffee, on the drive to work, or when you feel stressed—and what you might do instead. Try replacing it with a healthy behavior like going for a walk or meditating.
Make sure to get rid of any items that remind you of smoking. Remove cigarettes and other tobacco products including lighters, matches and ashtrays from your home, car and workplace.
It’s also helpful to understand your reasons for smoking. Is it a habit, are you addicted, does depression or stress play a role, or does it provide a social release?
Tell family, friends and co-workers about your plan to quit. Ask for their support in helping you stick with it.
Find activities to occupy your time, especially during time periods when you would usually have a cigarette. Exercise can do wonders to boost your mood and put you on right track to make healthy choices.
It may be helpful to switch up your routine. For example, by picking up a new hobby, making plans with friends, or finding ways to tune into your body through yoga, meditation or deep breathing.
Before you quit, find out about all of the resources available to you. Support programs can help you keep track of your progress and offer strategies to quit, chances to talk with former smokers who can share what their challenges were and how they conquered them. Think about counseling, if needed.
Keep the 1-800-QUIT-NOW number handy. Call if you need to talk with someone who is trained and ready to help you fight any urges to smoke.
You can do it!
Quitting isn’t easy, and it’s important to celebrate small successes throughout your journey.
If you slip up, it’s OK. Many smokers make several attempts to quit before they do so for good. Smoking can be a powerful addiction, and it can take time and a lot of effort to kick the habit.
Many people who try to quit smoking will take a puff or have one or two cigarettes after quitting (called a slip); others begin to smoke regularly again (called a relapse). Slips and relapses can be common in the early stages of quitting.
Don't be too hard on yourself, and DO try again! Take the time to learn from any setbacks you might face. Take note of what might have pushed you to smoke again (for example, withdrawal symptoms, being in a certain place or situation, stress or weight gain).
It's time to rally some additional support:
If you find yourself getting discouraged, remind yourself that quitting is hard, and think about whether speaking with a counselor would be helpful.