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Smoking cessation: Take it one step at a time
Smoking cessation is a challenge. Here's why it matters, what to expect, and how to stick with it.
For most people, smoking cessation is difficult. In fact, quitting smoking might be one of the most challenging things you've ever done - but it's the best way to improve your health.
Considering smoking cessation
If smoking cessation is on your mind, consider this:
* The benefits of smoking cessation are extraordinary. Once you quit smoking, it may be easier to breathe, your sense of taste and smell may improve, and you may even have more energy. Your risk of heart disease, lung disease, stroke and cancer will drop.
* You're not in it alone. Counseling, stop-smoking medications and other types of support have made smoking cessation easier - and more doable - than ever before.
* Previous attempts to quit boost your odds of success. Each time you try to quit smoking, you learn what works and what doesn't - bringing you one step closer to being tobacco-free for good.
If you're thinking about quitting smoking, weigh the pros and cons of smoking cessation. Consider what you like - and don't like - about smoking. Identify reasons you may want to quit, such as improving your health or setting a good example for your children.
It's also a good time to talk to your doctor. Ask about nicotine replacement therapy or other stop-smoking medications. Nicotine patches, nicotine gum and other types of nicotine replacement therapy can help you manage cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Other drugs may be an option, too. Bupropion (Zyban) can help control nicotine cravings. Varenicline (Chantix) can decrease the pleasurable effects of smoking, as well as reduce withdrawal symptoms.
You can also:
* Spread the word. Tell your family, friends and co-workers that you're planning to quit smoking. Ask anyone in your household who smokes to quit with you.
* Make it inconvenient to smoke. Keep your cigarettes in the car when you're in the house or working. Smoke with the "opposite" hand. Buy only one pack of cigarettes at a time. Switch to brands you don't like.
* Cut back. Delay your first cigarette of the day. Smoke only half the cigarette. Trade one smoking break a day for a brisk walk or other physical activity.
* Change your habits. Avoid anything that tempts you to smoke. You might switch to water or soda instead of coffee or alcohol, go places where smoking isn't allowed, or hang out with people who don't smoke.
* Count down to a quit date. Pick a date to quit smoking. Clearly mark it on the calendar. Give yourself a few days or weeks to prepare, but don't postpone the date too far.
* Toss your smoking gear. As your quit date approaches, get rid of your lighters, ashtrays and stashed cigarettes.
* Learn from your mistakes. If you've tried to quit before, think about what went wrong and what you could do differently this time.
Taking the plunge
Once you've decided to quit smoking, focus on your healthier lifestyle. It might help to:
* Take it one day at a time. Don't worry about next week or next month. Focus on today. Every hour without a cigarette brings you one step closer to quitting for good.
* Distract yourself when a craving strikes. When you want to smoke, call a friend, take a brisk walk or run in place. To keep your mouth busy, chew sugarless gum, cinnamon sticks, toothpicks or straws. If you can hold out long enough - usually just a few minutes - the craving will pass.
* Consider treatment options. Remember the medications you discussed with your doctor? Don't be afraid to use them. Experiment until you find which medication - or combination of medications - works best for you.
* Consult a tobacco treatment specialist. Ask your doctor for a referral to a local smoking cessation program or use a telephone-based program. Toll-free tobacco quit lines are available in every state in the United States and many countries throughout the world.
* Join a support group. Meeting with others - either in person or online - who are trying to quit smoking or have successfully quit may give you the motivation you need to achieve and maintain your smoke-free lifestyle.
* Remember why you're quitting. Think of all you'll gain from quitting smoking, such as better odds for a longer, healthier life.
* Celebrate your success. Made it through the day without a cigarette? Treat yourself to a long soak in the tub or your favorite movie. Made it through the week? Count how much you've saved by not buying cigarettes. Use the savings for a special treat or invest the money for the future.
Keeping it up
Once you've stopped smoking, your focus may change to preventing a relapse. Identify what's been helpful so far, and beware of potential problems. If you slip - whether you have one cigarette or you slide back into your old smoking pattern - don't give up. Consider it a learning experience on the path to your smoke-free future. Identify what may have triggered your smoking. Then consider what you learned from the experience, and what you'll do differently next time.