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11 simple tips to help you quit smoking

Last updated on: September 1, 2009 

11 simple tips to help you quit smoking

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More deaths are caused each year by tobacco use than by all deaths from AIDS, illegal drug use, alcohol use, motor vehicle injuries, suicides, and murders combined. Smoking harms not just the smoker, but also family members, coworkers, and others who breathe the smoker's cigarette smoke, called secondhand smoke or passive smoke.

Among infants up to 18 months of age, secondhand smoke is associated with as many as 300,000 cases of bronchitis and pneumonia each year.

Because of the variety of health problems that are linked to smoking, the majority of those people would love to be able to quit. But as with any addictive habit, this is often easier said than done.

People who quit smoking often experience severe withdrawal symptoms (both physical and mental), making it hard for them to stick with their goal of quitting completely.


Photographs: Susana Vera / Reuters
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Why is smoking so addictive?

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Blame nicotine, the main drug in tobacco, for your smoking addiction.

Your brain quickly adapts to nicotine and develops a tolerance for it, meaning you need to smoke more to get the same rush you used to get with just one cigarette. And when you develop a tolerance to a drug, you're usually addicted.

Over time, the brain learns to predict when you are going to smoke a cigarette and releases the 'anti-nicotine' chemicals. These chemicals make you feel depressed and tired, so you think, 'I need a cigarette!'


Photographs: STR New / Reuters
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How do I quit?

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It's never too late to quit smoking and there are many benefits to be gained no matter what age you are when you give up. Here are some quick tips to help you kick the habit:

1. Believe in yourself: Believe that you can quit. Think about some of the most difficult things you have done in your life and realize that you have the guts and determination to quit smoking. It's up to you.

2. Write down why you want to quit: Live longer, feel better, for your family, save money, smell better, find a mate more easily, etc. You know what's bad about smoking and you know what you'll get by quitting. Put it on paper and read it daily.

3. Plan ahead: Plan ahead for situations in which you are likely to be tempted to smoke, such as parties, drinking or going out for coffee. Try to avoid these situations in the early stages of your quitting program, or try sitting in the non-smoking section at restaurants, drinking your coffee standing up or with the other hand, or keeping something in your hand when you're talking on the phone.

4. Cut back on cigarettes gradually: Ways to cut back gradually include: plan how many cigarettes you will smoke each day until your quit date, making the number you smoke smaller each day; buy only one pack at a time; change brands so you don't enjoy smoking as much; give your cigarettes to someone else, so that you have to ask for them each time you want to smoke.

5. Know the triggers: Learn what triggers your desire for a cigarette, such as stress, the end of a meal, arrival at work, entering a bar, etc. Avoid these triggers or if that's impossible, plan alternative ways to deal with the triggers.


Photographs: Charles Platiau / Reuters
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6. Find someone who wants to quit smoking

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Find another smoker who is trying to quit, and help each other with positive words and by lending an ear when quitting becomes difficult. Visit Forums and Chat Room on the internet to find a "quit buddy".

7. Ask your family and friends to support your decision to quit: Ask them to be completely supportive and non-judgmental. Let them know ahead of time that you will probably be irritable and even irrational while you withdraw from your smoking habit.

8. Do Not Skip Meals: Each puff of nicotine was your spoon releasing stored fats and sugars into your bloodstream. It allowed you to skip meals without experiencing wild blood-sugar swing symptoms such as an inability to concentrate or hunger related anxieties. Don't add needless symptoms to withdrawal but instead learn to spread your normal daily calorie intake out more evenly over the entire day. Don't eat more food but less food more often.

9. Drink lots of water: Water is good for you anyway, and most people don't get enough. It will help flush the nicotine and other chemicals out of your body, plus it can help reduce cravings by fulfilling the "oral desires" that you may have.

10. Begin an exercise program: Exercise is simply incompatible with smoking. Exercise relieves stress and helps your body recover from years of damage from cigarettes. If necessary, start slow, with a short walk once or twice per day. Build up to 30 to 40 minutes of rigorous activity, 3 or 4 times per week.

11. Reward Yourself: Set up a plan for your rewards. Definitely reward yourself after the first day, and the second, and the third. Make them good rewards that you'll look forward to: CDs, books, DVDs, T-shirts, shoes, a massage, a bike, a dinner out at your favorite restaurant, a hotel stay, whatever you can afford.

If You Fall, Get Up and Learn From Your Mistakes. Yes, we all fail. That does not mean we are failures, or that we can never succeed. If you fall, it's not the end of the world. Get up, brush yourself off, and try again.


Photographs: Daniel Munoz / Reuters
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