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Quit Smoking

Clarify your Motivation for Quitting:

You want to improve your life and you know that tobacco has robbed you of your stamina. Quitting smoking can give you new energy and a more positive attitude toward life.

These are some things to consider as reasons for quitting smoking:

  • Health issues:

    • Smoking is extremely dangerous to my health or is ruining my health

    • I have lost my sense of smell

    • It bothers me to be dependent on cigarettes

    • Smoking gives me very bad breath

    • I frequently have a sore throat from smoking

    • I would have more energy if I did not smoke

    • I fear that quitting smoking will make me gain weight. Quitting smoking does not make you gain weight. You gain weight by over-eating. The people who gain weight when they quit smoking are those who keep putting food in their mouth instead of cigarettes.

  • Cosmetic issues:

    • My cigarette smoke leaves an unpleasant smell

    • I have nicotine stains on my fingers.

    • I am getting wrinkles from smoking.

    • My teeth are discolored from smoking.

  • Social issues:

    • I am losing contact with my non-smoking friends

    • My second-hand smoke is dangerous to those around me

    • My cigarette smoke bothers other people

    • Sometimes I litter when I discard cigarette butts

  • Financial issues:

    • I spend too much money on cigarettes

    • My life insurance premiums have increased

    • I burned holes in my clothing

    • My curtains need to be replaced because they have turned yellow

Strategies for Quitting:
The ritualized behaviour of smoking addiction has many features in common with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) which is an anxiety disorder in which people have unwanted and repeated thoughts, feelings, ideas, sensations, or behaviours. To quit smoking, you have to solve two problems: 1) you have to find out the psychological reasons why you smoke, and develop methods for dealing with all the aspects of your life so that you are not dependent on tobacco, and 2) you have to conquer your physical addiction to nicotine.

Address the Psychological Issues:
Your main strategy for quitting smoking will be to figure out what to do in all those situations where you smoke now. What are you going to do when you drink a cup of coffee? Just drink coffee. How about after meals or when you feel restless? If you don't have answers to these questions it will be a lot harder to quit smoking. Here are some techniques that will help:

  • Replace the pack of cigarettes with a talisman (e.g., a photo of a loved one) or a souvenir that reminds you of what you want to accomplish.

  • Don't carry matches or a lighter.

  • Avoid situations that you associate with smoking.

  • Keep busy to overcome the urge to smoke.

  • Remember the health risks of smoking.

  • Focus on what you expect to gain by quitting.

  • Breathe deeply to fight off the desire to smoke.

  • Drink plenty of water to remain hydrated.

  • Stay away from places where people smoke to avoid temptation.

  • Tell others about your effort to quit smoking.

  • Ask friends and family for support to help you quit smoking.

Address the physical addiction:

Nicotine is as addictive as many illegal drugs. If you are a heavy smoker quitting suddenly will be very uncomfortable because of the withdrawal symptoms. You will be irritable, you will have headaches, insomnia, chills, and you may feel shaky or nervous. You may also have a dry mouth, feel your heart racing, or break out in a sweat.

Methods to stop smoking:

  • All at once ("cold turkey"): Cold turkey is a food that requires little preparation, so to quit like "cold turkey" means to quit suddenly and without preparation. This method is most effective if you are not a heavy smoker. You can make a resolution to quit smoking when you go on vacation, for example. It will be easier to forget about smoking when you are in a new setting without the usual routine. Just make sure that before you go on vacation you discard all your tobacco, so that when you come back you will not be tempted to re-start. You can also choose the birthday of a loved one as a date to quit. This makes a very nice birthday present for someone who cares about you. 

  • Gradually: You can stretch the time of misery but reduce the degree of suffering by quitting gradually. Set a two-week time frame during which you will reduce tobacco use in half every two days. If you smoke 10 cigarettes per day, smoke only 5 cigarettes for 2 days, then 3 for 2 days, then 2 for 2 days, then 1 for 2 days, and congratulations! You have quit. During the time that you are reducing tobacco use make sure that you are busy and have things to keep you occupied to take your mind away from smoking. Once you have smoked your last cigarette, throw away your cigarettes and replace your pack with your special talisman to remind you of why you stopped smoking. Every time that you subconsciously reach for your cigarettes, you will remember your special reason for quitting. Some additional things that may help you reduce your smoking are:

    • Wait as long as you can before lighting your first cigarette of the day.

    • Try to spend a whole evening without smoking.

    • After meals, keep yourself busy rather than smoke.

    • Keep a written log of your progress. Once you stop smoking, keep a tally of how many cigarettes you have not smoked and how much money you have saved.

  • Using nicotine patches, gums, or lozenges: Some people prefer to quit by using transdermal or oral nicotine products that reduce the cravings for tobacco. The patches work slowly over many hours, whereas gum and lozenges act immediately and enable you to control the dosage, as needed. These products have the advantage of immediately eliminating the harmful smoke from tobacco, but they do not get rid of your addiction to nicotine unless you reduce their use over time. Instead of cigarettes, now you carry a pack of gum or lozenges. At some point you must wean yourself of this chemical dependency using the principles discussed above. The cost of these products is equivalent to a few cartons of cigarettes, but it is certainly worth it if you cannot quit by willpower alone. You can find these products at your local pharmacy, or you can order online.

  • Prescription medications: There are several prescription medicines that reduce the withdrawal symptoms of nicotine addiction or block the stimulatory action of nicotine on the brain. These are some of of the most frequently prescribed medicines to support smoking cessation:

    • Varenicline (Chantix, Champix): Varenicline is a nicotinic receptor partial agonist used to treat smoking addiction. It reduces cravings and decreases the pleasurable effects of cigarettes and other tobacco products. Common side effects include nausea, headache, difficulty sleeping, and abnormal dreams.

    • Bupropion (Wellbutrin, Zyban): is an antidepressant and smoking cessation aid. Although bupropion was initially used and marketed as an antidepressant, it has been found to be an effective aid to stop smoking. Bupropion reduces the severity of nicotine cravings and withdrawal symptoms, but it poses a dose-dependent risk of seizures. Hypertension has also been observed in some patients who use this medication.

    • Clonidine (Catapres): has been mainly prescribed as an antihypertensive agent, but it is also used to ease withdrawal symptoms associated with the long-term use of narcotics, alcohol and nicotine from smoking cigarettes. Clonidine may cause lightheadedness, dizziness, dry mouth, or constipation.

    • Nortriptyline (Sensoval, Aventyl, Pamelor, Norpress): is used to treat major depression, childhood bedwetting, and also as an aid in quitting smoking. The most common side effects include dry mouth, sedation, constipation, and increased appetite. Rapid or irregular heartbeat is an occasional side effect.

  • All of these medicines are usually prescribed together with behaviour modification therapy and counselling support to help stop smoking cigarettes.

  • None of the above. By procrastinating in choosing one of the above methods to quit smoking, you are basically choosing the ultimate alternative — to smoke until you die.  Death is a 100% effective way to stop smoking. You may not necessarily die of cancer or emphysema if you smoke, but the statistics are not in your favour for living a long, healthy life. 

When you have smoked your last cigarette, throw out all your tobacco products in the trash or burn them in a bonfire. Do not give them to another smoker, and least of all to a friend. Discarding your tobacco is a ceremony similar to a funeral that says goodbye to an old way of life and starts you onto a new path. The hardest adjustment will be learning how to handle your relationships with family members and friends who still smoke. By quitting, you will be breaking a bond that you had with them. They will need to learn to respect your need for a smoke-free environment, and this is not easy if you share living accommodations or meet in areas that allow smoking. You can do it!

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