How to Quit Smoking

Advice to help you break the habit and stay on track

You already know that smoking has many negative effects on your health. Quitting, however, can be extremely difficult. Whether you’ve started smoking recently or have been smoking for decades, cigarettes have likely become both a physical addition and a psychological, social habit.

This makes quitting difficult on multiple levels. With good planning and perseverance, however, quitting is possible. The right quitting plan is different for everyone, and your doctor is the best person to advise you on the best individualized treatment. These tips are meant as a general guide to help you quit successfully.

Step 1: Make a Plan
Planning ahead can help to make your efforts to quit more effective. First, pick date as your “quit date.” Ideally, choose something 1-3 weeks in the future: enough to give you time to prepare without losing your motivation. In the intervening time, try to taper down your cigarette use.

This will make the symptoms of withdrawal easier to deal with. You should also use this time to assess the nature of your addiction. Think about what factors are linked to your smoking: is it stress related? Do you smoke in certain places or around certain people? Do you smoke after meals? This awareness will help you avoid temptations when possible and steel yourself to deal with them when they occur.

Step 2: Find a Support System
Having a support system can be very helpful when going through the process of quitting. Tell your family and close friends that you’ll be quitting. They will probably be happy for you and more than willing to be supportive throughout the process. Informing others that you’re quitting will also help to hold you accountable.

If you have other friends who smoke, ask if any of them are interested in quitting together. Quitting with a partner can be a great way to have mutual support. The two of you can even find an alternate activity, such as going for walks, to do together at a time when you would usually be smoking.

Step 3: Improve Your Environment
Removing the temptation to smoke from your nearby environment can go a long way to prevent you from reaching for a cigarette when you feel a craving.

Clean out cigarettes and ashtrays from your home, car, and office. Try giving the carpets, upholstery, and drapes a thorough cleaning as well. Getting rid of the smell of smoke can help you to feel like you’re making a fresh start.

Step 4: Cope with Cravings and Withdrawal
One of the most difficult things about quitting is dealing with cravings and nicotine withdrawal. Withdrawal symptoms usually peak a couple of days after you stop smoking.

They differ for everyone, but they will decrease over time. In addition to cravings, withdrawal can cause fatigue, irritability, hunger, and coughing. Make sure to stay hydrated, avoid caffeine in the evening, and stock up on healthy snacks.

Plan out a list of alternate activities for when cravings or stress strike. Walks outside, yoga, working out at the gym, baths, and reading can all help to take your mind off of cravings and relax your body. You may also want to use some form of medication, such as a nicotine patch or nicotine gum. Your doctor can advise you on the best medicine for you and prescribe you something to help you deal with withdrawal while you quit.