Quit Smoking

10 Simple Tricks That Help Smokers Quit
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It's never easy to quit smoking. If it were, there wouldn't be so many smokers who've "quit" five times yet are still lighting up. But there are tips and tricks proven to make quitting easier, reduce cravings, and prevent relapse. Here are ten simple tricks to help you quit -- for good.

  1. Make a public pledge.
    There's a reason why the American Lung Association, the National Cancer Institute, and many other health organizations say that essential steps to quitting smoking include joining a support group, setting a "quit date," and announcing it. Studies have also found that joining with coworkers in a workplace pledge to quit, or joining a national effort such as the Great American Smokeout, is an effective way to quit.

    Why it works: Public shame and the support of others are powerful motivators. By telling everyone around you that you're quitting, making a public pledge, and enlisting the support of other smokers who make the same commitment, you're boosting your resolve with both forces.

  2. Track your progress on a calendar.
    Post a calendar where you can see it, and mark off each day you've gone without a cigarette. Then reward yourself at the end of each week with something you really want: a new pair of shoes, tickets to a ball game, or some new tunes to listen to. At the end of the third week, do something significant to commemorate the occasion, such as having dinner out or spending a day at the spa.

    Why it works: It takes 21 days for a new thought pattern to become automatic, which is what's required to eliminate a habit, says behavior modification expert Susan Gayle, founder of the New Behavior Institute in New York City. Three weeks without smoking is usually enough to make it stick. And as any smoker or alcoholic who's tried to quit can tell you, the first few days are the hardest. After that, cravings weaken, and the intervals between cravings lengthen, giving smokers longer periods of feeling good.

  3. Sign up for reminder texts.
    A text-to-stop program initiated in Britain this fall was found to have great success; study results published in The Lancet showed smokers who signed up for the text-to-stop trial program, called txt2stop, were twice as likely to quit successfully as those who quit without the reminders. The trend actually started in New Zealand with a campaign called STOMP (stop smoking with mobile phones), which was then modified by the British researchers. The National Cancer Institute just launched its own text-to-quit-smoking program, SmokefreeTXT, with easy online sign-ups.

    Why it works: Staying on track is key to "staying quit," says behavior modification expert Susan Gayle, founder of the New Behavior Institute of New York. Although smokers often start out strongly motivated, it's common for resolve to wane as cravings get stronger. Getting regular messages of support and encouragement reinforces that initial motivation, and then builds on it by making the smoker feel proud of his or her accomplishment up to that point.

    Two factors that make texting programs successful: The messages can be tailored to reflect the issues and obstacles that are biggest for each individual smoker, and the service is private, so smokers can receive the messages in meetings, in transit, or in social situations without others seeing or hearing them.

  4. Jump on the exercise bandwagon. A program that combined counseling to quit with an exercise initiative was much more effective in helping teens quit smoking than just counseling alone, according to a study published in the journal Pediatrics in September 2011.

    Why it works: Research shows that quitting smoking is all about building a sense of control, and exercise has been shown to "build feelings of self-efficacy," the study team concluded. Also, when people begin exercising, they start prioritizing health -- particularly lung health. And exercise releases endorphins, feel-good chemicals in the brain, which can replace the pleasure reinforcers of smoking.

  5. Freshen your mouth with mint.

    We've all seen smokers popping candies in their mouths. Now it turns out there's a good reason: Mint-flavored sweets, such as wintergreen and peppermint, are an effective quit-smoking tool because they freshen the mouth and relieve cravings for the taste of cigarettes. Stash mints everywhere, so they're always handy: in the car, your purse or pocket, in your desk, and around the house.

    Why it works: The cool, tingly feeling of menthol or mint makes a smoker's mouth feel fresh and clean, which tricks the brain into feeling less desire for that hot intake of smoke.

  6. Make a list of triggers and a plan for avoiding them.
    The urge to smoke comes on powerfully in situations where smokers typically indulged, experts say. If you always smoked on your midmorning break, for example, make an alternative plan, such as committing to walking with a partner. If it's going to be hard not to smoke in a particular social situation, such as your weekly poker game, you may actually have to skip that gathering for a month or two until your resistance is cemented, which typically takes three to four weeks at a minimum.

    Identify your "danger moments," whether they're at your local bar or during your favorite TV show, and have a plan in place so you can avoid them entirely or get through them without using tobacco. Don't set yourself up for a smoking relapse. If you usually smoked while you talked on the phone, for instance, keep a pen and paper nearby to occupy yourself with doodling rather than smoking.

    Why it works: Habits are deeply engrained, so you may have to decouple one habit from another in order to quit smoking. Also, it's impossible for the mind to hold two thoughts at once, psychologists say, so if you replace your smoking trigger with an alternative source of pleasure, such as a chatty walk with a friend, a hobby, or a pleasant taste or activity, it's much easier to resist the temptation.

  7. Beat cravings with nicotine-release products.

    These are easier to get than you might think. Some nicotine products, including patches, gums, and lozenges, are now available over the counter, though you may have to ask for them. Nicotine nasal spray and the nicotine inhaler are available with a prescription. Patches and gum come in three different strengths, and it's important to choose the right one. Smokers should start with the strongest amount if they smoke more than 25 cigarettes a day, the weakest version if they smoke fewer than 7 cigarettes a day.

    Why it works: Nicotine replacement therapy (also called nicotine substitutes) is controversial among addiction experts, since the therapies don't necessarily break the physical addiction to smoking, as is often claimed. But they do work to help smokers believe they can quit, which is half the battle. And when combined with counseling, support groups or pledges, and other tools, nicotine substitutes can be useful in overcoming the psychological side of addiction, which is a big part of the equation for many smokers.

  8. Chew gum -- any gum.

    If you want to try nicotine gum, go ahead: It might give you an edge. But experts say it's the act of chewing and the freshening taste that actually do the trick, so any gum should work.

    Why it works: The flavor of the gum keeps the mouth fresh, making smoking less attractive. The act of chewing relieves the desire for oral stimulation and keeps the mouth busy.

  9. Eat a psychedelic fruit salad.

    The stimulation of chewing is one of the best ways to replace the oral fixation of smoking, and choosing fruit adds an additional benefit: The natural chemicals and antioxidants in grapes, blueberries, apples, and other fruits work to relieve cravings, says the New Behavior Institute's addiction expert Susan Gayle.

    Why it works: Dark and brightly colored fruits like grapes, blueberries, kiwi, and melon are among the fruits richest in antioxidants, which are depleted when you smoke. They also have a firm texture that provides more jaw stimulation.

  10. Stay well hydrated.

    One often-overlooked trick to resist and relieve cravings is to slowly drink a big glass or bottle of water. Carry a water bottle with you wherever you go and use this technique in combination with others, such as support messages, to resist the desire to smoke.

    Why it works: The average craving lasts just 15 seconds, says Gayle, so if you can distract yourself for that length of time, you're on the right track. "Envision that the water is washing away the urge to smoke and washing away all toxins from smoking at the same time," Gayle says. "By the time you've finished the glass, you've distracted yourself, and the craving's gone."

Melanie Haiken

Melanie Haiken discovered how important it is to provide accurate, targeted, usable health information to people facing difficult decisions when she was health editor of Parenting magazine. See full bio

about 2 years, said...

what to do ? my husband is not easily swayed and refuses to quit again..he stopped 3 times using Chantix...every time he went back due to us being in an argument...he smells bad and brings smokethru the house as he goes in and out...ADD is an issue too and he will not quit...I cannot stand it..aany ideas

over 2 years, said...

Get real!!!! Stop putting blame and cause to smoking. Not a smoker but have lived long enough to know what matters in taking care of your body, mind and soul.

over 2 years, said...

I wish I could convince my wife o take notice of these pointers. But it is a hopeless effort. I was a smoker but managed to give it away some 23 years ago with the use of nicotine patches. I had a few Psychedelic dreams for a week or so but it was well worth it

almost 4 years, said...

Hi Melanie, Could you tell me the source for the fifth trick about mint? Thanks

about 4 years, said...

All these articles about Quitting smoking were very helpful for me. I don't think they will get through to my wife. in fact she will be very angry I suspect. And will probably smoke more if I bring the matter up. Tobacco is such an insidious drug. I was a smoker and managed to give it up some 20 years ago, Otherwise I would probably have died at least 10 years ago. It is a very difficult message to get through to smokers.

about 4 years, said...

Google "Skull of a Skeleton with Burning Cigarette" by Vincent van Gogh. I saw this in the van Gogh museum in Amsterdam years ago -- I went there to see all the famous things but was most struck by this painting which I'd never seen nor heard of before. Recently I found a little copy of it in a thrift store! I would like to hang it someplace where I see it all the time; unfortunately, it's like my other "artwork"--it's all just WAITING to be hung on the walls because I can't decide what to do with anything---aaarrrggh

about 4 years, said...

I quit smoking 32 years ago at age 31. I started when I was only 15 and by the time I quit I was smoking 2 and a half packs a day. Back then cigarettes were around 50 cents a pack, at the most! I am so thankful there were no nicotine substitutes, because I would probably still be addicted to them. But if they help anyone to quit smoking, I say do whatever works! Why has no one mentioned vaping? I think that method is a lot less toxic than Chantix or nicotine gum, and it's pretty much proven to be more successful to help smokers quit. But then, ti's not FDA approved, and the drug companies are not benefiting from it yet, are they? Just food for thought. I agree with all the tips thus far. I drank lots of water and ate carrots like crazy. I kept pictures of blackened lungs from people who had passed away, and also pink, healthy lungs; kept them by the places where I was most likely to smoke. These pictures were furnished by the American Lung Association, I believe, and were most helpful. I also exercised regularly - extremely helpful. Good luck to those still trying. Quitting was the best gift I ever gave my physical body.

over 4 years, said...

flavored toothpicks (especially cinnamon or mint) help quite a bit, and give you something to put in and out of your mouth.

over 5 years, said...

One of the things I used to quit smoking (over two yrs ago) was a "Dear John" letter to the cigarettes. I wrote the letter listing all the reasons why I was "breaking up with it". Then, whenever I really had the craving, especially that first month, I read the letter and also did a lot of the other suggestions. The letter really worked for me. Try it - It Works!!!

over 5 years, said...

i pray that all people who want to stop smoking STOPS, its a bad thing to carry on your shoulders for as long as i have but i continue to smoke. but i will get it right . I WILL STOP... GOOD LUCK TO ALL WHO ARE TRYING :)

over 5 years, said...

I quit smoking 1 year ago on December 17, 2011. I had a heart attack from smoking which caused a blood clot with 100% blockage in the LAD. I quit using Chantix which is a miracle drug. It does give you vivid dreams but not bad ones. I only used it for 4 weeks but some may use it for 4 mos. I never picked up another cig and I smoked 1.5 packs a day. Thanks to Chantix!! Also I went on Chantix on the web and got their co payment card which cut it down to $70 a month but I was spending $200 a month on cigs. Good luck and please try the Chantix.

over 5 years, said...

I bought those baby Tootsie Rolls for a substitute after trying that nicotine gum that tasted like crap. This was years back. I've heard that the new gum is much better now, but I'm thinking the nastiness probably made me quit faster. I remember It was so expensive that I went through the whole pack because I felt I shouldn't waste it. Back then cigarettes were a little over a buck a pack.

almost 6 years, said...

Although both my parents were smokers, I was thoroughly discouraged at every turn and the message caught on! The idea of spending pocket money on "fags" also lacked appeal. It never took me. For those not so fortunate, I have been given the word that by chewing an apple (readily available surely) which means really chewing to get the apple flavour (the juice in particular) all around the mouth, flushing the taste buds in particular, before swallowing. Try to do this each and every time that craving emerges. Give it a few days into a week or two and the nicotine flavour should be overcome. I note that similar suggestions are already offered, so it should be within most peoples' bounds! Good luck!

almost 6 years, said...

Cinnamon sticks make good substitutes to hold in hand or in mouth. Taking a Tylenol twice a day helps with that first week of "sore lung" when the healing begins.

almost 6 years, said...

I help people give up smoking and have had many, many successes. We call ALL stop! Here below is help for YOU too to join all the ex-smokers! It's the best gift you'll ever give yourself - the gift of LIFE - YOURS!! Start each day with the Quitters Pledge remember? "Today I promise not to smoke any cigarettes, tomorrow - IF I wish - I may do." Renew the pledge every morning on waking. This helps in not making quitting feel as though you're planning something lifelong, it helps trick the mind in taking it all one day at a time. The lifelong part you determine for yourself when you're ready. ***************************************************************************************************** We ALL have it within us to quit and STAY quit, you too! Write down all the reasons why you should quit & display them. I truly believe you CAN succeed if you stay strong and positive! Mainly it's good health you're wishing to regain, savings too! Strive to do both for the rest of your life, it's soo worth it and is the best gift you'll ever give yourself! Below is a little help if you reach sticky times, read through and see how to help yourself. You may miss cigs at first, we've all been there I promise you; the trouble with cigs is that they become to be 'a friend' so to think of quitting is like saying goodbye to that friend, grieving if you like. However, it doesn't take long to know it was a BAD friend and you become so pleased you've left it! Keep reminding yourself about all the money you're saving and the restoration to good health, that'll help so very much! Remember, you're NOT giving up anything! You gain so very much! It may be a little difficult for those first few days, but then as you take control and focus yourself you'll find it's so much easier, that's when you start feeling ecstatic at your achievement. At first you may experience some sleep problems. I did for a while and always woke up terrified that I'd started again! I even felt my fingers to make sure there was no cig between them! What a relief to find it was just a dream. IF you have problems, stick with it and know that it'll soon pass. If it affects you too much then buy some "Kalms", a natural product that helps a lot If you have a smoker's cough then trust me, you will lose that in just a few days, 2 weeks at the most! You may develop a chesty cough (that you've never had before), don't worry as it's your body's way of getting rid of the muck. You may know that all smokers lose the hairs of the respiratory tracts due to smoking, but as soon as we give up, the hairs start to grow back and bit by bit after we get rid of the rubbish it will in time become as though you never smoked. My youngsters and hubby had always begged me to quit, so when I did they were so thrilled! I chose to go cold turkey and have not smoked since Christmas Day 98! That WILL be you some day, go for it!! Now tips with cravings. Drink plenty of water all the time you're quitting! It helps so much when you get cravings and will help flush you through too! It's a greater ally than you'd ever imagine and also fills you up so you don't eat so much! Orange Juice is great for cravings due to the vit C. Try clementines too, it'll give you something to do with your fingers! Whenever you get a craving, go for a brisk walk, or do indoor exercise, even climbing the stairs will help and certainly a good walk will. Eating raw carrots, apples, celery or any fruit too. It'll also help keep any pounds off, do try not to eat chocolate, instead try sour lemons or sucking ice poles! Taking baths/showers as often as you wish will help enormously as a lot of the 'muck' from inside perspires through the skin so we get clean inside as well as out! Relaxation CDs or relaxing music will help whilst lying down on the sofa and imagining you're somewhere beautiful so you can actually see all the wonderful things you'd wish to whilst 'feeling' the warm sun shining on you etc. Clean you teeth often, or put a pea-sized amount of toothpaste in your mouth and swirl it around - who wants to have smokey breath after it's so clean and fresh! All these things make you feel so much cleaner and helps the new you begin....and continue. A biro/pencil is a great finger entertainer and will help from not knowing what to do with your hands/fingers. Doing crosswords (even if you're not a fan) is great as it keeps the mind and hands busy whilst nibbling the pen/pencil. Doing jigsaws is great, DIY as well; even a few keys on a ring - anything that can be played with! The longer you give up for the quicker you 'forget' about the cravings and you'll soon find that when you do get them, they only last seconds! Later, you suddenly realise the craving went without you even realising it!! If it helps, go through all the motions of having a cig, but without resorting to one. Go to the back door, start to puff as you used to with an imaginary cig held between the two fingers. Relax as you slowly inhale and as you exhale, keep it up til you feel better. Anything else you think might help you - try it! All the very best, I do hope for your sake, and the sake of your OH and children that you succeed. You're doing this mostly for YOU, so stick to it and let nothing or no one deter you. Keep strong and make a firm resolve to kick it! MANY best wishes, you CAN do it! All the very best, Sue x

almost 6 years, said...

I started smoking at age 18, started quitting at age 19, quit many, many times (once for nearly 2 years!) and finally quit "for good" at 27; I'm now 65 and still incredibly grateful to have escaped from this terrible addiction. I learned a lot about quitting from doing so much of it, so I offer here a few more "simple tricks" from my own experience. I hope and pray that they may help someone else and I hope that if they do, you'll post a comment here. 1. Wait until you WANT to quit, not just until you WANT to want to quit. This can be accelerated by seeking out photos of lungs of people who've died of emphysema, lung cancer etc., people who are smoking cigarettes through holes in their throats, & so on (hard to believe, but I've seen it. I visited a friend on a pulmonary unit who had a blood clot in his lung; outside the unit were people in wheelchairs actually smoking through their tracheostomies). Frighten yourself. 2. Do not waste money on a hypnotist. 3. Move out if you live with a smoker. Don't move in with another smoker. 4. Get a bad respiratory infection. Maybe you'll be lucky and the doctor will be a non-smoker and advise you not to smoke. Quit while you are still sick. 5. Do NOT leave any cigarettes in your purse, in your house, or in your trash. Flush or grind up in the disposer any leftovers AND BUTTS (this is important) the night before, after you've smoked as many as you can that day and evening and are too tired to stay up and smoke anymore, and then go to bed immediately. 6. The next day, get up and shower, wash your hair, brush and floss your teeth and do not smoke AT ALL, not even ONE TOKE. Just ONE DAY of COMPLETE freedom will prove to you that it CAN BE DONE. If you keep doing this, you will NEVER HAVE TO QUIT SMOKING AGAIN. 7. As soon as possible, take a walk near some newly cut grass. The fragrance is incredible. You'll be startled to realize how much smoking affects your sense of smell (this works even if you are sick). 8. Don't go where people are smoking (later on you "can", but you will not want to. Other people's cigarette smoke becomes offensive after a while, and eventually your lungs will clear up and you'll feel as if you're being poisoned when you inhale their smoke). This is a lot easier to do than it was when I quit in 1974! 9. Don't even CONSIDER dating a smoker. (You won't want to after a while--their clothes smell bad and their breath smells worse.) 10. Do not light or even HOLD anybody else's cigarette or even touch a PACK of cigarettes, open or not. 11. Do not buy cigarettes for anybody, even your BOSS. Just say "no". 12. Finally, do NOT drink alcohol if you don't want to start again. The last time I started again (after two years off it and by then militantly anti-smoking!) I got drunk and apparently bummed a couple of cigarettes and smoked them. But even though I didn't remember doing it at first & I regretted it terribly the next day when I finally did remember it, I was again hooked physically and was back up to two packs a day within a week. (I was only able to quit and stay quit after I also quit drinking entirely.)