How to Stop Smoking Now: Tips to Save your Life
Big life changes can be tough, even when for your benefit. Starting a new job, moving homes, becoming a parent, and even quitting smoking.
How to stop smoking, like all other big changes, is much more difficult than “deciding to stop.” It requires a certain degree of thought, planning, commitment, and follow-through. Especially if you hope to stop smoking in a more natural way than some methods.
Smoking is related to 480,000 deaths per year in the United States alone. Smoking cigarettes is also the leading cause of preventative disease. It shortens a woman’s lifespan by approximately 11 years (1). This is a major motivator for people who have the desire to quit: it could extend your life.
But we get it: quitting smoking is way easier said than done. Even though you might have great reasons to quit, you are probably left wondering how.
What’s the best way to quit smoking? Unfortunately, there’s no universal answer that works for everyone. Some strategies are scientifically proven to work better than others. On a more personal level, certain people find some strategies more practical than others.
Top Ten Tips on How to Stop Smoking
1 – Make a Plan
The natural first step on how to stop smoking starts with a pen-to-paper-plan. One of the suggestions made by the American Cancer Society is to pick a date – and stick to it. The catch? You must write it down! Take the date and make it visible (2).
This promotes commitment on your part, and also gives you time to prepare and strategize. If this is not your first attempt at quitting, reflect on what worked and what didn’t work during your last attempt (2).
2 – Have a Support Team
Social environment impacts your health (3). Having friends and family in your corner influences your how to stop smoking plan. One study found that smokers who were educated on health and supported by a family member had more success than those who only used health education (4).
On that note, don’t be afraid to set boundaries with the people around you. Let your friends and family know that you plan to stop smoking. Ask them not to smoke around you (1).
3 – Eat your Fruits and Veggies
There are a couple benefits of upping your fruit and vegetable consumption when you quit smoking. First, you replenish vitamins, specifically vitamin C, which depletes by smoking. It also helps to replace the hand to mouth habit. Instead of holding a cigarette, you add something beneficial for you. Start this before you quit. Studies suggest that increased fruit and vegetable consumption precedes smoking cessation (5).
4 – Behavioral Support
Behavioral interventions are one of the best ways to promote your success of how to stop smoking for good. Behavioral support comes in many different forms. These include discussions and activities that promote change techniques. Individual counselling, group counselling, and self-help books are all examples of behavioral interventions (6).
Currently, these interventions are both convenient almost limitless. One recent study found that internet-based behavioral support increased the incidence of cessation by 29% long-term and 19% short-term (7).
5 – Meditation and Mindfulness
Stress can be a huge trigger when it comes to smoking. When stress goes up, self-control goes down. That’s why you need a mindfulness practice. Meditation is one way to help moderate stress levels, and it has also been shown to be effective in reducing smoking. This result was seen after only five hours of meditation training. The conclusion of the study was that brief meditation improves self-control capacity and reduces smoking (8).
Similar to this, mindfulness training also helps with quitting. Participants who received mindfulness training recorded formal and informal practice in a daily diary. The results supported the idea that informal mindfulness practice (affirmations, utilizing techniques, and performing tasks mindfully) helped the participants break the link between craving a cigarette and smoking one (9).
6 – Download an App
Want to quit smoking? Yup, there’s an app for that. Although the research on these effectiveness of these apps is relatively new, some show promise. The apps that utilize cognitive behavioral therapy techniques are the most likely to promote success (10). CBT is often short-term and goal-oriented, which allows users to feel empowered psychologically and help them quit (11).
7 – Nicotine Replacement Therapy
One component of smoking that really makes it difficult to quit is nicotine addiction. Nicotine is found in tobacco and is highly addictive. Nicotine Replacement Therapy, or NRT, combats this.
In fact, the statistics are staggering: one study concluded that NRTs increase the rate of quitting by 50-60% (12). This makes nicotine replacement therapy the leading strategy in terms of smoking cessation success.
Options for NRT include an inhalator, sublingual lozenges or tablets, transdermal patch, and nasal spray. NRTs, pose rare, if any, adverse effects. Since NRTs reduce nicotine cravings and ease withdrawal, they are a valuable tool to promote smoking abstinence (13).
8 – Avoid Trigger Situations
A trigger situation is any situation triggering the desire to smoke. Often environmental, they can also be emotional. Feeling sad, anxious, or lonely might lead you to feel you want to smoke. Talking about your emotions and finding support helps (14). Calling a friend or family member before you decide to light a cigarette really eases the trigger.
Some situations are more pattern-related. Typically a “go hand in hand” type. Common patterns include: drinking alcohol, coffee, after dinner and driving. Keeping your hands busy or replacing the habit with something else (like chewing gum) helps disassociate the two activities. Also, forming new habits helps break pattern-related smoking. For instance, if you associate drinking coffee with smoking a cigarette, try switching your usual coffee for green tea (14).
9 – Take up Yoga
Whether or not being active is already part of your routine, taking up yoga might help you stay clean. One study showed that women who took part in a twice-weekly Vinyasa flow yoga class had reduced anxiety, better perceived health, and higher rates of abstinence compared to their counterparts who were assigned to a general health and wellness program (15).
This works much the way that mindfulness and meditation does to help you quit – by reducing stress participants feel less of an urge to light up. Participants of yoga have also reported higher body awareness, which may help quitters stay motivated (16). If you’re having a particularly hard day on your quitting journey, it might be a good time to sign up for a yoga class.
10 – Try GABA
When it comes to supplements, GABA shows promise. GABA stands for gamma aminobutyric acid, and actually acts as a neurotransmitter in the body. GABA has been found to support the regulation of neurons responsible for mediating nicotine’s reinforcing effect. What this basically does is break the tie of nicotine dependence (17). Don’t forget to consult with your doctor before adding any new supplements to your cessation plan.
What to expect
What are the effects of quitting smoking? There are a few key things you may want to prepare yourself for:
Increased Sense of Taste and Smell
Supported both anecdotally and by research, smoking has been found to increase the risk of taste and smell impairment (18). Basiccally, long-term smoking dulls your sense of taste and smell. One study found that upon smoking cessation, participants rapidly recovered their taste sensitivity.
Nicotine is the addictive substance found in cigarettes. Some people find withdrawal from it harder than others, and nicotine replacement therapy is often used to combat the symptoms. Symptoms of withdrawal include: low mood, irritability, anxiety, poor concentration, and increased hunger (19). For most people, withdrawal compares to the flu and only lasts a few days to a couple of weeks (20).
Dealing with Deficiencies
Unfortunately, long-term smoking often results in nutritional deficiencies. Antioxidants like vitamins A and C are used more rapidly in smokers. Your body uses these antioxidants to try and protect itself from the harmful effects of smoking (oxidative stress). Not only are these antioxidants in high demand, but research shows that smokers tend to eat less nutrient-dense foods (21). Low levels of vitamin A and C result in dry skin, slower healing, and increased susceptibility to illness.
When it comes to quitting smoking, the benefits totally outweigh the effects. That being said, weight gain is a common concern among those considering quitting. The mechanisms behind this aren’t yet understood, however, dietary interventions combat the issue. Nicotine gum (one of the nicotine replacement therapies) has also been shown to delay cessation weight gain. Both the dietary intervention and nicotine gum also support a greater success rate.
- There are more than 7000 chemicals in cigarettes, including: lead, tar, and arsenic. They also contain substances like ammonia, acetone, and carbon monoxide. Also found: formaldehyde, which is used in embalming.
- Smoking is also harmful to your loved ones. Just like smoking, secondhand smoke is also known to cause cancer – the most prevalent being lung cancer (1).
- Although useful when transitioning to complete smoking cessation, it is important to know that electronic cigarettes (also known as e-cigarettes) are not a proven safe alternative to smoking cigarettes. Like cigarettes, most e-cigarettes do contain nicotine, which is highly addictive (1). E-cigarettes contain less toxins than cigarettes, but you can still find harmful substances like heavy metals and some cancer causing agents. Experts do not support e-cigarettes as a suitable smoking cessation tool (22).
- Going “cold turkey” (giving up cigarettes all at once) has been found to be no more or less effective than weaning off of smoking cigarettes (2). Secondhand smoke is also correlated with increased frequency of illness and ear infection in children.
- More Americans are killed every year than alcohol, illegal drugs, car accidents, guns, and HIV combined. Statistically speaking, 1 in 5 deaths in the United States relates to smoking (1).
- Smoking contributes to 80% of lung cancer deaths, the type most likely to lead to death in both men and women. Lung cancer is very difficult to treat, and the best way to protect yourself is quitting.
- Smoking lowers immunity in the mouth specifically, and this potentially leads to periodontal disease and oral cancer (23).
- Depression and smoking go hand-in-hand. Quitting long-term may decrease depressive symptoms (24).
- A “pack a day” smoker spends at least $2000 a year on their habit (25).
- Smoking affects fertility, and women who smoke have a harder time conceiving. Smokers experience ectopic pregnancies, miscarriages, and stillbirths more often.
- Smoking compromises your immunity and promotes chronic inflammation (22)?
Feeling like you still need some help? We would never leave you hanging, so here are some ideas of resources available that you can tap into for further support:
- Join a support group – Nicotine Anonymous and Smokers Anonymous – both groups use support and 12- step programs
- Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW, a free phone-based service offering education and support
- Use SmokefreeTXT, a 24-hour text messaging service that provides advice and encouragement for quitters who want to stay abstinent.
- Contact the American Lung Association, American Heart Association, or the National Cancer Institute for more information on smoking
Whether you’ve tried quitting before or embarking on your first attempt, we hope these tips help you make a plan and stick to it!
How to stop smoking is no joke! Tell us your experience below!