Smoking rates are declining, but there are still people out there who are struggling with how to quit smoking. It’s not as hard as you’ve been led to believe. Dr Joe Kosterich suggests strategies for quitting smoking, including actually wanting to quit, getting organised, enlisting support, and simple changes to help kick a habit.
Smoking rates are declining but there are still people out there who are struggling with how to quit smoking.
The first really important thing to know is that it is not as hard as you’ve been led to believe. Earlier this year a major review was done of about 700 studies of people quitting smoking and what they found was a little bit surprising; they found that over 70% of people who had quit successfully, just quit and went cold turkey… 70%! The other really interesting thing from this major review was that the commonest response from a lot of these people when asked about their experience was that it was not as hard as they thought it was going to be.
Now with that in mind, what are some of the things we need to do to quit smoking? First and foremost is you have to want to do it. It sounds so obvious but you actually have to be wanting to do it, not thinking “I should do it” or, “they told me to do it” or “it’s a good idea to do it”. It’s something you have to want to do.
Assuming that is the case, it’s a little bit of a project. You’re going to make a change in your life and to make any change in your life you need to get organised. So set a date to do it, tell people around you that you’re going to do it and enlist a bit of support. Think about some of the times when you’re most likely to smoke and what you might do in that situation.
For example, some people say they have a cigarette when they have a cup of coffee or when they have a glass of beer. Now those two things are not joined at the hip, they don’t have to go together. So a couple of things to think about: when you have a cup of coffee, make sure your cigarettes are out of reach so you don’t light up reflexively. If you tend to have a drink when you go to the pub, maybe for the first couple of weeks, don’t go to the pub. Or again, just be aware that when you have a beer you don’t have to have a cigarette. Simple things like separating you cigarettes from you matches, means that again you can’t light up reflexively. Simple things make quite a big difference.
People get concerned about putting on weight when they give up smoking. Have a ready supply of things like carrots or celery sticks is a good idea so that if you do get the munchies, rather than chewing on a chocolate bar, chew on a carrot. Have plenty of water around; again if you feel like having something in your hand or in your mouth then have a glass of water.
There are a number of stop smoking aids and different people have different preferences about these. There are nicotine replacement patches that you can get from the chemist and there are chewing gums as well. There are also medications on prescription and that’s something you can chat about with your doctor. All of these things are ‘stop smoking aids’; they will not do it for you but they can assist you. Not everybody is going to need them.
The other really important thing with giving up smoking is that like a lot of things we do in life, it doesn’t always happen the first time. So if you have had a go at quitting smoking and you didn’t succeed, that’s fine; look over what you did. Think about what worked, what didn’t work and then plan for the next time.
It’s said that Thomas Edison had 10,000 goes at inventing the electric light bulb before he finally succeeded. Now it’s pretty unlikely that you’re going to need that number of goes to quit smoking but don’t be discouraged if it hasn’t worked the first time.
So to recap, first and foremost, it can be done and you can do it. You have to want to do it. Quitting smoking is actually not going to be as hard as you think it is and there is a famous saying by Henry Ford, “Whether you believe you can or you can’t, you’re likely to be right.” So if you think you can’t do it, there’s a fair chance that you won’t but if you think you can do it there’s a much higher chance that you will.
Set yourself a little bit of a plan, get yourself organised and enlist support as you need to. Have a chat with your doctor and consider whether any of the stop smoking aids are likely to be of help to you. Smoking rates are declining and in 50 years time, smoking may well be one of the things confined to the dust bins of history. But for today, for those of you who are still smoking and want to quit, you can do it: set yourself a target and go for it.