Anyone with half a brain will know that smoking is bad for your health. However even with this knowledge, people continue to smoke. This is because more than a habit, smoking is an addiction. That being said, quitting is better said than done.
Tobacco smoke contains over 4000 different chemicals and at least 50 of these chemicals are known carcinogens. Among these chemicals are acetone, formaldehyde, ammonia, tar, carbon monoxide and nicotine, one of the most addictive chemicals known to man. Smoking starts out as something that’s done to ‘fit in’, and the next thing you know, you’re hooked.
Smoking kills, this is the simple truth. Every year, hundreds of thousands of people die from smoking-related diseases. Smoking also cuts life expectancy by ten years, and in the cases of heart diseases in younger people, three out of four deaths are smoking related.
One simply cannot live a healthy lifestyle without quitting smoking. Smoking is a controllable risk factor in many diseases such as diabetes and heart diseases, and the sooner you quit, the lesser your chances of getting these diseases or contracting complications. As early as 20 minutes after stopping smoking, effects can already be felt as your blood pressure goes back to normal (high blood pressure is a risk factor in many diseases especially diabetes and heart diseases), and within 8 hours of stopping smoking, oxygen levels return to normal. These are short term benefits but if you want longer term benefits to your health, the sooner you quit, the better. It will take up to a year of not smoking to reduce your chance of suffering from coronary heart disease, while it will take up to five years before the risk for heart attacks and stroke are greatly reduced.
Quitting smoking is just not easy, even with the benefits associated with it. In order to quit smoking, a smoker needs to have the right mindset and the proper support in order to succeed.
Quitting cold turkey. This seems to work for most quitters, quitting cold turkey or quitting without any prior preparation. There seems to be that one moment of realization when they just suddenly decide to stop smoking. This method requires a strong willpower and a host of distraction methods. Up to 91% of successful quitters cite this method as the way they quit.
Cutting down on smoking. Some people prefer to cut down on the number of sticks they smoke in a day, setting milestones after every certain number of weeks. For instance, they may gradually move from 10 sticks to five in 2 weeks, eventually lessening it to two sticks after a month. After being used to such few sticks smoked, they may eventually find a way to go without smoking.
Avoiding triggers. The things and habits that are usually associated with smoking are called triggers. Triggers can be anything from coffee, alcohol, after meals, even sex. Avoiding triggers doesn’t mean to avoid doing these things per se, but to re-learn how to enjoy these things without associating them with smoking. For instance, instead of having coffee in the smoking area at work, why not have it at your desk. Instead of having meals al fresco where you can smoke, take your meals indoors. By creating new habits, you may get rid of the old ones associated with smoking.
Focus on the bad things about smoking. We always push the health risks that smoking brings about to the backs of our heads, but it would help to concentrate on the simpler things—such as how your fingers stink of cigarette smoke for hours after smoking. Or concentrate on the smell of stale smoke in a smoker’s mouth while you’re talking to them. Or how bad you feel like in the morning after a night out drinking with the cigarette breath to boot. When you ‘demonize’ smoking, it might be easier to turn away from it.
Use nicotine replacement therapy. For people who are really hooked into the nicotine, nicotine patches, gums or sprays might be the solution. Talk to your healthcare provider about this method.
Group support. You cannot ask everyone to stop smoking on your behalf (well, you could try), but you can ask for some support from them. Let everyone know that you are quitting smoking and that it would help if they kept the temptation away from you. You can also look for support through community groups, or even online.
Give yourself a pat on the back. By acknowledging your milestones and by saying it out loud to anyone who would listen, you give yourself credit and some sort of a reward (in the form of affirmation) for quitting smoking. It could be telling a co-worker that you haven’t smoked in three days, telling your friends that you haven’t had a puff in two weeks, or posting on Facebook that you haven’t smoked in a year.