Updated: Nov 10, 2021
Most tobacco users know too well the benefits of quitting such as improved energy, healthier skin and most importantly preventing lung cancer, one of the most common and deadliest of cancers. However, it’s not as easy as just stopping. Whether smoking cigarettes, chewing tobacco or vaping, quitting is hard! It will take time and perseverance, but with the right game plan and mind set, it is possible. The Great American Smokeout event on November 18th might be the day you choose to begin a tobacco-free life! You’ll be joining thousands of people across the country in taking an important step toward a healthier life and reducing your cancer risk.
We all agree, there is no one “right way” to quit, but there are some fundamental things needed to be successful - like setting a date, creating a plan, getting prepared and having the right attitude. These will help build the confidence and skills needed to stay tobacco free.
It’s important to set a date and make a strong, personal commitment to quit on that day. Don’t pick a day too far away. It gives you too much time to change your mind. On the other hand, quitting cold turkey today isn’t recommended either. That will leave you without a plan to avoid triggers and no time to gather the needed support. Some recommend a quit date that means something, like an anniversary or birthday. However, keep in mind that for some people, celebrations can be a trigger. Quitting on vacation may sound perfect since there is usually less stress, but it can make things that much harder when you get back to the real world. With that in mind, it would be better to pick a day within the next month that resembles your regular life.
Planning is another essential step to successfully quitting tobacco and will help get your head around quitting. Find your reason to quit, such as wanting more energy, planning a trip without tobacco attachments, or spending money on something besides tobacco. Next, identify your triggers and plan how to avoid or overcome them. Common triggers could be having a cup of coffee, driving, going out drinking or stress. Really think about what you can do to counteract any habits or stressors that make you use. If you smoke while driving, keep sunflower seeds in your car, or create a sing-along playlist to distract you. Finally, if you’re planning to use medication, make sure you have plenty of it on hand. You could also stop by Northeast Colorado Health Department (NCHD) for a free tobacco cessation kit with all sorts of fidget tools and tips to help!
Next build your support team. The worst thing you could do is not tell anyone you are quitting or not ask for their assistance. Getting support from family, friends, coworker and/or doctor will improve your chances of quitting for good, tenfold. Not only can they offer support, encouragement and be a great motivator; they can also be a reason why not to slip up. Talk with them about what you need, such as patience during cravings, taking your all-hours phone calls and making plans to do things that make it harder to use tobacco. Talking to your doctor about tobacco cessation medications can also make quit cravings and withdrawal easier to manage. Even if you’ve tried medication before, consider trying a different option this time. Additionally, support can come from phone counseling services, self-help materials, mobile apps for your cell phone or tablet, or other support services. NCHD also has a list of support programs listed on our website at: https://www.nchd.org/tobacco.
Mentally preparing is one of the most crucial parts of quitting tobacco. While this might sound inflated, hear me out. Only 20% of tobacco use is the physical addiction to nicotine, the rest is mental dependence. Nicotine releases adrenaline into your body causing pleasant feelings and distracts from unpleasant thoughts. Over time, a person becomes physically dependent on and emotionally addicted to nicotine. At first, this physical dependence causes unpleasant withdrawal symptoms, however once those subside, you are left with only the habit and emotional effects of using. So, all those times you used while socializing, taking a break, relieving anxiety or improving concentration, now trigger cravings and make you feel that quitting will make you lose your ability to enjoy life or to cope with certain situations. On the other hand, you are probably relating quitting to feeling pain, misery and sacrifice. This will more than likely lead to failure. Changing your mental approach to quitting will help improve the outcome. Instead of thinking that quitting will the hardest thing you have ever done, accept that it will be uncomfortable for a while, but every day will be easier and, in the end, you will have conquered a habit you hate and is taking away from something you really want! Reminding yourself frequently why you are quitting, replacing cravings with physical activity and talking yourself out of using one minute at a time, are all positive mind games to play.
Quitting is hard, and often takes more than one try. If you slip up, pick yourself back up and think through the circumstances. Understanding why it happened and making a plan for getting past it next time will help. Don't throw in the towel or beat yourself up. Give yourself credit for the work you've done and remember you don’t have to stop smoking in one day. Just start with day one.
For more information and resources go to https://www.nchd.org/tobacco or to learn more about the Great American Smokeout go to https://www.cancer.org/healthy/stay-away-from-tobacco/great-american-smokeout.html