A major cause of cancer is tobacco use. This article shares useful tips and techniques to help give up the habit of smoking.
My previous post described the levels of knowledge of a smoker, and how the right knowledge is a prerequisite to motivate someone to give up smoking. But quitting smoking is not easy! Mark Twain supposedly said “Giving up smoking is the easiest thing in the world. I know because I’ve done it thousands of times.”1
Here are the ten tips for smoking cessation I have found most useful in my oncology practice:
- Know your reason: Why are you quitting? Is it so you can live a long and healthy life? Be there for your family and children? Or to become physically fitter and feel more energetic? Look younger? Spend less money (on cigarettes as well as healthcare? Be clear about your reason to quit – and remind yourself often.
- Announce your intention: Let everyone you know (at home, in your workplace, in your social circles) that you are quitting – you are more likely to be committed if you have others’ support and encouragement.
- Set a date: A “cold turkey” approach where you stop completely on a certain date (say a week from today, or your birthday/anniversary) works best. Use the time until that date to prepare mentally.
- Slice your cigarettes into halves: Cut all the cigarettes you have into halves and throw away the halves without the filter. From today until the day you have chosen to quit, smoke only half-cigarettes.
- Get rid of triggers: Get rid of all ashtrays and lighters. If you feel like smoking every time you drink coffee, switch to tea for some time – or drink coffee in places where you cannot light up. For some time, stop meeting friends who smoke. If you smoked at home, rearrange the smoking area so it doesn’t remind you of smoking. Don’t go to the store where you usually buy your cigarettes from. Find ways to avoid anything that makes you feel like smoking.
- Create distractions: Have a list of things to do whenever you feel like having a smoke – chewing gum, exercising, meditating, going for a short walk, listening to your favorite music. Try to do something with your hands to prevent them from reaching for a cigarette – simply holding a glass of water and sipping from it can work wonders. Spend time on hobbies. Think about how you will reward yourself using the money you save on cigarettes!
- Make access difficult: Throw away all your remaining cigarettes on the day you quit. Don’t keep “one for an emergency”. Try to spend time in places where smoking is not possible – at a mall, in a movie theater, in a library, or in a restaurant with no-smoking areas.
- Know that cravings will pass: Cravings in the initial days after you quit can be intense but last only for a short time. Tell yourself to hang on for just ten minutes – you will be surprised how soon the temptation stops. Remember that cravings become less and less as days go by.
- Keep trying: The smoker who manages to quit smoking rarely succeeds the first time – it may take several attempts to successfully quit. An occasional stumble should not discourage you. Try again soon!
- Get help: Almost three-fourths of smokers who give up do so on their own – without medical help or nicotine replacement. For others, psychological interventions, nicotine replacement, and other medications make it easier to quit. Don’t hesitate to seek your doctor’s help if required. Medications should be used under appropriate supervision. The Government of India’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has a very useful Tobacco Cessation Program. One can visit http://www.nhp.gov.in/quit-tobacco for more information, or simply give a missed call on 011-22901701 for registration.
Here’s wishing success to every person trying to quit smoking.