It’s no longer a secret that smoking is bad for you. Smoking indoors was banned on all federal properties starting in 1997, and since then regional and statewide indoor smoking bans in most public establishments have been passed across the U.S over the past few decades.
Efforts to reduce early smoking in teens and young adults have increased over the years as well. In 2019, the legal age for purchasing tobacco products in the U.S. was raised from 18 to 21. Countries like New Zealand have even gone so far as to propose continuously increasing the legal age of smoking in perpetuity in order to prevent future generations from getting hooked.
A lifetime of smoking can lead to numerous serious health problems—cancer, emphysema, stroke, and coronary heart disease, to name just a few. It’s estimated that 16 million Americans currently live with a disease caused by smoking.
It’s never too late to quit.
The good news is that recent studies show that the effects of smoking can be reduced or even reversed by quitting now.
Studies estimate that the risk of coronary heart disease drops by 50% a year after quitting. After five years, a person’s chances of getting a stroke is the same as someone who has never smoked. At the fifteen year mark, a person’s chances of coronary heart disease are equal to that of a non-smoker.
Nicotine is an incredibly addictive chemical, and quitting is easier said than done. The following 5 tips to help you quit smoking can help you kick the habit once and for all.
1. Be strategic.
In order to increase your chances of successfully quitting smoking, you’ll want to choose an ideal time to do so. If you try to kick the habit during an especially stressful time of year—say, the holidays or a busy season at work, you may jeopardize your chances of success. You’ll want to make sure you can focus on getting through the withdrawals without the possibility of being derailed by a stressful situation or environmental triggers.
Think about your lifestyle and how you can work with it to make a positive change by quitting. Write down your steps to success and ways to make each milestone attainable and practical.
2. Get rid of triggers.
Once you’ve committed to quitting and decided on an ideal time, you should remove any and all triggers from your environment. If you smoke at home, in your car, or at work, be sure to remove any packs of cigarettes, ashtrays, wrappers, or objects that remind you of smoking. Deep cleaning or rearranging can also help reset your environment and motivate you to quit. Try lighting candles or eliminating any smoke odors that may be lingering in these areas.
If you’re in the habit of smoking at work, you may want to think about how else to spend the time when you typically take a smoke break. Drink some water, do some light exercise, or read a book, for example.
Avoid drinking for as long as possible while you go through the quitting process–alcohol decreases our inhibitions, reduces problem solving abilities, and makes us more likely to smoke.
3. Tell somebody.
When you decide to quit, tell someone close to you who will support you in your goal. The American Society of Training and Development discovered that people are 65% more likely to achieve a goal after verbally committing to another person.
If your partner or spouse also smokes, ask them to quit, too. You’ll be far more likely to succeed if you commit to quitting together. Hold each other accountable, remove triggers from your environment, and replace old habits with healthier ones.
4. Develop healthy coping mechanisms
Quitting isn’t easy. Withdrawals from nicotine include irritability, insomnia, headaches, and increased appetite. You’ll want to prepare for these symptoms and factor them into your strategy to quit smoking. When the cravings arise, try using the following tactics:
Have a healthy snack
Meditate or engage in breathing exercises
Take a quick walk or do some light exercises
Write in a journal
Remind yourself why you quit
While there are several nicotine alternatives to smoking, like nicotine gum and patches, you should ultimately avoid these products—they’ll prolong the process of ridding your body of nicotine and keep the cravings going.
5. Treat yourself.
Positive reinforcement is one of the most effective ways to change bad habits. Consider setting up small rewards for not smoking. For example, for each day you go without smoking, put a dollar in a jar. At the end of the year you’ll have $365 to use towards a special gift for yourself. You could also calculate how much money you would’ve spent on tobacco and put it aside for a sweet vacation.
Rewarding yourself for good behavior will help you stay motivated in a positive way. Whatever you choose, make sure it’s a healthy substitute—otherwise, you’re simply replacing one bad habit with another.
Quitting smoking now is one of the best things you can do for your health and future. If you feel you need additional outside resources to help you quit smoking, try using a tool such as the CDC quitSTART app or smokefreeTXT to help you stay on track. For more information on how to quit smoking, talk to your doctor or schedule an appointment with a Blue Sky MD Health provider today.