Smoking cigarettes is seen by some to have a certain luxurious flair. It is relaxing and calming, has a touch of glamour and savoir-faire, it’s sociable and trendy – and is awfully bad for your health! In an increasingly health-conscious world, quitting smoking is the new trend, and it can be done in five workable steps.
Step 1. Motivation
Smoking is not good for you. Everybody knows that. Yet die-hard smokers endure, eagerly lighting up when they find an area that permits smoking, or furtively slipping outside despite lousy weather for a quick puff. With all these obstacles, why insist? The answer is nicotine addiction – it’s hard to conquer an addiction. Even when the doctor solemnly informs you that your health is at risk, it is still difficult to stop. Sometimes the doctor’s warning is sufficient, but many smokers struggle with it, trying again and again to quit, with little success. Motivation is the key. Where there are strong reasons to persevere, together with a plan that cuts down on smoking gradually, then there are good chances of succeeding. Barack Obama quit smoking; he did it for his family. That is excellent motivation.
Step 2. Reduction
Any solid plan to quit smoking involves a gradual reduction of the daily intake of nicotine. This is the tried-and-tested path to success. How long the quitting process will take depends on the individual but is usually at least three months. Smokers, especially those who smoke more than a pack a day, should simply reduce the number of daily cigarettes. Just count the cigarettes you smoke, then slowly go to minus-one, minus-two, etc. Even the smallest progress, say two cigarettes that remain in the packet, is a triumph. A plan that works for some is to set little deadlines: minus-three by the end of the month, for example.
Step 3. Plan of action
Smokers in difficulty have usually tried quitting in the past and then gone back to the habit. An old joke says: “What! Me! Yes, I can stop smoking whenever I want! I’ve done it loads of times!” Jokes aside, quitting for good is the objective here, and some deep reflection on why previous attempts to stop have failed can be useful. Trying to stop “cold turkey” sometimes works – for a few days; the sudden withdrawal of the addictive substance can cause discomfort that only a cigarette will relieve! The gradual plan is the best way. Give the body a little less nicotine every day; you can even try to hoodwink the body with the repetition of smoking gestures – fiddle with a pen as if it were a cigarette, or keep an unlit cigarette in your mouth.
Step 4. Temptation
Quitting smoking is a courageous and honorable enterprise; it is to be presumed that the whole family, or those you live with, do not smoke or are quitting along with you, and are there to encourage you every step of the way. This is the perfect scenario: no smokers in the house! At home, you should check the back of every drawer and get rid of all the cigarettes, tobacco, cigarette papers, etc. that you find. Going out with friends when there are smokers in the group can be tricky. Just refrain from automatically following when they all traipse outside for a puff. Many ex-smokers complain that sipping an excellent wine without the accompanying cigarette makes no sense, but times have moved on: health awareness beats smoking pleasure.
Step 5. Medication
NRT, nicotine replacement therapy, provides low-dosage nicotine without the tar and chemicals found in traditional cigarettes. It is a valid aid for quitters and comes as chewing gum, skin patches, sprays, inhalers, tablets, and electronic cigarettes. It is a welcome ally as it permits a gradual reduction of the amount of nicotine in each “dose”. Tests have shown that it is possible to quit smoking using electronic cigarettes and reducing the nicotine intake to zero. There are also many prescription medicines that help people stop smoking. Both Champix and Zyban have proved effective and are available on prescription. For the dedicated quitter, consulting the doctor is an excellent idea. The doctor can provide help, encouragement, personalized therapy, and, importantly, prescribe the appropriate stop smoking medication.