Smokers are more than aware of the health hazards smoking causes. Barely a week goes by without the government or some anti-smoking initiative reminding you that smoking causes high blood pressure, asthma, emphysema, and that it rapidly ages your skin and causes lung cancer.
On top of that, in the UK smoking causes more than 100,000 deaths every year, each cigarette shortens a smoker’s life by 11 minutes, and reduces the average life expectancy by seven to eight years.
Furthermore, the number of people under 70 who die from smoking-related diseases exceeds the total of deaths caused by traffic accidents, drug addiction, AIDS and breast cancer COMBINED.
Smokers, then, are regularly and often reminded of the risks inherent in their predilection for those addictive nicotine sticks.
The biggest dilemma for most smokers, however, is that, although they know it poses endless risks to their health and they should stop, actually quitting is a whole other packet of Marlboros.
If you’re going to quit smoking, the best thing to do is prepare yourself before you stop – and that means getting ready to embrace the big day when you won’t be tempted to open another packet of 20.
A good acronym to begin with is, appropriately enough, START:
S – Set a quit date
T – Tell family, friends and colleagues you intend to quit
A – Think about the challenges you’ll face by quitting
R – Remove all cigarettes and tobacco products from your home, workplace and car
T – Talk to your doctor and get help to quit
Set a quit date
Pick a date within the next two weeks to start your cigarette cessation. Two weeks should give you plenty of time to prepare yourself emotionally and psychologically, whilst at the same time not being sufficiently long enough to dissuade you from actually going ahead and doing it.
You could choose to quit to coincide with a particular date, such as New Year’s Day, a birthday, anniversary, or (appositely enough) World No Tobacco Day (May 31st).
And if you smoke at work, start your cessation on a day off, or at the start of the weekend – that way you’ll already be cigarette-free when you go back.
Let others know you’re quitting
As the old maxim goes: a problem halved is a problem shared. So get the help and support of your friends and family by telling them you’re quitting. If need be, tell them how they can help you in your quest to be cigarette-free. For example:
Ask them to understand the fact your mood and attitude might change whilst you’re going through the often uncomfortable process of cold turkey (although the worst of it usually passes within a couple of weeks).
If a family member or close friend also smokes, ask them to provide some additional, much-needed support by quitting as well. Or if that’s too much to ask, just request they don’t smoke when they’re around you.
If you take any other medicines, tell your doctor you’re quitting, as nicotine can change the way some medicines work and you might need to change your prescriptions after you quit.
There’s plenty of support available for people giving up smoking, as either one-to-one or group sessions. Plus, there are also telephone support and internet chat rooms. In other words, the more support you get, the better you’ll feel, and it will reinforce the supportive reality that you’re not going through it alone.
Anticipate the challenges ahead
Preparing yourself for the challenges that lie ahead in your quest to become cigarette-free is an essential part of getting ready to quit.
Statistically, people who give up smoking are more inclined to go back to it within the first three months. This is the period which will be the most difficult, when temptation will prove extremely hard to resist, and also when you’re feeling most anxious, stressed and down. The best way, then, to confront them head-on is to at least mentally prepare yourself before they happen.
Feelings of withdrawal (the general discomfort of giving up nicotine) are also natural and common, and it’s your body’s way of telling you it’s adjusting to being smoke-free. Over time these feelings will pass.
Remove cigarettes from temptation’s way
Adopting a fresh, cigarette-free mind-set is one thing, but you’ll also need to get rid of anything that might remotely remind you of smoking or threaten to put temptation dangerously within reach. So, how about:
Clear your home, car and workspace. Wash your curtains and clothes, or any anything that might be tainted with the smell of nicotine.
Throw away all your cigarettes, matches, ashtrays and lighters, give them to someone else or donate them to a charity shop – anything to keep tantalising lure of the nicotine stick at bay and furthest from your mind.
It’s common for some smokers to keep a reserve pack of cigarettes just to prove to themselves they have the willpower to say no. Don’t succumb to this self-defeating façade. Having a pack of cigarettes in your pocket will only make it easier to light up again.
Don’t substitute one form of tobacco for another
The general smoker’s conceit is that low tar or light cigarettes are a safer substitute to their full-tar counterparts. Wrong. Tobacco is tobacco and nicotine is nicotine and they’re damaging to your health no matter what their level of potency. The bottom line is that all tobacco products contain harmful chemicals and poisons.
Talk to your GP about quitting
Giving up any form of addiction is never easy. It requires patience, strength, willpower and determination.
But going ‘cold turkey’ isn’t the only choice you have. Your doctor might be able to suggest other ways you can quit, as well as answering any questions you might have and offering advice.
They might be able to recommend certain methods to ease the symptoms of withdrawal, as well as particular medications that you can either purchase yourself (lozenges, gum and patches) or obtain with a prescription (Champix).
Quitting smoking is not easy, but with the right approach, mental attitude and unwavering determination to give up, you can be smoke-free in no time.