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Stop Smoking

The Process of Quitting Smoking

Why Smoke?

Smokers give several general reasons for smoking. They smoke for:

  • stimulation
  • handling the cigarette
  • relaxation
  • help for tension
  • craving
  • habit

What are your main reasons for smoking? If you smoke for reasons I through 3, then you use cigarettes when you feel good. You will need to find substitutes for cigarettes. Smokers who use cigarettes for reasons 4 through 6 smoke for negative reasons. They are likely to use cigarettes when stressed, angry, or tired. It is important to find new ways to cope with these problem times.

Decide To Quit

Smokers tell us that 50% of the job of quitting smoking is the decision to quit smoking. Think about reasons to smoke, reasons to quit, then write them out. Add to the list for a week. Spend half an hour thinking about whether you want to smoke for the rest of your life or whether you want to quit. If you decide to quit someday in the future, pick a date and stick with it.

Make Changes

In preparation for a quit, begin to change your smoking pattern. Change brands of cigarettes. It is best if you can change to a lower nicotine brand. Change how much you smoke, where, and when you smoke. Scramble your smoking routine-this makes smoking less pleasant.

Keep A Diary

A week before quitting, do a daily diary of your smoking. Record where, when, and why you are smoking.

Begin to think of substitutes you will use as a nonsmoker. Imagine yourself not smoking in that situation in the future.

Think Positive

Project a positive attitude. Tell yourself you can do it this time. Convince yourself that you will succeed. Studies show that smokers who use this mental preparation are more likely to be nonsmokers a year later.

Plan Your Deadline

Prepare for quitting by picking your day. Decide what you will do that day to handle urges to smoke. Wake up a nonsmoker. It's easier than quitting in the middle of the day. Say nice things to yourself. Give yourself a pep talk as needed. Take the day in short spurts. Don't think that you are going to give up something--that's negative thinking. Plan to spend lunch and coffee breaks with nonsmoking friends.

Coping Techniques

Things that help smokers overcome urges for cigarettes are self-talk and activities. Self-talk is telling yourself you are great for making the effort or telling yourself that smoking is not an option, then switching to other thoughts. Activities are related to doing something different. Getting up, walking around, and taking deep breaths are all activities.

Nicotine Replacement

Do you need nicotine gum? It's a good question to ask. Today we can identify smokers who are addicted. They often smoke a pack or more a day, prefer cigarettes with a higher nicotine content, smoke within 30 minutes of arising, smoke a cigarette at least every two hours while awake, and have withdrawal symptoms when smoking is delayed. They also smoke when they have a medical condition that is made worse by continued smoking. Addicted smokers may find nicotine replacement therapy eases their withdrawal symptoms, making it easier to quit cigarettes. Ask your doctor if it might help you.

Learning Process

Quitting smoking is a process. It took a while to learn to smoke; it takes a while to learn not to smoke. Some smokers need to make repeated attempts to quit. Don't ever give up--just persist in cessation efforts until you are successful.

Where Are You In The Six-Step Process Of Quitting?

  • Precontemplation–Not even thinking about quitting. People in this step have never really considered trying to quit. This is a hard group to motivate to quit.
  • Contemplation–These smokers are considering quitting someday. They are waiting for a motivating event to help them find the reasons to quit.
  • Action–In the act of quitting. These smokers have prepared to stop. They have reduced the amount smoked, changed brands, or restricted their smoking. They have considered what to do on the day of quitting and planned for coping strategies to deal with urges to smoke.
  • Maintenance–In this stage, a person has quit smoking but is in the first year of staying quit. After one year off cigarettes, a smoker can claim success at cessation.
  • Relapse–A return to daily smoking after a period of not smoking. First-time quitters are successful 25% of the time; others need to make another attempt. In fact, most smokers need to try to quit at least three times before it works. Said another way, “Practice makes perfect.”
  • Renewed Action–Please note that 75% of smokers will have to pass through this step to become a nonsmoker. The good news is that repeated attempts to quit are worth it because you can learn from past mistakes.

Some Benefits To Quitting

  • Within 20 minutes of the last cigarette–blood pressure drops to normal, pulse rate drops to a normal rate, body temperature of the hands and feet increases to normal.
  • In 8 to 24 hours–carbon monoxide level in blood drops to normal, oxygen level in blood increases to normal, chance of heart attack decreases.
  • In 48 hours–nerve endings start regrowing, and the ability to taste and smell things is enhanced.


It's Better For You

The Surgeon General's Report on Smoking and Health in 1964 concluded that smoking was harmful to one's health. In 1990, the Surgeon General's Report concluded that stopping smoking was beneficial to all smokers, no matter what age or condition of health.

Reviewed: May 31, 2005
Revised:

© 2017 American Association for Respiratory Care