Making the decision to quit smoking

nastyAccording to the surgeon general, 10 years after a smoker quits, his/her risk of
dying from lung cancer is half that of a person who is still smoking. For anyone
who has tried quitting, 10 years can seem like a lifetime away, but it is important
to remember that after even just minutes of quitting your body begins to restore
itself and puts you on the path to a healthier life.

Only you can make the decision to quit smoking. Find out what is important to
you, what motivates you and then make it happen.

The American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends smokers to set a “quit day.”
Picking a date and marking it on your calendar will give you a commitment or
goal. Here are a few suggestions that the ACS recommends to get you ready for
your “quit day”:

  • Make a plan. Is your plan to quit “cold turkey” or do you think you will need assistance from medication? Do you want to try nicotine replacement therapies such as nicotine gum, patches, nasal spray, inhalers or lozenges? Keep in mind that if you are thinking about using a prescription drug, you will need to talk to your doctor about getting the medication and starting it in time for your quit day. Cessation medications are like shoes! If one doesn’t work, keep trying until you find one that meets your needs.
  • Set up a support system. There are many programs and online resources available that can be your support system. Family and friends are also good choices. Make sure to ask the people around you not to smoke or leave cigarettes around you where you can see them.
  • Get rid of the evidence. Throw away all cigarettes and ashtrays in your home and car or at work.
  • Tell everyone. Tell your friends and family, to give you a sense of accountability.
  • Prepare. Stock up on oral substitutes such as sugarless gum, carrot sticks, hard candy, cinnamon sticks or toothpicks. Also, practice saying, “No, thank you, I don’t smoke.”
  • Avoid temptation. Stay away from people and places that tempt you to smoke.
  • Get active. Try exercising, needlework, hobbies or anything else that will distract you and your hands from the urge to smoke.
  • Reward yourself. If you’re doing well, you deserve a reward. Put the money you were going to spend on tobacco and use it to go out to dinner, buy a book, see a movie or do something you enjoy.

Quitting isn’t easy, so try not to get discouraged. As Mark Twain once said, “Quitting smoking is easy. I’ve done it a thousand times.” Even if you slip or relapse, move forward and keep your eye on your goal.

If you are a smoker and would like to talk to someone about quitting, call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669).

For more information on tobacco cessation, visit massey.vcu.edu/smoking-cessation.htm.

About the author
Linda Hancock, Ph.D., is the director of the Virginia Commonwealth University Wellness Resource Center. She specializes in smoking cessation and leads a campus-wide social marketing campaign to reduce substance abuse.