How to quit smoking
Last updated 4/3/2008 at Noon
Perhaps the most telling testament to the difficulty of quitting is the number of people who routinely say “I’ve tried to quit smoking more than once.”
In fact, those people are very common, says Michael Fiore, MD, MPH, director of the Center for Tobacco Research and Intervention at the University of Wisconsin.
According to Fiore, the average person who has successfully quit smoking has only done so after five or six failed attempts.
What this underscores is that many smokers are fully aware they need to quit, but the difficulty of quitting can be overwhelming.
However, it’s not impossible, as the more than 40 million ex-smokers in America alone can attest.
A big problem for many smokers trying to quit is handling the craving for nicotine.
Nicotine increases the levels of chemicals in the brain that regulate mood, attention and memory, making it far more difficult to avoid a craving than many people might think.
SmokeFree.gov, an online resource, offers the following tips when trying to quit.
• Replace cigarettes with sugar-free gum or healthy food (carrots, celery or apples, for example) when a nicotine craving hits.
• Learn to relax. Quitting can make a person cranky and restless. In fact, nicotine withdrawal and dependence have been recognized as disorders by the American Psychiatric Association for 20 years. To relax, a person can take 10 slow, deep breaths and hold the last one. Then breathe out slowly and relax all muscles. He should imagine a soothing scene and allow his mind to escape as he concentrates on that scene.
• Leave the room. Merely changing surroundings when a craving hits works for some people. Head outdoors for some fresh air, walk down the hall to a different room or do something different when cravings hit.
• Don’t fall into the “Just one won’t hurt” trap. “Just one” often turns into more than that, as anyone who has tried and failed at quitting before can attest. The problem with the “just one” approach is that it negates all the work a person has done up to that point.
To learn more about quitting smoking, visit http://www.SmokeFree.gov.