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Smoking: How To Stop

Planning And Preparing For Stopping

Tuesday, April 24, 2012 - 15:20

Contributing Author: Guy Slowik FRCS

You must be prepared to work hard at stopping smoking. You will have to plan to give quitting smoking priority over other tasks during the first three to four weeks, when it is most difficult.

Here are the steps to take:

  1. Plan to stop on a particular day. Choose a time when you are not under too much pressure from other tasks and when you can avoid situations that you know will make it more difficult. Don't put it off for too long unless you have to. A week or two is usually sufficient for adequate preparation. If a crucial business or social demand forces you to delay stopping for a month or more, you should in the meantime switch to a lower-tar cigarette. Getting used to it may require persistence for one to two weeks, but it would be a useful first step towards stopping.
  2. Make plans to keep away from smokers and other tempting situations after you have stopped. You may have to change some of your usual habits and activities for a week or two to avoid temptation; for example, avoiding parties or taking a walk before or after dinner instead of relaxing in a chair.
  3. Decide before your target day for stopping whether you may need nicotine chewing gum or other aids to help you. Set your target day to fit in with this. For example, for nicotine gum you should have a supply ready on your target day.
  4. Plan to stop smoking completely on your target day. Cutting down gradually is less effective. Don't bother to try to cut down just before your target day. It may use up valuable effort and will power that you will need for stopping.
  5. Telling too many people that you are going to stop is not always helpful. To be constantly asked how you are getting along can bring the subject to your mind just when you are learning not to think about it. However, it is advisable to seek support from those at home, and to explain the reason if your difficulties are noticed at work.
  6. Prepare on a small card a list of your reasons for stopping.You may need to have this in your pocket or close at hand if things get difficult and your motivation falters after you have stopped. Some find it useful to use a list or calendar to check off each smoke-free day as progress is made over the first three to four weeks.
  7. On the night before your target day, make sure all cigarettes, ashtrays and lighters are removed from your home, car and office.

When You Are Stopping

On the day you have decided to stop smoking, keep the following in mind:

  • Take it one day at a time. Aim to get through your first day without a cigarette, then the next day, and so on.
  • Stick to your plans for keeping away from temptation and doing different things to take your mind off smoking.
  • If you find it difficult, remember that it will eventually become easy. Think about the positive benefits of stopping. Think, one by one for a while, about the importance of each reason on your prepared list.
  • If someone offers you a cigarette, say "no thanks," quickly and casually, then carry on the conversation on other topics. Mentioning that you have given up smoking opens up the subject for discussion. You need to keep it out of your mind as much as possible.
  • Don't give up trying if you slip up and have a cigarette. Be determined not to have another. You can't afford to slip up too many times. It makes things much harder for you.
  • If you use nicotine gum, remember to chew it slowly at first, especially if you find it unpleasant. It usually takes 2 to 3 days to get used to it. Don't expect it to be like a cigarette. It will not give positive satisfaction, but will help by relieving craving and other withdrawal effects.
  • Don't be discouraged if urges to smoke seem to get stronger for a while after three to four days. The urges sometimes fluctuate at first, but will gradually go away completely, provided you don't give in and smoke.
  • If you have an increase in hunger and an urge to eat more between meals, try fresh or dried fruit rather than sweets and chocolate. Don't worry about your weight or appetite at this stage, if it is difficult to control. Focus all your effort on not smoking.

When You Have Stopped

Once you have stopped smoking, keep the following in mind:

  • Even when you have succeeded and the difficult period is over, you will need to keep up your determination to avoid slipping back to smoking by being careless.
  • Don't ever think you can just try one or two cigarettes on a special occasion. Avoid also the "occasional" cigar.
  • Added vigilance is needed for new situations in which you have not yet learned to cope easily without smoking (for example, while on vacation).
  • Some people have occasional urges to smoke, which seem to come "out of the blue," several months after stopping. They shouldn't discourage you; they are seldom strong and are only a problem if you are careless.
  • Most people are well over the worst at four weeks after stopping. There is no need to slip up after this time, yet so many do. The reason is carelessness and lack of vigilance. When you have stopped, and the hardest time is over, be confident but careful. Also, begin to think how to reward yourself with the money you've saved.

Worries About Weight

Smokers on average weigh about 7 pounds less than nonsmokers do, and after stopping they tend to make up the difference and put on this much. This is partly due to eating more and partly to changes in metabolism. Nicotine has a mildly suppressant effect on appetite, especially the desire for sweet-tasting foods. It also increases the metabolic use of energy, which is the consumption of calories not used for physical exertion. The result is a tendency to gain weight after stopping smoking, despite not eating more.

Worries about weight control deter many from giving up smoking and are also a common motive for smoking in women. However, weight gain after stopping is very varied. For many it is barely detectable, while a few may gain 15 pounds or more. The best approach is to focus on giving up smoking first and to attend to the weight problem, if it occurs, when staying off cigarettes is no longer a problem (six to 12 months after stopping).

Relatively small changes in diet and exercise will, over a few months, eliminate weight gains of six to eight pounds as well as benefiting your health generally. Finally, you should be reassured that the health risks of slightly increased body weight are negligible compared with the major health advantages of stopping smoking.

Smoking: How To Stop