Preparing Yourself to Quit Smoking

It’s no secret that cigarette smoking is harmful to the human body. It’s also rare to come across someone who smokes who hasn’t tried to quit, is trying to quit or plans to quit in the future. In fact the American Cancer Society (ACS) estimates that 70% of people who smoke say they want to quit.

This desire to quit comes with good reason. The benefits of quitting smoking seem almost endless:

  • Cost – someone who smokes 1 pack a day can save more $2000 per year when they quit
  • Lowered risk of tobacco related illnesses, including asthma, COPD, chronic bronchitis, several forms of cancer, heart disease, etc. (quitting smoking can add up to 10 years to someone’s life)
  • More energy
  • Decreasing the emission of second-hand smoke which can harm others (especially children and pets) and the environment
  • Better oral hygiene
  • Lower medical and dental bills
  • Can serve as a healthy role model to children, grandchildren, friends, etc.

The list goes on. Despite these benefits there are still 45 million American adults who smoke. Why? Because quitting smoking is extremely difficult. Perhaps even more difficult than quitting smoking is staying quit.

Most people have heard the Mark Twain quote, “Quitting smoking is easy – I’ve done it a thousand times.”

This statement is profoundly true.

The journey of quitting smoking does not end the day a person stops smoking. It doesn’t end 2 weeks after someone quits, or 2 months, or 2 years. Quitting smoking is a lifelong journey. It’s a very complex battle of physiological, psychological, and social addictions.

However, the intent of this article is not to be discouraging, but encouraging. There is always hope! And despite the difficulties of quitting smoking, more than 48 million Americans have successfully quit!

Research continually shows that when you have a plan and some support, you increase your chances of successfully quitting smoking and staying quit.

In honor of the Great American Smokeout on Thursday, November 20, 2014, here are some practical tips for preparing to quit. 

  1. Make a list of all the reasons you want to quit. Keep it in your pocket, tape it to your bathroom mirror, or place it on the refrigerator. Keep this list close to you as a constant reminder of why you’re choosing to be smoke-free.
  2. Decide on a quit date. This is a very important step for most people. This allows you to pick a concrete date and to prepare each day leading up to it. Choose a date within the next 1-4 weeks.   You want to give yourself enough time to prepare, but not too much time to change your mind. Some people choose special dates such as birthdays, anniversaries or holidays to add special meaning to it.
  3. Make a strategy. Decide whether you want to quit cold turkey or use a medication to help quit. While there’s no magic pill or medication that will force you to quit smoking, the FDA has approved several medications which are designed to decrease nicotine withdrawal. These medications can serve as powerful tools to help you quit. If you’re interested, talk to your doctor or Tobacco Cessation Specialist about what options are available.
  4. Remove ashtrays and cigarettes from your home, car, work, etc. This can be an intimidating process, but it is absolutely necessary! If you keep even one cigarette ‘just in case’, you will likely smoke it. Don’t taunt yourself like that; just get rid of it all.
  5. Stock up on substitutes. Oral substitutes like sugarless gum, cinnamon sticks, mints, hard candy, carrot or celery sticks, straws, etc. can help you transition from the hand-to-mouth habit of smoking a cigarette.
  6. Rethink your routines. Smoking is generally built into a routine, such as morning coffee, after meals, while driving, hanging around certain friends who smoke, etc. Think about changing some of these routines. Drink tea instead of coffee or change the order of your morning routine. Take a different route to work and avoid certain people/situations temporarily if needed. 
  7. Elicit support. Tell your trusted friends and family about your plan to quit and communicate with them how they can help you through this process. Give them warning that over the next several weeks you may be cranky. They will appreciate this forewarning.
  8. Practice saying, “No thank you, I don’t smoke.” Practice this! You cannot live in a bubble the rest of your life. You will likely be offered a cigarette at some point, so be prepared to say no.  You are smoke-free and it is a great thing!

A few tips once your quit day arrives:

  • Stay active – go walking, join a gym, do short bursts of exercise, etc.
  • Partake in new hobbies and spend time with others who don’t smoke
  • Drink lots of water
  • Avoid situations where you know the urge to smoke will be strong
  • Drink less alcohol or avoid it completely
  • Do not smoke.  Not even one puff – you are smoke-free!
For more information about HealthNet’s Tobacco Cessation program, please visit or call a HealthNet location near you! If you’d like to make a donation to help provide nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) to patients who want to quit smoking, please click here.

Post by Stacey Chappell

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