Have you been thinking about quitting smoking but not sure you can do it? With a solid plan and a good support system in place, anyone, including you, can successfully quit. Several years ago, e-cigarettes (or vaping) was considered a helpful way to quit smoking, however there is really no safe form of tobacco. Let’s look at the benefits of quitting tobacco products and see what steps you can take to achieve success! 

The Benefits 

You are probably aware of the health benefits such as improved breathing, circulation and decreased cancer risk that are associated with quitting tobacco… but have you also thought that you, your clothes, your car and your house will smell better once you quit? You will be able to tolerate physical activity better! You will also save money on the tobacco products you were buying! Here are some statistics on additional benefits according to the American Heart Association: 

  • In the first 20 minutes, your blood pressure and heart rate drop from the nicotine-induced spikes. 
  • After several days, the carbon monoxide levels in your blood return to normal. 
  • After two weeks, your circulation and lung function begin to improve. 
  • From one to 12 months, clear and deeper breathing gradually returns; you have less coughing and shortness of breath; you regain the ability to cough productively instead of hacking, which cleans your lungs and reduces your risk of infection. 
  • After three to six years: your risk of coronary heart disease is reduced by 50%. 
  • After five to 10 years, your risk of cancer of the mouth, throat and voice box is cut in half. Your risk of stroke also decreases. 
  • After 10 years, your risk of lung cancer drops by 50%. Your risk of cancer of the bladder, esophagus and kidneys also decrease. 
  • After 15 years, your risk of coronary heart disease is almost the same as a non-smoker’s. 

3 Steps to quitting 

  1. Consider your motivation. When preparing to make any lifestyle change, it is important to think about your “why”. Try to come up with 2 or 3 of the top reasons why you want to quit tobacco and write them down. It is helpful to have them written down and somewhere visible (such as taped to your bathroom mirror) to encourage you along your journey.
  2. Make a plan. After writing down your motivation, you will need to create a plan. First, determine what your strategy will be; will you quit “cold-turkey” or will you cut back slowly over time and eventually stop? Next, decide what tools or resources you will use to reach your goal; do you plan to use nicotine replacement or medications or do you prefer more of a behavioral modification approach. (We will discuss tools and resources more below.) Finally, include in your plan how you will avoid temptations and triggers. Do you smoke more when you are stressed? Is it a social behavior you participate in when you are around certain friends or family members? Make sure to plan ahead for how you will cope with stress and avoid situations that may trigger you to smoke. Have healthy snacks available and find activities that you enjoy to fill your time and help avoid temptation.
  3. Set a date. The final step is to set a quit date for when you will stop using tobacco and get rid of all cigarettes, vape, ash trays, etc. on that date. Unless you plan to cut back slowly, set your quit date within the next week… you can do this! If you do plan to slowly reduce your tobacco usage, set an initial date within the next week when you will implement your plan and then a quit date for when you plan to completely stop and then make sure to quit on your quit date!

Support Resources 

  • National Hotlines such as 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669) or www.smokefree.gov can provide information and tools for people seeking to quit along with support for anyone who has recently quit. 
  • Your healthcare provider can be a great source of support and information when quitting tobacco. Schedule an appointment with your medical professional to discuss quitting, especially if you are interested in using medications or nicotine replacement therapy. 
  • Medications. There are several options when it comes to medications to assist you with quitting. Your doctor may prescribe bupropion hydrochloride which is a depression medicine that can also help you quit smoking. Another option is varenicline which is also a prescription medication that can help reduce nicotine cravings. Finally, there are nicotine replacement treatments such as gum, lozenges or patches. While nicotine replacement does not require a prescription, it is still important to discuss these treatments with your healthcare provider prior to starting to make sure they are safe for you. You should not smoke, vape or use any form of tobacco while taking nicotine replacement. 
  • The American Heart Association also has wonderful articles and support resources for people looking to quit. Check out their website here. 
  • Support groups can be helpful to have input from others who are also on a similar journey. Contact your local hospital or health department to ask about local chapters in your area. 
  • Smart Apps. There are many helpful tools for smart devices to help you quit tobacco. Smokefree.gov has an app called quitSTART and there are many others. Just make sure to choose tools that are evidence-based when making your selection. 

Remember you are not alone; there are so many resources available to support you on your quitting journey. To help you get started, check out our related blog “Fighting procrastination and reaching your health goals.