Quitting smoking is one of the most popular New Year’s resolutions. To be successful, experts say you have to be realistic and go in with a plan.
“You’re tackling an addiction, not just a habit,” says Scott McIntosh, associate professor of public health sciences at the University of Rochester Medical Center and director of Center for a Tobacco-Free Finger Lakes. Even if you quit for 24 hours, that’s an accomplishment. By doing that, you’ve doubled your chances of being able to quit for the rest of your life.”
Setting a quit date — like Jan. 1 — is an essential first step. Then, McIntosh says, you need to prepare.
Think about why you want to quit. Do you want to improve your health? Save money? Smell better? Knowing your motivation will help keep you going when the cravings kick in.
Identify your triggers. Triggers can include emotions like stress or boredom and social activities like being out with friends. They can also include everyday activities like driving, watching TV, drinking coffee or seeing other people smoke. If you can’t avoid these situations, come up with ideas for what you can do instead of reaching for a cigarette.
Prepare to fight your cravings. Cravings typically last five to 10 minutes, so line up some ways to get you through. Chew gum or drink more water. Go for a walk or somewhere like a movie theater or store that is smoke-free. If you’re interested in nicotine replacement therapy like lozenges, gum or medications, talk to your doctor or contact the New York State Smokers Quitline at nysmokefree.com or (866) 697-8487.
Clean up. The night before your quit date, wash your clothes, clean your car and get rid of things that remind you of smoking. Throw out cigarettes, cigarette butts, matches and ashtrays, for example.
“Simply hiding them isn’t enough,” McIntosh said. “You can replace them with things like gum or a list of chores that will help you get through your cravings.”
Tell your friends and family. Support from the people who love you can make all the difference.
“You may even want to invite them to quit with you,” McIntosh said. “The more, the merrier.”
Keep trying. Quitting for good often takes many attempts, so don’t give up. Learn from each experience and think about what you can do differently next time to succeed.