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Strategies To Quit Smoking

Quitting smoking is possible, but it can be hard. Millions of people have successfully quit smoking and remain nonsmokers. Surveys of current adult smokers find that 70 percent say they want to quit.

There are a few ways to quit smoking, including quitting all at once (going "cold turkey") or slowly cutting back your number of cigarettes before quitting completely. Use the method that works best for you. Below are some strategies to help you quit.

Get Ready To Quit

If you want to quit smoking, try to get motivated. Make a list of your reasons for wanting to quit. Write a contract to yourself that outlines your plan for quitting.

If you've tried to quit smoking in the past, think about those attempts. What helped you during that time, and what made it harder?

Know what triggers you to smoke. For example, do you smoke after a meal, while driving, or when you're stressed? Develop a plan to handle each trigger.

Get Support

Set a quit date and let those close to you know about it. Ask your family and friends for support in your effort to quit smoking.

You also can get support from hotlines and Web sites. Examples include
1–800–QUIT–NOW and These resources can help you set up a plan for quitting smoking.

Get Medicine and Use It Correctly

Talk with your doctor and pharmacist about medicines and over-the-counter products that can help you quit smoking. These medicines and products are helpful for many people.

You can buy nicotine gum, patches, and lozenges from a drug store. Other medicines that can help you quit smoking are available by prescription.

Learn New Skills and Behaviors

Try new activities to replace smoking. For example, instead of smoking after a meal, take a brisk walk in your neighborhood or around your office building. Try to be physically active regularly.

Take up knitting, carpentry, or other hobbies and activities that keep your hands busy. Try to avoid other people who smoke. Ask those you can't avoid to respect your efforts to stop smoking and not smoke around you.

Remove cigarettes, ashtrays, and lighters from your home, office, and car. Don't smoke at all—not even one puff. Also, try to avoid alcohol and caffeine. (People who drink alcohol are more likely to start smoking again after quitting.)

Be Prepared for Withdrawal and Relapse

Be prepared for the challenge of withdrawal. Withdrawal symptoms often lessen after only 1 or 2 weeks of not smoking, and each urge to smoke lasts only a few minutes.

You can take steps to cope with withdrawal symptoms. If you feel like smoking, wait a few minutes for the urge to pass. Remind yourself of the benefits of quitting. Don't get overwhelmed—take tasks one step at a time.

If you relapse (slip and smoke after you've quit), consider what caused the slip. Were you stressed out or unprepared for a situation that you associate with smoking? Make a plan to avoid or handle this situation in the future.

Getting frustrated with your slip will only make it harder to quit in the future. Accept that you slipped, learn from the slip, and recommit to quit smoking.

If you start smoking regularly again, don't get discouraged. Instead, find out what you need to do to get back on track so you can meet your goals. Set a new quit date, and ask your family and friends to help you. Most people who smoke make repeated attempts to quit before doing so successfully.

Many smokers gain weight after they quit, but the average weight gain is 10 pounds or less. You can control weight gain with a healthy diet and physical activity. Remember the bright side—food smells and tastes better if you aren't smoking.

For more information about how to quit smoking, go to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute's "Your Guide to a Healthy Heart." Also, go to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Smoking & How to Quit Web page and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Smoking and Tobacco Use Web page.

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December 20, 2011 Last Updated Icon

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