smokingAll, or nearly all smokers actually want to quit. But it’s not easy. What helps?

One of the little things that helps quitters is setting a quit-date that is 2-6 weeks away so we suggest you think about doing just that sometime soon..

So let’s consider HOW you are going to quit. There are many ways to improve your chances of success .

Replacing Nicotine. The basic idea is to provide nicotine in a gentler more even manner so as to reduce craving but avoid the “buzz” of smoking. In addition, there is no tar and no carbon monoxide (these substances do most of the damage caused by smoking). Options include:

  • Chewing gum
  • Nasal sprays
  • Skin patches
  • Inhalers
  • E-cigarettes

In each case the aim is to gradually reduce the dose used, and then to quit altogether. The time taken to achieve this is very variable and some people actually remain on these nicotine products for years and years (not ideal but still better than smoking).

Using nicotine replacement roughly doubles your chances of successfully quitting.

Reducing the craving. There are non-nicotine options too. Bupropion Hydrochloride (Zyban) is often used to reduce cigarette cravings even though its exact mechanism of action is not understood. Originally used as an antidepressant, it is now exclusively used to aid smokers. You usually start Zyban 2-3 weeks before quitting and can continue for between 3 and 6 months. You can use Zyban and nicotine replacement together.

Using Zyban roughly doubles your chances of successfully quitting.

Getting support. No man is an island. No woman either. When faced with challenges, some support is often very helpful. Quitting is a challenge. There are really three aspects here:

  • Individual support & counselling. This will be especially useful for people who feel they “need” their cigarettes to feel happy, relaxed, and confident, as these deeper issues respond well to individual counselling techniques.
  • Group support. This is a long-established option and is helpful for nearly all smokers trying to quit.
  • Informal support. Simply talking to friends and family about your quitting will create tremendous support and assistance, practically and emotionally. Just talking about it is a powerful ally when you quit.

Support-group members do have more quitting success but the results are quite variable between groups and methods.

Avoiding triggers. You know what this is about. There are times and circumstances when you are more “at risk” of smoking. Triggers include:

  • Waking up
  • The first cup of morning coffee or tea
  • Driving
  • Finishing a meal
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Socialising

This is very individual area and what is important is to identify the most powerful triggers for you and to make plans on handling these. Your plans might need to include simply avoiding the trigger (e.g. not going to parties for the first week or two), changing your routine (e.g. taking a brisk walk first thing in the morning), or creating new habits (e.g. enjoying some quality coffee as an after-meal treat). Some deliberate planning is crucial here (do not get taken by surprise) and a bit of creative thinking helps. 

What about good old-fashioned cold turkey? Well, it can work. Some people do quit this way. But the statistics show that you can at least double your chances of success by using quitting aids as described above and having a plan. Who wouldn’t want this sort of advantage?!