Smoking and tobacco use is a major risk factor for many kinds of cancer – including lung cancer and every oral cancer such as mouth, lips, tongue, larynx, sinuses and tonsils. But the addiction to smoking is real – it’s considered one of the most difficult habits to break. Although most people understand many of the health risks associated with smoking, they still find it extremely difficult to quit. Family members of my patients often ask about strategies or classes or medications. Unfortunately, the motivation to quit must come from the smoker themselves, not out of obligation or to please another person.
To quit smoking once and for all, you need a valid reason. This could be a decision you make to better your health overall, or a desire to stop coughing in the morning when you wake up, or to see your granddaughter grow up and participate in her life. This reason is different for every person.
Quitting smoking is hard, and smokers enjoy their smoke breaks. They like drinking and smoking with other smokers. Husbands and wives enjoy sitting on their back deck and smoking together. That’s why asking anyone to quit smoking is really difficult. Like a recovering alcoholic who wouldn’t hang out in a bar at happy hour, giving up smoking means changing the places you go and the things you do.
Anyone who’s quit smoking knows it’s not easy, and there’s no one way to quit. You have to find what works best for you. Here are a few tips that can help make that transition from smoker to non-smoker a little easier.
- Set yourself up for success. That means surrounding yourself with people who understand and support what you’re trying to do. Enlist your friends and family members to help keep you accountable.
- Change your environment. Old habits are hard to break. Limit or avoid altogether the places you usually smoke and find something to hold or do that serves as a distraction when you would normally reach for a cigarette.
- Occupy your brain (and your hands). Sitting still and muscling through a craving isn’t going to work for most people. Some hold toothpicks or pencils in their hands. Use gum to keep your jaw moving. When smoking is your first instinct, take a walk around the block. Exercise has been shown to reduce or alleviate the impulse to smoke when you are in the heat of a craving.
- Remove all forms of temptation. There’s no need to hold onto that last pack of cigarettes. If you’re tempted to smoke, it will be too easy to reach into your desk draw in a moment of weakness. If you have to drive to the store first, you’ll have time to reconsider.
- Use prescription drugs wisely. There’s no medication that will cause you to quit if your mindset hasn’t changed. But when you’ve made a serious commitment to quit, medications are available to help support you and make the transition more manageable.
- Consider a class. Just like group exercise classes that hold you accountable in your weight loss journey or an AA meeting for those struggling with alcohol addiction, it’s better if you don’t do it alone.
CHI Memorial’s Rees Skillern Cancer Institute offers the American Lung Association’s Freedom From Smoking program, ranked one of the most effective programs in the country. CHI Memorial leads the eight-session program that includes step-by-step plans for quitting smoking and teaching evidence-based techniques that can be tailored for each individual. Freedom From Smoking covers every aspect of quitting – including the health benefits of quitting, recognizing triggers, helpful relaxation therapies and an open forum to talk about the stress that quitting can cause.
Are you ready to make that first step and quit smoking for good? Call the Rees Skillern Cancer Institute at (423) 495-7778 today to learn available classes in your area.