How to quit smoking

Update! Over One Year Quit!

When I originally wrote this hub on How to Quit Smoking, I had already suffered through and abandoned several attempts. I was once quit for all of six months and then started smoking again on a trip to Vegas. So naturally I was quite cynical about the whole matter and this hub reflects that fact.

Now that I have finally quit, I will explain how in a moment, I've decided to leave this document as is -- but with an update at the top. So here it is!

I actually did wind up quitting smoking for good (knock wood!) and it has been over a year since I quit and I rarely have any pangs or craving anymore. I can even hang around with smokers without feeling deprived. I prefer not to, but if I have to it is not a problem. I don't feel compelled to give them dirty looks :)

How I finally ended up quitting smoking is quite unorthodox. In the links below, I've provided the usual options -- the nicotine patches, nicotine gum and other substitutes. Well, I did wind up going with a nicotine substitute, but it wasn't one that was designed for quitting smoking specifically. No, instead I decided to try using nasal snuff for my nicotine fix while quitting smoking. I'd read about nasal snuff online and it sounded interesting and a fairly novel concept for quitting smoking so I went and visited a tobacco shop and picked up a couple of tins of snuff.

Unlike what is commonly called Snuff in the US -- which is used for dipping -- nasal snuff is usually made in Europe, England or India and it is designed to be huffed up the nose. It gives a mild tingly sensation and a nice nicotine hit. The snuff I bought was mentholated, which increase the tingle factor and also reduced my desire to use it constantly.

After about a week of nearly non-stop use of the nasal snuff, without a single cigarette smoked, I found my interest in the snuff sort of just faded away. So I carried it around with me for a couple of months and just used it when I really felt a serious nicotine fit coming on me. It helped keep me from buying cigarettes really well. Then I just stopped using it altogether and the smoking cravings never returned.

I think another big help was I also read the book The Easy Way to Stop Smoking. The book claims that you don't have to "work" at quitting smoking, you can just do it. According to The Easy Way, all you need to do is read the book and by the time you finish the book you'll be quit already. That actually was true for me.

So now, whether it was the nasal snuff or the book or a combination of both, it is really hard to say -- but at any rate, I'm quit! I quit smoking and now I can smell things again and my hair doesn't stink and I washed all my curtains and all the soft furnishings and the house doesn't smell like smoke anymore either. This is all awesome because you don't realize how badly you REEK until you finally quit and your nose starts to work properly again. I absolutely disgusted myself. But now I feel great. So have fun reading my guide to How to Quit Smoking -- which was written while I was actually still smoking ;)

I am just getting ready for my umpteenth attempt to quit smoking so this is certainly a timely topic request. So let's take a look at some of the current methods available to quit smoking.

Also, I'll apologize upfront for being remarkably pessimistic on this topic. All forms of smoking cessation programs -- whether it be prescription drugs, the patch or cold turkey -- have a low rate of success. Chantix, for example, has a 23% success rate over the course of a year, and that's considered good -- but of course this is also assuming you don't kill yourself while taking it.

Part of the problem is that there's a huge emotional conflict about quitting smoking in the mind's of the average smoker.

If you are anything like me, you really enjoy smoking. You know intellectually that you need to quit for your health's sake or for your family's sake, but there are so many little satisfactions and emotional props provided by nicotine and the very act of lifting a cigarette to your mouth, lighting it and inhaling that acts as a form of seduction. Combine this with the very real physically addictive properties of nicotine and it is easy to see why quitting smoking is so difficult for most people.

All methods of quitting smoking though can be assisted greatly by getting some form of support for whatever method you choose. So whether you quit cold turkey, elect to take an anti-smoking drug or try a nicotine replacement therapy such as the patch or gum, it is important to either seek regular professional counseling, join a peer support group, or at the very least make regular phones calls to the 800 number Support Line run by the drug companies or your local govt or healthcare service. Getting other people to support you in your attempt to kick the nicotine habit will improve your chances of success considerably.

Quitting Smoking Cold Turkey

If you smoke less than a pack a day and don't crave a cigarette the moment you roll out of bed in the morning, quitting cold turkey will probably be the most pain free way to go. You'll have to suffer through three days of nicotine withdrawal, but then you will be done. The trick will be to avoid relapsing.

Some ex-smokers who quit cold turkey will insist that this is the only effective method for all types of smokers, but I know plenty of smokers who quit for a time using the cold turkey approach and then eventually relapsed, myself included.

I was forced to go cold turkey when I had to go into the hospital for a week because of my gallbladder. After I left the hospital, I was off cigarettes for 8 months with few cravings. Then I walked into a Vegas casino. The wall of smoke was just too much.

The Nicotine Patch

Nicotine transdermal patches deliever nicotine to your system through your skin. Basically, you place the patch somewhere on your body (a different location every day) and it will deliver a steady dose of nicotine throughout the day. You're supposed to stay on the patch for roughly 10 weeks and every few weeks you buy the next lower dose.

The tested success rate for the nicotine patch is 7%. That means 7% of smokers who used the patch successfully stayed smoke free for at least six months.

I've tried the nicotine patch myself and lasted about two months. So, not an overall very successful method. But if you add counseling or a support group, your likelihood of success will increase significantly. Of course, counseling or support groups has been shown to increase the efficacy of all methods for quitting smoking.

A couple of other drawbacks of the Patch are that it can get very itchy. On my first attempt with it, I didn't have too many problems. My skin would itch mildy for about 20 minutes or so and then the rest of the day I'd forget I was wearing it. On subsequent attempts, I've had much bigger reactions and won't attempt the patch again because I can't last more than a couple of hours with it on my skin without going insane.

Also, if you are in a particularly humid area, they will fall right off and you won't even realize it. I was using them on vacation in Florida at one point and the air was so wet that the patch would just slide around on my skin, only to eventually fall off.

If you are going to attempt to quit smoking by using the Nicotine patch, my best advice is to make sure you continue using it for as long as the system recommends. I was feeling so great, I decided I didn't need to keep buying it and in hindsight that was a huge mistake.

Nicotine Lozenges and Gum

The big difference between Nicotine Gum/Lozenges and the Nicotine patch is that the gum and/or lozenges provide you that nicotine hit that you'd get from smoking a cigarette. This is the theory anyway.

Personally, I don't find the gum to be anything like a replacement for a cigarette and the psychosocial aspects of my addiction -- enjoying the initial "lighting up", the first drag, exhaling smoke, etc.

Also, the gum tastes disgusting. And I think if you are not a gum chewer anyway, you probably won't want to start now. I have yet to try the lozenges, so if you have an opinion on those, feel free to share!

Major side effect of both the gum and the lozenge is a new addiction -- to the gum or lozenge. While they are definitely safer than smoking cigarettes, they are quite expensive and the gum can lead to gum disease if used for prolonged periods of time.

Prescription Drugs: Chantix

Chantix is an anti-smoking prescription drug made by Pfizer. It is known as Champix in Europe.

Initially prescribed for 12 weeks, you start taking a low dose of it for a week while continuing to smoke. On Day 7, you are on the full dose for your Quit Day. Pfizer studies show a 22% one year success rate, but it should be kept in mind that Pfizer's drug trials for Champix included on going counseling and support as well as the Chantix pill.

Of course, if you watch the news at all, this may be one treatment that is worse than the illness. The FDA is currently investigating whether Chantix is responsible for suicide and highly aggressive behavior among some of its users.

Prescription Drugs: Zyban

Zyban is a drug called Buproprion and it is market as both Zyban and Wellbutrin. Manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline, it started life as an anti-depressant Wellbutrin, but was discovered to help in smoking cessation as well and is now also marketed as an anti-smoking drug under the name Zyban.

Taken for 7 to 12 weeks, Zyban is supposed to help with nicotine cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Like Chantix, you start taking the drug before you actually stop smoking cigarettes in order to build up to the full dosage. Zyban has reported side effects that include decreased libido (common in many anti-depressants) and interrupted sleep patterns.Studies currenty show a 15% success rate after one year.

Get More Help

I should repeat my earlier statement here, because this is an important aspect of quitting smoking successfully.

All forms of smoking cessation are more effective if you receive on-going support or counseling. Basically this means that you should have someone to talk to about your attempt to quit -- whether that is a peer group of other quitters or a professional counseler.

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Comments 8 comments

Misha profile image

Misha 8 years ago from DC Area

Well, if you want my advice - don't bother until you feel you are ready. Then just do it. I quit overnight after about 35 years of smoking about a pack per day. No patches, drugs, support groups - nothing. More than a year passed, I didn't make any attempt to restart :) My wife still smokes by the way...

embitca profile image

embitca 8 years ago from Boston Author

My mother quit cold turkey as well, about as long ago as you did, I think. I have this constant battle in my mind though -- the logical part of me that wants to quit because I'd like to be able to breathe clearly again and the emotional part that is really attached to the experience. Someday hopefully I will actually be ready.

ZEV profile image

ZEV 8 years ago from Way Out West

It took me two years of using the patch, but it finally took hold. The thing I didn't do was give up. You have to be ready mentally to quit, otherwise it doesn't matter what aid you use. All my friends still smoked when I finally quit. Life after smoking is a whole issue in it's self. Lot's of things you have to get use to and stay away from.

Misha profile image

Misha 8 years ago from DC Area

ZEV, you obviously have a different experience than me. What things you have to get used to and what things to stay away from? I can't really recall any, except for now I don't have smoking breaks and weigh about 15 pounds more...

Whitney05 profile image

Whitney05 8 years ago from Georgia

Although, I've never smoked a cigarette, these are great tips. I've heard people still having problems with the patch and the gum, though. But, I guess it's a little trial and error until you find what works for you.

commentonthis7 profile image

commentonthis7 8 years ago

i also quit i did use chantix just for only a month and i not smoke since

monitor profile image

monitor 8 years ago from The world.

Well that's a mountain of help for those wishing to give up. Thank you embitca, I smoked for about 20 years. The last five years real heavy, 30 - 40 a day. Woke up one morning whilst on business and left my smokes in a hotel room. That was 11 years ago and I have never once had a smoke or even a puff since. I do get the occasional pang when I get too close to some second hand smoke but never have givin in. I reckon if I could figure out how I did that I could make a fortune! I really have no idea. Just stopped.

Thanks for your effort here. Great cause.

Your fan.



fucsia profile image

fucsia 5 years ago

I am glad to read that you do not smoke anymore. Whichever way you choose to quit the important thing is to stop! And the more we talk about this problem the more we can help those who are insecure, indecisive, scared, to stop.

Thank you for your useful page.


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