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It Worked for Me - Tips for Quitting Cigarettes

Updated on September 10, 2011

As a former smoker, I remember what it feels like to have others frown at you because you just had to have that cigarette real quick. Non smokers tend to think of smokers in all sorts of negative ways. They may view them as unmotivated because “they won't just quit already”. They may view them as ignorant, “don't they know they are killing themselves?” Some believe people smoke because they think it makes them look attractive or “cool”. The truth is many smokers know exactly what they are doing to themselves and they really do want to stop for good. They are embarrassed and may try to hide their habit, for fear of what others might say. Many have even tried to quit several times but find that they just can't seem to let go.

I once felt the same way. At one point I was smoking almost two packs a day and tried very hard to keep that fact from those around me. I just didn't want to hear the lecture. I enjoyed them and could do anything I wanted to my body, right? Then I started to notice changes. At 18, 19, 20 years old I should not be tired and out of breath. I wasn't even overweight. My hair became dry and brittle, not soft and thick as it once was. My teeth weren't as white as they used to be. Then the cough started. As the daughter of a woman who has been smoking for over 45 years, I knew that cough anywhere. It was so embarrassing, sometimes just talking to someone would make me burst into a coughing fit and I couldn't help but realize I sounded like an old woman. All the stress on my throat caused my voice to deepen and become hoarse. I found myself constantly having to clear my throat. Then there was the smell. Several family members complained to me that I smelled like an ashtray. I was horrified because I am a very clean person. I hated the smell, it was in my hair, my clothing, my blankets and on my hands. I felt I was drenched in it. My complexion also suffered and the list could go on. All this did not seem to be enough to finally make me kick the habit. I claimed I wasn't addicted and could stop anytime I pleased, but never actually tried.

Keep in mind I was only a smoker for four years but unfortunately I tend to have an addictive personality and did not intend to quit, at least until I had children. That is why those that know me were surprised to hear I had finally had my last cigarette. I did not use any patches or gum or the electronic cigarette although many have great success with those products and I will talk briefly about them at the end. I simply felt that (A.) I was hoping to save money by quitting, not turn to buying something else and (B.) I felt I would have better long term success if I didn't substitute one addiction for another, even temporarily. I wanted to find away to quit without any assistance. Not that there is anything wrong with that. It works better for some but I feel that changing the way you think about something is more powerful. Here are some techniques and tips that I found helpful during the process.

  1. Face what smoking has done or will do to you.

I know, here comes the lecture. But I hate to say, its the truth. Cigarettes are just horrible for you and nothing, no matter how delicious or comforting, is worth it. Is life really so awful that you want to leave this world early? Think about all the negative effects smoking has had on your life or on your health. Think about any changes like those I described above. Write them down if that helps. If you can't think of anything right now or if you recently started smoking, consider these statistics provided by the National Cancer Institute:

  • Cigarette smoking causes an estimated 443,000 deaths each year, including approximately 49,400 deaths due to exposure to secondhand smoke.

  • Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death among both men and women in the United States, and 90 percent of lung cancer deaths among men and approximately 80 percent of lung cancer deaths among women are due to smoking.

  • Smoking causes many other types of cancer, including cancers of the throat, mouth, nasal cavity, esophagus, stomach, pancreas, kidney, bladder, and cervix, and acute myeloid leukemia.

  • People who smoke are up to six times more likely to suffer a heart attack than nonsmokers, and the risk increases with the number of cigarettes smoked. Smoking also causes most cases of chronic lung disease.

Or take a look at this information provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

  • More deaths are caused each year by tobacco use than by all deaths from human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), illegal drug use, alcohol use, motor vehicle injuries, suicides, and murders combined.

Compared with nonsmokers, smoking is estimated to increase the risk of:

  • coronary heart disease by 2 to 4 times,

  • stroke by 2 to 4 times,

  • men developing lung cancer by 23 times,

  • women developing lung cancer by 13 times,and

  • dying from chronic obstructive lung diseases (such as chronic bronchitis and emphysema) by 12 to 13 times.

  • Cigarette smoking causes reduced circulation by narrowing the blood vessels (arteries) and puts smokers at risk of developing peripheral vascular disease (i.e., obstruction of the large arteries in the arms and legs that can cause a range of problems from pain to tissue loss or gangrene).

  • Smoking causes abdominal aortic aneurysm (i.e., a swelling or weakening of the main artery of the body—the aorta—where it runs through the abdomen).

  • Smoking causes lung diseases (e.g., emphysema, bronchitis, chronic airway obstruction) by damaging the airways and alveoli (i.e., small air sacs) of the lungs

I could go on and on but I think you get the picture if you weren't already aware of these facts. Now that that's over, think about all the benefits of eliminating cigarettes from your life. Imagine how much better your life will be with more energy, a better sense of smell and taste, clothes that smell clean and fresh, and better overall health. Also consider those around you such as friends or family members that have to breathe in your secondhand smoke or are just concerned about you. Think about coming home to a house that doesn't smell like an ashtray. You won't have to go stand outside in uncomfortable weather conditions to have that cigarette on your break at work. You no longer have to worry about setting a bad example for your children or younger siblings. In general, you will just feel and look better. Just take a look at this information from the American Cancer Society:

12 hours after quitting – The level of carbon monoxide in your blood will return to normal.

2 weeks to 3 months after quitting – Your circulation improves and lung function increases.

1 to 9 months after quitting – Coughing and shortness of breath decrease; cilia in the lungs start to regain normal function, enabling the lungs to clean themselves of mucus easier and reducing the risk of infection

1 year after quitting – The excess risk of coronary heart disease is 50% less than that of a smoker

5 years after quitting – Risk of cancer in the mouth, throat and bladder are cut in half while the risk of cervical cancer or a stroke becomes the same as a non smoker

10 years after quitting – the risk of lung cancer is half that of a smoker and the risk of cancer of the larynx and pancreas significantly decreases

15 years after quitting – The risk of heart disease is the same as that of a non smoker.

2. Identify Your Reason For Quitting

When you have your list completed, whether it is a mental list or on paper, pick the reasons for quitting that are most important to you personally. Why do you want to quit so bad? Maybe a loved one has really been pushing you to quit. Do it for them. Or better yet, do it for yourself because you're tired of feeling unhealthy and facing the judgmental looks of friends or coworkers. Focus on these reasons because when a craving hits, you must list them in your head and remind yourself why you don't need a cigarette.

3. Switch It Up

You probably have a certain brand or type of cigarettes that you prefer. Maybe you look forward to a certain taste and other cigarettes just aren't as good. If that is the case, I recommend switching brands. Pick something you don't really care for, maybe go for something cheaper to save some cash. I was lucky because my favorite type of cigarette is the flavored clove cigarette which was banned in the United States in 2009. Now the only flavor that is allowed to be sold is menthol, which I can't stand. My brand, Djarum, came out with a clove “cigarillo” (they are labeled as cigars but look like a slightly thicker cigarette) instead, which apparently isn't covered by the law. It is similar in taste and appearance but has tobacco paper and is not nearly as good. So, although I was quite annoyed by the law (and I still believe it to be unnecessary), it did encourage me to quit. Having to smoke something you don't care for as much will help you in the next step.

4. Procrastinate

No, this doesn't mean put off quitting. What I mean is, when you feel like having a cigarette, think of a reason to put it off. Distract yourself with whatever you can think of and tell yourself that when you are done, then you can have your cigarette. If you can, keep putting it off for as long as you can. Remember your personal reasons for quitting. Keep thinking of things that need to get done first, or set a goal time for when you will give in and try to wait as long as you can after you reach your goal time. This will train you to be more disciplined with your addictive side. Also think about what activities you find yourself doing that make you crave a cigarette. For example, I always wanted a cigarette when I was driving, on breaks at work, after an alcoholic beverage or with coffee in the morning. Once you figure out what they are, start denying yourself the next time you do one of them. On your break you might think, “no it looks to hot (or cold) out there I think I will ____ instead.” Try to think of an alternative activity such as reading a book and try to think of a positive effect this choice will have. For example, when I would drive home I would think, I can have a cigarette when I get home if I want, at least now I can focus on the road and not have smoke in my eyes. Once you do this a few times, it becomes easier to deny yourself and you will eventually stop associating the activity with smoking. I recommend you don't set times for smoking. This 4th step has been really helpful for me. I find that this really reduces my cravings throughout the day.

5. Give Up the Excuses

How many times have you thought to yourself “I've had a really bad day, I deserve a cigarette.” I know, I have done it many times. Many smokers crave cigarettes when they are feeling stressed or unhappy because they think it will make them feel better. Or as I stated above you may find yourself thinking “I always have a smoke when I do this, so I can have one now.” Or you might tell yourself “One more cigarette can't hurt anything.” Deep down we know these are just excuses. The key for this technique is getting tough with yourself. Identify your common excuses and when you find yourself thinking of them, deny yourself. Replace that thought with “I don't need one right now.” Remind yourself of the reasons you want to quit.

6. Condition Yourself To Hate Smoking

When you do decide to light up, think of all the reasons you hate cigarettes and smoking. Picture the smoke entering your body and causing harm to your organs. Another habit I got into that helped with this was only smoking half of a cigarette. I did this for multiple reasons. One purpose was that I would get my nicotine fix but also denying myself the whole amount. I also didn't want to waste them because they are expensive so the next time I wanted a cigarette I would force myself to finish the other half. That's now two times where I denied myself my usual amount of nicotine, only giving myself just enough to get rid of the craving. An extra benefit of this was that a re-lit cigarette tastes pretty gross, especially if it's been sitting around for a while. This helped to discourage me from smoking.

7. Substitute and Keep At It!

Throw yourself into another activity to focus your attention. For me it was certain video games. I could play World of Warcraft whenever a craving hit and it would distract me for hours. For you, it could be a good book, a favorite TV show or, the best substitute or all, go to the gym and work out! I plan to spend my money that would have been spent on cigarettes and alcohol, on a gym membership instead. Do not substitute with alcohol or other such substances. You're trying to be healthy, remember? You may also have to find another way to cope with stress in your life. Try listening to relaxing music or write in a journal. Perhaps you should try yoga. Or if you are still so stressed out that you can't cope, maybe there is a prescription medication that can help you. Talk to your doctor. Most importantly, keep at it! Gradually reduce the number of cigarettes you have a day. Set up a loose plan such as reducing the number of times you smoke a day by 2-3 for a week and then reducing 2-3 more times the next week. It may take a couple months depending on how much you smoke. It took me about 7- 8 months. I don't recommend quitting cold turkey although some swear it is the best way. Most that try this method end up smoking again. Nicotine is highly addictive and the symptoms of withdrawal can be very unpleasant. My method should allow you to gradually gain control of your addiction and mentally prepare yourself for life without cigarettes.

8. Cleanse Your Life of Tobacco

When you have finally decided you have smoked your last cigarette, remove all traces of tobacco from your home. Clean your home, your laundry, remove ashtrays and all cigarette packs. Try to avoid situations with a lot of smoking going on or maybe ask your smoking friends if they would mind abstaining from it in your presence. This may annoy some people but if they truly cared about you, it should not be an issue. Try not to talk about smoking with people, don't even talk about the fact that you quit unless it's necessary. The less you think about it, the better.

This may not work for everyone. Some people just can't seem to control their inner addict. If this is the case with you you may want to look into some of these other more common methods (nicotine replacement therapy):

The Patch

The patch is a product made by several different companies that gives varying doses of nicotine into the bloodstream through a plaster that adheres to the skin. This helps a smoker deal with withdrawal symptoms but does not get rid of the desire for the act of smoking.

Chewing Gum

Gum such as Nicorette gum, acts the same way as the patch in that it provides a source of nicotine that can be gradually reduced until you are no longer dependent. This is slightly better in that you are actually chewing the gum which is an action that some can substitute for smoking sucessfully.

The Electronic Cigarette

This product looks like a cigarette and you appear to smoke it like a cigarette. It is composed of a heater, battery and a cartridge that contains nicotine and propylene glycol which are both active ingredients in cigarettes. The solution is vaporized and inhaled when a button is pushed and therefore delivers the nicotine without the harmful effects of smoke and chemicals on your body. This sounds great but it is quite possible that a smoker will simply become more addicted to the electronic cigarette than they were with normal cigarettes because the nicotine is more concentrated.  I am not promoting this product, merely informing you that it exists.  Promoting the electronic cigarette is against Hubpages policy.

Also, try quitting with a friend! My boyfriend decided to quit with me and we helped to keep each other on track. We would compare the number of times we smoked and would compliment each other when we went a day with less smoking than usual. In the end, no matter what method you choose, deciding to quit smoking is the right decision. It is the right thing to do for yourself and those around you. Quitting has already changed my life and has given me new ambition to push myself to live healthy. I hope it will do the same for you. Good luck!

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    • tupailiew profile image

      KienChoong, Liew 

      7 years ago from New York

      Hi, Kate. It is a very comprehensive article on smoking. I was a smoker too. My process of quitting smoking was much less torturing...I quit just like that without having any mental and physical struggle. I wrote an article of my quitting experience too. Perhaps we can exchange ideas on that. My hub name is tupailiew.

    • travel_man1971 profile image

      Ireno Alcala 

      8 years ago from Bicol, Philippines

      My father died of lung cancer due to excessive smoking. I'm afraid, I've been affected by its secondary smoke since I was a child, because even at home, he kept on smoking and I can still smell the remnants of nicotine on my clothes and skin during those times.


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