Quitting smoking is one of the most important steps someone can take to protect their lungs, heart and overall health. It’s also one of the most difficult things anyone will ever do, because nicotine is extremely addictive.
Luckily, there are lots of resources, services, and aids that can help smokers kick the habit! While everyone’s journey to stopping smoking may look a little different, there are a few steps that are important for most everyone to follow:
1. Get support
Your healthcare provider can help you come up with a plan to quit smoking that works for you. Some people like Jan Cotton, who has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), are able to quit cold turkey. But this isn't for everyone! Most people need a plan to follow to reduce withdrawal symptoms and increase the chances of success.
In episode 2 of the COPD Podcast, Jan said “I planned the date, and I have not had a cigarette since. I didn't wanna fall out somewhere, Have to be intubated and wake up days later and say what happened. I wanted to do it on my terms.”
Smoking aids– like nicotine gum and patches– can help reduce cigarette cravings. Your pharmacist can help you learn how to take nicotine replacement correctly and answer any questions you have about options covered by your health insurance plan.
There are also plenty of support groups that offer quitters more information and a community of people who are going through the exact same challenges. The National Quitline, 1-800-784-8669 or 1-800-QUIT-NOW, is an excellent free resource that can connect you to help in your area.
If you or someone you love is trying to quit smoking and has lung disease, the COPD Podcast also has an entire episode dedicated to exploring the challenges and resources available to smokers with COPD. You can listen to episode two of the COPD Podcast here.
2. Make a plan
Most people need a plan to quit smoking– here are a few steps to include in yours:
- Set a quit date: Choose a specific date to quit smoking and mark it on your calendar. Setting a target can help you better prepare and follow through with your goals.
- Identify your triggers: What situations, emotions, or people trigger your craving to smoke? Write these triggers down and brainstorm ways that you can avoid or cope with them. For example, if going to a bar with friends makes you reach for a cigarette, try meeting up at a cafe or organizing a group walk instead.
- Replace smoking with healthy habits: You will experience cravings, so think about other activities you can do when the urge to smoke strikes, like chewing gum, taking a walk, or sipping water.
3. Consider medication
Kicking the nicotine habit is challenging, and you don't have to tough it out all on your own!
Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) can help reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms. NRT products can come in gums, lozenges, or patches. Your pharmacist can walk you through your options and help you understand how to take them correctly.
“I would encourage people who decide to use nicotine replacement therapy, products that are available over the counter, to talk to your pharmacist because it does make a difference how you use these and the right dose,” said Parisa "Risa" Vatanka, PharmD, a Pharmacist and Certified Tobacco Treatment Specialist. “Not only is it okay to combine patch plus gum or lozenge, it's recommended because you would want to have the patch that will provide a steady amount of nicotine to keep your withdrawal symptoms at bay while you are developing these new habits of being tobacco free.”
As with all medications, it’s important to use nicotine replacement products correctly. Risa gave an example in episode two of the COPD Podcast.
“I think that often people think, ‘oh, gum. I know how to use gum.’ So they don't really read the package. They just chew it. And then they get hiccups and stomach aches, and they think, ‘oh, I don't like that medicine.’”
Risa went on to explain one method of how gum can be used correctly. “When you're going to use the gum, this nicotine resin, you actually chew it until you have this peppery or tingly feeling. And then you park it in your cheek until the sensation goes away, and then you chew it again, and then you park it maybe on the other side.”
Some people may also benefit from prescription medication, like bupropion and Chantix. Talk to your healthcare provider about your options.
Remember: there is no one-size-fits-all approach to quitting smoking. What works for one person might not work for you– and it may take you more than one attempt to quit for good. Be patient with yourself and use your support network of healthcare providers, friends and family.
If you'd like to learn more about quitting smoking, you can listen to episode two of the COPD Podcast on your favorite podcast player or on healthunmuted.com/copd-podcast.
And a final bonus step: An invitation to share your experience!
If you'd like to be a guest on our upcoming Tobacco Cessation Podcast, we’d love to hear from you! Please let us know by using the contact form here. We'd love to share your knowledge and experience to help others on their own health journeys!