Quitting smoking, especially after being addicted to nicotine for many years is no easy feat. But the list of health risks associated with smoking is lengthy. Smoking cigarettes has been proven to raise the risk for lung disease, diabetes, stroke, cancer, and heart problems. Even knowing just how bad it is for overall health, many smokers struggle to give up the habit — or stick to their goal after giving it a try. “How to quit smoking” is one of the most consistently searched terms on Google. So we wanted to know the consensus best ways to quit smoking after reviewing the suggestions of top experts.
In fact, researchers from the University of Otago found that avoiding smoking and keeping an active social life were the common keys found among New Zealanders who live past 100. The study collected data from 292 centenarians who were free of chronic diseases such as dementia, depression, diabetes, and hypertension. The best ways to quit smoking focus on factors you can control.
Nicotine is the addictive ingredient in cigarettes. It works by activating the brain’s reward system and triggering the release of dopamine. Dopamine can cause feelings of pleasure that will lead a user to return (consciously or subconsciously) to seek out the source and replicate the experience. A nicotine addiction can be even harder to quit, as withdrawal can cause irritability, depression, anxiety, increased appetite and cravings, or poor quality sleep.
Though many want to quit, a report by the CDC notes that more than half of adult cigarette smokers report having made a quit attempt in the past year, but fewer than one in ten actually succeed. Although it might take several attempts to quit smoking, there are several methods you can use that increase your chances of success.
StudyFinds has compiled a list of some of the best tips and methodology to quit smoking, whether this is your first time or not. Our list is made up of the five most recommended ways across 10 expert websites. Have you or a loved one quit smoking? Share your tips with our audience in the comments below!
The List: Best Ways To Quit Smoking Most Recommended By Experts
1. Avoid your triggers
Often there are certain activities or routines you might associate with smoking. Identifying these triggers will help you break the cycle. “Maybe you like to have a cigarette with your morning coffee or with a cocktail after work. These activities are considered triggers and it’s important to identify them so you can make a plan to deal with them,” writes Cedars Sinai.
Once you’ve identified your triggers, you can work to actively avoid them. “Find out your triggers and have a plan in place to avoid them or get through them without using tobacco,” says Mayo Clinic. “Don’t set yourself up for a smoking relapse. If you usually smoked while you talked on the phone, for instance, keep a pen and paper nearby to keep busy with doodling rather than smoking.” Replacing one habit with a better one is often easier than leaving a completely empty space in your routine.
2. Set a date to quit
Pick a date within the next few weeks to allow you to prepare your mind and body. Setting a date will give you a concrete goal to work toward. “Plan to completely stop smoking on that quit date,” advises Harvard Health. “Think about what might make it challenging to stop. Be prepared for how you will handle any withdrawal symptoms. Identify what triggers your craving for a cigarette, and have a strategy to avoid or deal with these triggers.”
Make sure you don’t choose a date too far in the future. Setting a date within reach will make your goal more tangible. Start removing all your cigarettes and avoiding triggers ahead of time. “Try not to create a date that’s too far in the future; the sooner you can start, the better,” writes BetterHelp. “You can have some time to prepare since it’s important that you feel ready to quit smoking, as it’s not optimal to keep postponing dates. However, if you delay for too long, you may lose the drive and motivation to quit.
3. Consider nicotine replacement therapy
Many people who are addicted to nicotine experience unpleasant withdrawal symptoms when they try to quit. Nicotine replacement products can help alleviate some of the physical symptoms. “Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) provides a low level of nicotine without the other poisonous chemicals in tobacco smoke,” writes Medical News Today.
“The seven FDA-approved medications include nicotine patches, gum, lozenges, inhaler, and nasal spray as well as varenicline (Chantix) and bupropion (Zyban). Ask your healthcare provider for recommendations,” writes the American Lung Association.
Though nicotine replacements can help you deal with the physical effects of withdrawal, they do not counter negative emotions or stress related to quitting. Some still find it helpful to mitigate the symptoms of transitioning.
4. Seek guidance from a mentor
Often the hardest part about changing a habit can be feeling like you’re alone in your struggle. Seeking a mentor or support from someone who has been in your shoes can help you stay strong in your commitment. “Who knows better what you’re going through and how hard it is than an ex-smoker?” writes Aetna. “Anecdotal evidence suggests that having a smoking “sponsor” with whom to share your experience, progress and setbacks is more effective than getting support from someone who’s never smoked.”
If you can’t find a mentor you know in person, you can also seek support from various online resources. There are support groups online, apps to stop smoking, and even phone hotlines. Online options might help if you prefer more privacy and anonymity for your journey. “The CDC funds a tobacco cessation hotline, 1-800-QUIT-NOW (784-8669), which is free to US residents in all states, plus the District of Columbia, Guam and Puerto Rico, writes CNN. “Callers are connected to coaches who help smokers create a plan to quit and give them advice when facing withdrawals and cravings.”
5. Consider gradually quitting vs going cold turkey
Though most people picture quitting as a black and white instant concept, the reality of fighting an addiction is not so simple. For some, going cold turkey and stopping smoking completely can be extremely difficult and lead to relapse. “Another way is gradual withdrawal – cutting down on the number of cigarettes you smoke a little bit each day,” says American Cancer Society. This way, you slowly reduce the amount of nicotine in your body.”
If you do decide to go cold turkey, keep in mind that this means you won’t be able to use nicotine replacement products to help combat your cravings. “So if you decide to go cold turkey, have a plan to manage your triggers such as having healthy snacks on hand, playing with a stress ball and avoiding friends and family who smoke,” writes Forbes.
- Cedars Sinai
- Mayo Clinic
- Harvard Health
- Medical News Today
- ]American Lung Association
- American Cancer Society
Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations.