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Measuring and Recording
Many quitting programs have an element where where you sit down and quantify the effect that smoking has on your life. For example, you work out how many cigarettes you smoke per day, per week, per year, and how much this costs you. For some smokers this is often their first "reality check".
For instance, if you smoke 20 per day at a cost of $4.95 a pack, then you discover that:
- In a day you spend $4.95 on cigarettes.
- In a week you spend $34.65.
- In a month you spend $148.50.
- In a year you spend $1,806.75.
- In 5 years you spend $9,033.75.
- In 10 years you spend $18,067.50.
Just how much money is smoking costing you?
Some people find it helps to keep a quit journal. You can use it to jot down your plan or little notes to remind you about why you want to quit, and to record snippets of your quitting experience. For example, you may wish to list your triggers and your options for alternative action to avoid taking up smoking again.
You could list what you think will be your biggest challenges, such as keeping the weight off: how might you prepare for and deal with that?
Once you've reached your quit date, use your journal to keep track of how you are doing. How did you deal with those challenges?
Some people find their journal helps them put things in perspective. On bad days things can look much bleaker than they really are. Looking back through the journal you can see that there have been good days too: what was it about them that you can use in the bad days to help you along?
Many countries have "quitlines" where you can call an expert who understands the health effects of smoking, the quitting process, and how difficult it can be to give up.
Knowledge and Information
You may find it helps to stay motivated about quitting to keep up to date with the science surrounding tobacco and smoking. Finding out how other quitters faced and dealt with their challenges can also give you ideas that help you on your own quitting journey.
One resource that offers both these types of information and more is the About.com Smoking Cessation website.
Another resource that may help keep you motivated is the "Within 20 Minutes of Quitting" poster from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The poster, included in the 2004 US Surgeon General's Report, lists the following statements:
- 20 minutes after quitting: your heart rate drops.
- 12 hours after quitting: carbon monoxide in your blood drops to normal.
- 2 weeks to 3 months after quitting: your heart attack risk begins to drop; your lung function begins to improve.
- 1 to 9 months after quitting: your coughing and shortness of breath decrease.
- 1 year after quitting: your added risk of coronary heart disease is half that of a smoker's.
- 5 years after quitting: your stroke risk is reduced to that of a non-smoker's 5 - 15 years after quitting.
- 10 years after quitting: your lung cancer death rate is about half that of a smoker's; your risk of cancers of the mouth, throat, esophagus, bladder, kidney and pancreas decreases.
- 15 years after quitting: your risk of coronary heart disease is back to that of a non-smoker's.
You can also pick up leaflets, books, motivational CDs, and other resources at your doctor's, local clinic, health centre and library.
Recent developments on giving up smoking from MNT news
Behavioral training such as mindfulness meditation may be effective at enhancing self-control toward quitting smoking - even for people who have no desire to give up, say experts.
Although there is still a way to go, a team working on a new type of anti-smoking therapy based on a bacterial enzyme that devours nicotine before it can reach the brain are hopeful of success.
'Do It Yourself' Quit Smoking Kits
There are smoking cessation programs that come in a kit that you can have delivered to your home. In the UK, you can order a Quit Kit from the NHS. When you open the box, it contains materials and resources such as a guide, a route map of your day to day quitting journey, an addiction test, information about nicotine replacement products, calming audio downloads, a stress toy and a tool to help you work out how much money you can save by quitting.
An increasing number of do-it-yourself quit programs are also being offered over the internet. One example from the US is the free to use EX Plan, set up under the National Alliance for Tobacco Cessation. The program, which purports to "show you a whole new way to think about quitting" is based on personal experiences of real ex-smokers and research from the Mayo Clinic. You can explore the site before you sign up and register.
The EXPlan comprises three steps that have to be completed in sequence:
- How to Quit. This is the preparation phase, where you identify your triggers and patterns and "relearn how to handle them" without cigarettes. In this step you also gain knowledge about addiction and how smoking changes the brain, how medications work, and the importance of having a support network. There is also an online EX Community you can link up with.
- Quit Smoking. This is where you set your quit date and put into practice what you learned in step 1.
- Staying Quit. In this final step you learn how to keep on being an ex-smoker, make sure the weight stays off and stack up the rewards and benefits of your non-smoking lifestyle.
Some nicotine replacement product manufacturers also have online programs. After registering, you answer questions about your smoking habits, reasons for quitting, potential barriers to quitting, what challenges you face, and other lifestyle factors. This information is then used to tailor program materials to the individual.
One such example is GlaxoSmithKline's Committed Quitters designed to be used with their nicotine replacement gum, lozenges, and patches. Their program, which incorporates cognitive behavioral techniques, includes a cessation guide, tailored newsletters delivered via the web, and behavioral support messages that arrive by email over a 10-week period.
Registered users also have access to an online library of articles where they can read about the health risks of smoking, common misconceptions about quitting, how to deal with barriers, the financial costs of smoking, tips for planning and alternative activities.
Top Tips to Quit Smoking
Below is a list of ideas to help you quit smoking. This list of tips is adapted from the American Dental Association's Oral Health Topics.
- List your own reasons for quitting.
- Choose a "low stress" time to quit. Set a date and stick to it.
- Build a support network around you. Ask for help from your dentist, doctor, family, friends, work colleagues.
- Use social media as part of your support network - posts informing friends of how your challenge is progressing may help you persevere and stick to your task in a positive way.
- Use medicines that help your body get used to life without nicotine: they can double your chances of quitting for good. Ask your doctor, dentist, pharmacist about them first.
- Seek tobacco-free environments to curb your temptations: eg movies, theatres, libaries, restaurants.
- Plan activities that leave no opportunity for smoking.
- Remove smoking paraphernalia from your home, office and car.
- Anticipate problems and have a realistic plan to deal with challenges (eg if going out with smokers, practise what you are going to say when you refuse a cigarette).
- Exercise: not only can it make you feel better about yourself and your decision to quit, it is hard to smoke when you're cycling, swimming, or jogging.
- Keep your hands occupied. Take up some manual activities: woodworking, gardening, do the housework, keep some needlework or a small book of puzzles or crosswords with you.
- Practise the 4Ds when you feel cravings coming on: Delay (craving will pass in 5 to 10 minutes); Drink water (helps wash toxins from your body, keeps your hands and mouth busy); Distract yourself (keep active, do something else); Deep breathing (inhaling and exhaling deeply is soothing and relaxing).
And finally, the most important tip of all:
Persevere and don't let setbacks get you down. It is like learning to ride a bike: when you fall off, just get back on again and keep trying. There will be bad days, and there will be good days.
Remember, the majority of successful quitters did not stop on their first quit attempt.