The No-Bull Way To Quit Smoking (What You Need to Know Before You Quit)

 

Quitting Smoking is Damned Hard!

There’s no two ways about it. 

You know you need to quit for your health, lifestyle, and family, but your strong motivation doesn’t mean it’s going to be a walk in the park! 

There are many effective ways to quit smoking, and no one way works for everyone.

To increase your chances of quitting for good, you need to know which evidence-based methods have been proven to increase your odds of success.

 

 

Keep Your Motivation Front of Mind

 

 

Your “Whys”

No matter what method you use to quite smoking, you will need to be rock-solid in your motivation. 

You will need to be laser-focused on your “whys.” 

If you haven’t reached that point yet, the following questions will help you zero in on your reasons.

 

Do You Want to Look, Feel, and Be Healthier? 

(That’s a Rhetorical Question)

 

Consider This:

  • Your chances of having cancer, heart attacks, heart disease, stroke, cataracts, and other diseases will go down.
  • You will be less likely to catch colds or the flu, and will be able to recover quicker if you do get sick.
  • You will breathe easier and cough less.
  • Your blood pressure will go down.
  • Your skin will look healthier and I will look more youthful.
  • Your teeth and fingernails will not be stained.

 

According to the National Institutes of Health, smoking is a major risk factor for coronary heart disease.  They state that:

 

Smoking can damage and tighten blood vessels, lead to unhealthy cholesterol levels, and raise blood pressure. Smoking also can limit how much oxygen reaches the body’s tissues.

 

 

The Gift That Keeps on Giving

 

Speaking of health motivation, this timeline based on information from The American Lung Association and The American Cancer Society shows all the benefits you’ll reap over time from quitting smoking. 

 

After 1 Hour

In as little as 20 minutes after the last cigarette is smoked, the heart rate drops and returns to normal. Blood pressure begins to drop, and circulation may start to improve.

 

After 12 Hours

Cigarettes contain a lot of known toxins including carbon monoxide, a gas present in cigarette smoke.

This gas can be harmful or fatal in high doses and prevents oxygen from entering the lungs and blood. When inhaled in large doses in a short time, suffocation can occur from lack of oxygen.

After just 12 hours without a cigarette, the body cleanses itself of the excess carbon monoxide from the cigarettes. The carbon monoxide level returns to normal, increasing the body’s oxygen levels.

 

After 1 Day

Just 1 day after quitting smoking, the risk of heart attack begins to decrease.

Smoking raises the risk of developing coronary heart disease by lowering good cholesterol, which makes heart-healthy exercise harder to do. Smoking also raises blood pressure and increases blood clots, increasing the risk of stroke.

In as little as 1 day after quitting smoking, a person’s blood pressure begins to drop, decreasing the risk of heart disease from smoking-induced high blood pressure. In this short time, a person’s oxygen levels will have risen, making physical activity and exercise easier to do, promoting heart-healthy habits.

 

After 2 Days

Smoking damages the nerve endings responsible for the senses of smell and taste. In as little as 2 days after quitting, a person may notice a heightened sense of smell and more vivid tastes as these nerves heal.

 

After 3 Days

3 days after quitting smoking, the nicotine levels in a person’s body are depleted. While it is healthier to have no nicotine in the body, this initial depletion can cause nicotine withdrawal. Around 3 days after quitting, most people will experience moodiness and irritability, severe headaches, and cravings as the body readjusts.

 

After 1 Month

In as little as 1 month, a person’s lung function begins to improve. As the lungs heal and lung capacity improves, former smokers may notice less coughing and shortness of breath. Athletic endurance increases and former smokers may notice a renewed ability for cardiovascular activities, such as running and jumping.

 

After 1-3 Months

For the next several months after quitting, circulation continues to improve.

 

After 9 Months

Nine months after quitting, the lungs have significantly healed themselves. The delicate, hair-like structures inside the lungs known as cilia have recovered from the toll cigarette smoke took on them. These structures help push mucus out of the lungs and help fight infections.

Around this time, many former smokers notice a decrease in the frequency of lung infections because the healed cilia can do their job more easily.

 

After 1 Year

 

 

One year after quitting smoking, a person’s risk for coronary heart disease decreases by half. This risk will continue to drop past the 1-year mark.

 

After 5 Years

Cigarettes contain many known toxins that cause the arteries and blood vessels to narrow. These same toxins also increase the likelihood of developing blood clots.

After 5 years without smoking, the body has healed itself enough for the arteries and blood vessels to begin to widen again. This widening means the blood is less likely to clot, lowering the risk of stroke.

The risk of stroke will continue to reduce over the next 10 years as the body heals more and more.

 

After 10 Years

After 10 years, a person’s chances of developing lung cancer and dying from it are roughly cut in half compared with someone who continues to smoke. The likelihood of developing mouth, throat, or pancreatic cancer has significantly reduced.

 

After 15 Years

After 15 years of having quit smoking, the likelihood of developing coronary heart disease is the equivalent of a non-smoker. Similarly, the risk of developing pancreatic cancer has reduced to the same level as a non-smoker.

 

After 20 Years

After 20 years, the risk of death from smoking-related causes, including both lung disease and cancer, drops to the level of a person who has never smoked in their life. Also, the risk of developing pancreatic cancer has reduced to that of someone who has never smoked.

 

 

A Better Lifestyle Awaits

 

 

 

  • You’ll have more money to spend.
  • You can spend more time with family, catch up on work, or dive into my favorite hobby.
  • You won’t have to worry about when you can smoke next or where you can or can’t smoke.
  • Your food will taste better.
  • Your clothes will smell better.
  • You car‚ home‚ and kids won’t smell like smoke.
  • You’ll be able to smell food, flowers, and other things better.

 

A Better Family (and Social) Life

  • You’ll set a great example for your kids; it takes a lot of strength to quit.
  • Your friends, family, co-workers, and other loved ones will be proud of you.
  • You’ll protect your friends and family from the dangers of secondhand smoke.
  • Your kids will be healthier.
  • You’ll have more energy to do the things you love with friends and family.
  • You’ll get healthy to make sure you’re around to share in your family’s special moments.

 

Once you know your reasons for quitting, remind yourself of them every day. 

 

Make a list of all the reasons you want to become smoke free, and keep the list in a place where you will see it often, like your screensaver, your car or where you used to keep your cigarettes.

When you feel the urge to smoke, take a look at the list to remind yourself why you want -no, make that need– to quit.

 

A Little Help Makes a Big Difference

 

 

Nicotine Replacement Therapy

Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) is the most commonly used family of quit smoking medications, and is the method most recommended by physicians. 

Don’t make things harder on yourself by trying to quit cold turkey, and don’t try to reinvent the wheel by using unproven, alternative methods.  

NRT reduces withdrawal feelings by giving you a small controlled amount of nicotine ─ but none of the other dangerous chemicals found in cigarettes. This small amount of nicotine helps satisfy your craving for nicotine and reduces the urge to smoke.  

Doctors and other medical experts think NRT is the one of the most helpful tools smokers can use to quit. Some smokers have mild to moderate side effects. However, research shows that NRT is safe and effective. NRT can be an important part of almost every smoker’s quit smoking strategy. 

NRT comes in a variety of forms that are used in different ways. You can choose which forms you like best. Some NRT products work better than others for some people. Some people might prefer certain NRT products instead of others.

 

A large medical review published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews found that:

 

All forms of nicotine replacement therapy can help people quit smoking, almost doubling long term success rates.  The review of trials found that all forms of NRT made it more likely that a person’s attempt to quit smoking would succeed, [with] … no evidence that one form of NRT is better than any other [and NRT] … works with or without additional counseling.

 

 

The Types of NRT

NRT Types How to Get Them How to Use Them
Patch Over the Counter Place on the skin
Gives a small and steady amount of nicotine
Gum Over the Counter Chew to release nicotine
Chew until you get a tingling feeling, then place between cheek and gums
Lozenge Over the Counter Place in the mouth like hard candy
Releases nicotine as it slowly dissolves in the mouth
Inhaler Prescription Cartridge attached to a mouthpiece
Inhaling through the mouthpiece gives a specific amount of nicotine
Nasal Spray Prescription Pump bottle containing nicotine
Put into nose and spray

 

 

Nicotine Patch

 

 

Example: Habitrol Patches are a consistent bestseller.

 

 

Overview
The nicotine patch is a small, self-adhesive patch that releases a slow, steady amount of nicotine into your body through your skin. You apply a new nicotine patch every day on a hairless area of skin between your waist and neck, such as your upper arm or chest.

 

 

 

 

Pros

 

The nicotine patch:

  • Is available in various doses without a prescription
  • Is easy to use
  • Can control nicotine cravings and withdrawal symptoms for 24 hours at a time
  • Can be used in combination with other quit-smoking aids
  • Can be gradually tapered off as your cravings and withdrawal symptoms decrease

 

Cons

The nicotine patch:

  • Can’t quickly adjust the amount of nicotine you receive if you have sudden cravings or withdrawal symptoms. However, you may be able to use a second quit-smoking medication along with the patch when a craving arises.
  • May cause nausea. A lower-dosage patch may help.
  • May cause skin itching, rash and irritation where it’s applied. To minimize potential skin irritation, avoid putting the patch in the same place more than once every two weeks or so.
  • Can cause sleep disturbances and vivid dreams. Removing the patch at night may help.
  • Must be replaced every 24 hours.

 

Cautions

If you have certain skin conditions, such as eczema or psoriasis, you may more easily develop skin irritation if you use the patch.

 

Timeline

It’s typical to use the nicotine patch for eight to 12 weeks. You may need to use it longer if cravings or withdrawal symptoms continue. Talk to your doctor if you think you need to use it longer.

 

Nicotine Gum

Example: Nicorette Gum is a bestseller with excellent reviews.

 

Nicotine gum contains a small amount of nicotine. The nicotine enters your body as it’s absorbed through the lining of your mouth when you use the gum according to directions.

Nicotine gum is often used in combination with the nicotine patch and other quit-smoking medications. When you first start using nicotine gum, you can use a piece every one to two hours, up to 24 pieces a day.

 

 

 

Nicotine gum is a fast-acting form of replacement. It comes in 2-milligram and 4-milligram strengths; the strength you use will depend on how many cigarettes you smoke per day.

For proper use, you should chew the gum slowly until the taste becomes very strong. Once that happens, rest the gum inside your cheek until the taste fades. Then, chew it again to get the strong taste back, and then rest it inside your cheek again.

One advantage of nicotine gum is that it allows you to control the nicotine dose. You can chew it throughout the day (although you should never chew more than 20 pieces per day). Or, you can chew it when you feel you need it the most – when you have cravings.

You must follow a specific biting technique for nicotine gum to work effectively:

  • To release nicotine from the gum, bite a piece of gum until it has a peppery taste or you notice a tingly sensation in your mouth
  • To let the nicotine absorb, hold the gum between your gumline and cheek until the taste or tingly sensation stops
  • To release more nicotine, bite and hold again
  • Repeat the cycle for about 30 minutes, then discard the gum because all the nicotine in it has been used

 

Pros

Nicotine gum:

  • Is available without a prescription in two doses — 2 milligrams (mg) or 4 mg
  • Can control the sudden nicotine cravings and withdrawal symptoms that you might experience while using other quit-smoking medications

 

Cons

Nicotine gum:

  • Must be used repeatedly throughout the day to control cravings or withdrawal symptoms
  • Can cause side effects such as mouth irritation, nausea, stomach upset, excess saliva and jaw soreness from too much biting

 

Cautions

Nicotine gum can damage or stick to dental appliances.

 

Timeline

Nicotine gum is recommended for up to 12 weeks. You can start by using a piece every hour or two, and then gradually reduce the frequency as cravings and withdrawal symptoms decrease.

 

Nicotine Lozenges

 

 

 

Overview

Nicotine lozenges are tablets that contain a small amount of nicotine (2 mg or 4 mg). You place a lozenge between your gumline and cheek and suck it slowly, allowing it to dissolve. The nicotine enters your bloodstream as it’s absorbed through the lining of your mouth.

 

 

For proper use, place the lozenge in your mouth; it will soon begin to melt. Keep moving it from one side of your mouth to the other, until the lozenge has completely dissolved; this usually takes about 10 minutes.

As with nicotine gum, nicotine lozenges are often used in combination with the nicotine patch and other quit-smoking medications. You can generally use up to 20 lozenges a day.

Pros

Basic Care Nicotine Mini Lozenge

Nicotine lozenges:

  • Are available without a prescription
  • Can control the sudden nicotine cravings and withdrawal symptoms that you might experience while using other quit-smoking medications
  • Are available as mini-lozenges that deliver nicotine more rapidly
  • Don’t require chewing and don’t stick to dental appliances

 

Cons

Nicotine lozenges:

  • Must be used repeatedly throughout the day to control cravings or withdrawal symptoms
  • Can cause side effects including nausea, indigestion, heartburn, throat irritation or hiccups

 

Timeline

Nicotine lozenges are recommended for about 12 weeks. Reduce the number of times a day you use the lozenges as your cravings and withdrawal symptoms decrease.

 

Nicotine Inhaler

 

 

Overview

The nicotine inhaler is a device that gives you a small dose of nicotine. When you puff on the nicotine inhaler, nicotine vapor is released from a cartridge inside the device. The nicotine enters your bloodstream as it’s absorbed through the lining of your mouth and throat.

Nicotine inhalers are made up of a mouthpiece and a replaceable nicotine cartridge. When you draw on the mouthpiece, the cartridge releases nicotine into your mouth to help relieve your cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Unlike other inhalers, the nicotine is not delivered into your lungs but through the mouth into the bloodstream. And, because it is held like a cigarette, your hands are kept busy too. Use between six and 12 cartridges per day for the full 12 weeks, then follow the package instructions to gradually reduce the number of times you use the inhaler per day.

It’s important to hold the vapor in your mouth for a few seconds and then blow it out — don’t inhale it into your lungs.

 

Pros

The nicotine inhaler:

  • Can control the sudden nicotine cravings and withdrawal symptoms that you might experience while using other quit-smoking medications.
  • Allows you to control the dose of nicotine you receive. You can take as few puffs as needed to satisfy withdrawal symptoms or cravings, and save the rest of the cartridge for later.
  • Keeps your hands busy, which can help with nicotine cravings.

 

Cons

The nicotine inhaler:

  • Is available only by prescription
  • Must be used repeatedly throughout the day to control cravings or withdrawal symptoms
  • Might cause coughing and mouth or throat irritation

 

Cautions

The nicotine inhaler isn’t recommended if you have a breathing condition such as asthma.

 

Timeline

Recommended use is six to 16 cartridges a day for six to 12 weeks, gradually tapering to none over the next six to 12 weeks.

 

 

Nicotine Nasal Spray

 

 

Overview

The nicotine nasal spray delivers a solution into your nostrils that contains a small dose of nicotine. The nicotine enters your body by being absorbed through the lining of your nose. The recommended dose is one to two sprays in each nostril once or twice an hour.

 

Pros

Nicotine nasal spray:

  • Can control the sudden nicotine cravings and withdrawal symptoms that you might experience while using other quit-smoking medications
  • Works faster than nicotine gum, lozenges and the inhaler
  • Allows you to control the dose by using the spray as needed throughout the day

 

Cons

Nicotine nasal spray:

  • Is available only by prescription
  • Must be used repeatedly throughout the day to control cravings or withdrawal symptoms
  • Might cause watery eyes, sneezing, coughing, and nasal, sinus and throat irritation

 

Cautions

Nicotine nasal spray isn’t recommended if you have a nasal or sinus condition.

 

Timeline

Nicotine nasal spray isn’t recommended if you have a nasal or sinus condition.

 

 

Electronic Cigarettes

 

 

 

 

Electronic cigarettes have gotten a lot of attention recently as an alternative way to quit smoking traditional cigarettes. However, more studies are needed to determine the effectiveness of electronic cigarettes for smoking cessation and the long-term safety of these devices.

 

 

Other Prescription Medications

 

 

Bupropion (Zyban)

 

Overview

Bupropion (Zyban) is a prescription medication classified as a type of antidepressant. An extended-release form of bupropion is approved for smoking cessation.

Unlike nicotine replacement therapy, bupropion doesn’t contain nicotine. It’s thought to decrease tobacco cravings and withdrawal symptoms by increasing the levels of certain brain chemicals.

It takes five to seven days for bupropion to achieve effective levels in the blood. You typically should start taking bupropion a week or two before you quit smoking.

 

Pros

Bupropion:

  • Is a pill, so it’s relatively easy to use
  • Can be used in combination with any nicotine replacement medication
  • May reduce the weight gain many smokers experience after quitting cigarettes

 

Cons

Bupropion:

  • Is available only by prescription.
  • Must be taken twice a day.
  • Can cause dry mouth and insomnia, which tend to ease over time.
  • Can cause agitation, depressed mood or suicidal thoughts. If you experience these adverse effects, stop taking the medication and see your doctor.

 

Cautions

In 2009, the FDA required bupropion to carry a warning that some people experienced serious mental health problems either while taking it or after stopping it, including an increased risk of suicidal thoughts or behavior, hostility, and depression.

In 2016, the FDA reversed that decision based on the results of a large scientific study that found the risk of these mental health side effects was lower than expected. Thus, the FDA determined that the benefits of stopping smoking appear to outweigh the risk of side effects from the medication.

If you take bupropion, report any changes in mood or behavior to your doctor immediately and stop taking the medication.

Bupropion also isn’t appropriate if you have seizures or an eating disorder.

 

 

Timeline

Bupropion is generally used for 12 weeks. But if you’ve successfully quit smoking, you can use it for another three to six months to reduce the risk of a smoking relapse.

 

 

Varenicline (Chantix)

 

Overview

Varenicline (Chantix) is a prescription medication that’s been advertising a lot lately.  It that can help reduce cravings for tobacco and control nicotine withdrawal symptoms, and also blocks nicotine receptors in your brain, which decreases the pleasurable effects of smoking.

It takes several days for varenicline to reach effective levels in the blood. You typically should start taking varenicline a week or two before you quit smoking.

 

Pros

Varenicline:

  • Is a pill, so it’s relatively easy to use
  • Can be used in combination with any nicotine replacement medication or bupropion

 

Cons

Varenicline:

  • Is available only by prescription.
  • Must be taken twice a day.
  • Can cause nausea. Taking a lower dose or taking the medication with food and water might help.
  • Can cause vivid or strange dreams.
  • Can cause agitation, depressed mood or suicidal thoughts.

 

Cautions

In 2009, the FDA required varenicline to carry a warning that some people experienced serious mental health problems either while taking it or after stopping it, including an increased risk of suicidal thoughts or behavior, hostility, and depression.

In 2016, the FDA reversed that decision based on the results of a large scientific study that found the risk of these mental health side effects was lower than expected, and the FDA determined that the benefits of stopping smoking appear to outweigh the risk of side effects from the medication.

If you take varenicline, report any changes in mood or behavior to your doctor immediately and stop taking the medication. In addition, varenicline should be used with caution if you have severe kidney problems.

 

Timeline

Varenicline is typically used for 12 weeks. But if you’ve successfully quit smoking, you can use it for another 12 weeks to reduce the risk of a smoking relapse.

 

 

Quitting is different for everyone. Start with a Quit Plan, be tenacious, keep your optimism, and try various tools until you find the ones that help you succeed.

 

And finally, prepare yourself to remain smoke-free with the following tips:

 

Understand your triggers – Certain people, places, things, and situations can trigger an urge to smoke, even years after quitting. Triggers are the things that make you want to smoke. They can affect you no matter how long it’s been since you’ve quit. Knowing your triggers can help you be prepared and fight off cravings.  

 

Anticipate Cravings – It’s difficult to stay smoke-free when cravings hit. But the longer you go without smoking, the more these urges will fade. Fighting cravings can be easier if you have a plan. Prepare by making a list of things you can try when you have the urge to smoke. Take a walk, practice deep breathing, or do whatever works for you to get past cravings. Keep your list handy.

 

Stay Positive (Attitude is Everything!) – The first hours, days, and weeks without cigarettes can be hard. Quitting is a process: take it one day at a time. Keeping a positive outlook can help you get through. There are ways to deal with stress and other strong emotions without cigarettes. 

 

Celebrate Milestones by Rewarding Yourself – Staying smoke-free is a big accomplishment. Treat yourself regularly. Now that you’re not buying cigarettes, you might have extra money to buy yourself something special. But your rewards don’t have to cost anything. Enjoy an outdoor hike now that you can breathe easier. Or invite a friend over for a movie night. If you have already built your quit plan, remind yourself of the rewards you chose. If you haven’t made a quit plan, it’s never too late.

Get Support – Controlling your triggers and managing cravings can be hard, even after you’ve been smoke-free for a while. Getting support from the people around you can help. Talk to the people who supported you when you first quit smoking. Friends and family members can play a big role in helping you stay smoke-free. Let them know you’re in it for the long haul and what they can do to help.

 

Recommended Reading

 

Allen Carr’s Easy Way to Stop Smoking is a huge bestseller with over 3,000 positive reviews.

 

Additional Resources

  • Find a local quitline. Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW to connect directly to your state’s quitline.
  • Use the National Cancer Institute’s quitline. Call 1-877-44U-QUIT to talk with an expert for free.
  • Try SmokefreeTXT. Sign up to get 24/7 support sent right to your phone.
  • Chat with a counselor. Get real-time help from the National Cancer Institute.
  • Use an app. The QuitGuide app allows you to track cravings and slips by time of day and location, and has many other features to help you become smokefree. 

 

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