What You Should Know About Quitting Cigarette or Tobacco Use: A 5-Step Approach
The decision to stop smoking or using tobacco can be very difficult for most tobacco users because of the habit-forming nature that tobacco use entails. The choice to stop using tobacco can be life-altering and affirming at the same time. This is because smoking cigarettes or other tobacco products is dangerous to one’s immediate and long-term health.
Below are 5 steps to consider in the journey toward tobacco cessation.
Why You Should Quit Smoking/Using Tobacco Products
It helps to know the benefits of quitting and why you need to quit. If you are pregnant, the health and well-being of your unborn child is a key deciding factor that prompts most pregnant women to stop tobacco use.
11 Benefits of Being Tobacco Free
Improves mental health
Increases chances of quitting illicit drug or alcohol use and maintaining sobriety
Improves lung and heart health
Reduces respiratory infections such as colds, bronchitis and pneumonia
Lowers risk of premature birth or being born with health complications
Fewer coughs, colds and ear infections
Lower risk of asthma
Make the decision, and take steps to quit smoking.
There is a lot of reluctance towards committing to stop tobacco use. Reaching the decision to quit may require the help of others (family, friends, and health care providers). Be open to such inputs from others as it forms your support system on your journey to tobacco cessation. Once a decision is reached to stop, you should engage in efforts that promote quitting like:
Speak to family & friends about quitting smoking/tobacco use.
Inform your family and friends of your plan to quit smoking or using tobacco.
Speak to your healthcare provider about quitting smoking/tobacco use.
Inform your healthcare provider and discuss options for nicotine replacement therapies or other medications.
Consider enrolling in the North Carolina free Quit program.
Ask your healthcare provider or counselor to enroll you with the Quitline.
Set your quit date.
Allow yourself time to prepare and get ready to quit but do not postpone it for too long.
Create your quit plan to include why you need to quit, triggers, ways to manage cravings, support, and resources to help you to be successful.
Get medical help (including medications).
Because tobacco use is habit-forming, some people may have become psychologically dependent on tobacco use. While there are successful stories of people who have quit tobacco use by themselves, know that you do not have to do it alone.
Getting help from your healthcare provider will increase your chances of being successful with quitting. Here are some medications your healthcare provider can prescribe for you to help your body adjust to nicotine withdrawals:
Nicotine nasal spray
Manage your quit date.
Your first day without tobacco may be difficult. Here are some things you can do to keep you on track.
Stick to your plan.
Take another look at your quit plan to help you stay focused and motivated to quit and stay quit.
Lean on positive people like your friends and family to help you get through your first day.
Call the NC Quitline to speak to a counselor or text QUIT to 47848.
Use nicotine replacement or medications if prescribed by your provider. This will help minimize nicotine withdrawal symptoms.
Staying busy is a great way to remain tobacco-free, especially on your quit day. Try some of these activities to keep your mind off using tobacco and distract you from cravings:
Get out of the house for a walk.
Chew sugarless gum or hard candy.
Keep your hands busy with a pen or toothpick, or play a game on your phone.
Drink lots of water.
Eat fruits and vegetables
Relax with deep breathing.
Go to a movie.
Spend time with friends and family who are non-smokers.
Go to dinner at your favorite smoke-free restaurant.
Avoid smoking triggers.
Triggers can be people, places, things, and situations that arouse your craving to use tobacco.
Throw away your lighters, ashtrays, cigarettes and all tobacco products.
Spend time with non-smokers.
Visit places where smoking is not allowed.
Get enough rest. Being tired can cause you to smoke.
Change your routine to avoid things you associate with smoking or tobacco.
Too much caffeine can make you jittery and anxious, avoid or limit your intake and replace it with water.
Keep a positive attitude and focus on one minute, one hour and one day at a time. Reward yourself for being smoke-free.
Manage difficult situations and avoid relapses.
The average person attempting to stop tobacco use may experience multiple relapses. You can prevent relapses by practicing the effective strategies in step 4 above that helped you get through your quit day.
Even if you fail to quit using tobacco after your first, second or third attempts, cutting down the amount you use is the right step in the right direction.
Chinyere Chima is a Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP) in the Psychiatric and Office Based Opioid Treatment (OBOT) department at SouthLight Healthcare Clinic. She provides patient-centered mental health and opioid treatment.
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