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Tips for Quitting Smoking

  1. Adjust your medicine:
    1. If your urges are hard to resist and you are using NRT, you may be able to use more. For instance, if you are using a lower-dose patch, you can increase to a higher dose. Or you can add the nicotine mini-lozenge or gum. If you are using varenicline or bupropion, you can talk to your doctor or other healthcare professional about your urges, as well as using these other tips.
  1. Make your environment work for you, not smoking:
    1. You can change some things about your home, car, and work that will make it easier to quit and stay quit.
      1. Get rid of all the cigarettes in your home, in your car, and at work before you quit.
      2. Get rid of things that you use while smoking like lighters, matches, and ashtrays.
      3. Wash your clothes and anything else that smells of tobacco smoke.
    2. Tell people you are quitting so they can support you.
      1. You might be tempted to smoke in social situations. During the first few weeks of quitting, try to avoid situations where you will be tempted to smoke and where cigarettes are available.
      2. Tell the people you spend time with who smoke that you are quitting smoking. Ask them to support you by not smoking around you and not offering you cigarettes.
      3. Ask the people you trust for help. A good way to resist urges and cravings is to call a friend. It also can help to go on a walk with someone, go to a movie, or just talk.
      4. Let your doctor and other healthcare professionals such as dentists, counselors, pharmacists, and nurses know you are quitting so they can provide encouragement. They may even have additional suggestions that will help.
    3. Watch out for other temptations.
      1. Going shopping can be tempting, especially at a convenience store where it’s easy to buy cigarettes. For the first month, be careful where you shop, and if you are going anywhere that sells cigarettes, resolve before you go that you will not buy any cigarettes.
      2. If you live in a community that still allows smoking in some public places, avoid those places, especially during the first couple of months. Secondhand smoke and seeing other people smoking can trigger cravings.
      3. Contact any tobacco companies that send you promotions or other mailings and tell them to take you off their mailing lists. If they send you texts or emails, opt out of them.
  1. Distract yourself.
    1. When you have the urge to smoke, it may feel like the only thing you can focus on.
      1. In every moment, there is much more happening around you. Your ears are picking up sounds. Your eyes are taking in sights.
    2. Another way to deal with an urge is to drown it out by paying attention to something more interesting, important, or just different. Why should you pay attention to an urge to smoke when you could do so many other things instead.
      1. Listen to your favorite music.
      2. Go for a walk or do something else physical.
      3. Call or text a friend.
      4. Play a video game or do a puzzle.
      5. Watch a cat video (or whatever makes you laugh).
    3. Practice before quitting: the good news is that urges rapidly fade, especially if you distract yourself.
      1. Make a list of good ways you can distract yourself. Try them out before you quit. Save the list. Then when you quit and get an urge, you can immediately choose something from the list.
  1. Find safe substitutes for cigarettes.
    1. Find some substitutes for cigarettes for your mouth and hands. Keep them close by when you quit. Some ideas include:
      1. Use toothpicks, straws, or cinnamon sticks
        1. These can be helpful when it is hard to leave a situation, like when you are driving, waiting for a bus, or at a restaurant. You can hold them in your fingers and bring them to your mouth like you would a cigarette.
      2. Use paperclips, pencils for doodling, or a squeeze ball
        1. These can help you with nervous energy, like when you are on the phone or watching TV.
      3. Practice before quitting
        1. In the days before you quit, try out different substitutes instead of smoking a cigarette. See which ones work for you so you can use them when you quit.
  1. Listen to what the urge says, then talk back!
    1. Our minds are serving up thoughts to us all the time. Often a thought seems overpowering, and we assume that because the thought came from inside our mind, it must be true. But not all of our thoughts are true. In fact, when it comes to urges, your thoughts are going to try and convince you it’s OK to have a cigarette. You don’t have to listen!
      1. The trick is to be a detective and start noticing the thoughts that come up when you have an urge.
      2. Sometimes the most interesting thought may come just before you are aware that you’re having an urge.
    2. What are some thoughts that tend to come up for you just before or during an urge?
      1. “Time for a cigarette.”
      2. “If I don’t have a cigarette right now, I’m going to go crazy.”
      3. “I need to make an excuse so I can go outside and smoke.”
      4. “I’m under a lot of stress right now, so I deserve a cigarette.”
      5. “This coffee will taste better with a cigarette.”
      6. “If I don’t smoke a cigarette this urge will just get stronger and stronger, so it would be better to just smoke now.”
      7. “It won’t hurt if I just have one.”
    3. As you become more aware of the thoughts you have around an urge, you can try out a new approach: Challenge the thoughts and try talking back to them. Think carefully about the thought and see if you can figure out what is not true about it, or a way to talk back to it. Some examples:
      1. “I’m stressed, so I deserve a cigarette.” What could you say to that thought? Maybe you could talk back by saying:
        1. “Yes, I’m stressed, so I deserve a break to breathe and relax.”
        2. “Part of why I’m stressed is because I’m going through nicotine withdrawal. Once this urge passes, I’ll feel fine. And once I’ve quit for good, I’ll be less stressed.” By the way, this is true—once people have quit for a month or two, they feel less stress than they did before they quit.
      2. Sometimes a thought you have might be true but not helpful for quitting. You can still talk back to it. For example, if you think, “It would be easier to just have a cigarette now,” you could admit to yourself:
        1. “Yes, it would be easier now, but it is very important to me to quit smoking. If I give in and have a cigarette now, it will be much harder for me to stay quit. If I wait a bit, this urge will pass.”
    4. You can also couple “talking backs” with using a distraction or substitute to help them pass. It is helpful to practice listening to urges and talking back before you quit. For starters, write down two thoughts that you remember having recently when you had an urge to smoke. Now, think about each of these thoughts, and write down a “talk back” response.
  1. Ride the waves!
    1. Many people assume they have to do something about their urges to smoke—either give in or !ght. The feelings you get with an urge seem to demand action. But you don’t have to give in, and you don’t have to !ght. If you just let the urge be, soon it will go away.
      1. Some people find it helpful to think of urges like ocean waves. Rather than swimming to fight a wave, let the wave carry you up. Before you know it, the wave will go back down. This is the same with urges—rather than spending energy to fight them, just let them come and go, like waves.
      2. The next time you feel an urge, don’t fight or give in, just pay attention to it. Let the urge get as strong as it wants, but don’t do anything about it. It might help to tell yourself what you are feeling: “I am having the thought that I really need a cigarette. My heart is beating a little faster. But these thoughts and feelings will be gone soon.” Talking about the experience out loud can take some of its power away.
    2. For most people, the urge will begin to dissolve after a few minutes. Of course, you will get more urges later, but they will weaken with time. Practice riding the wave a few times a day. Then when you quit for good, you’ll be able to ride the waves like a pro!

All of these tactics to help deal with urges have been shown to help people who smoke to quit! They work best if you practice them before quitting. For more information, call 1-800-QUIT-NOW. A quit coach can help you with these and many other tips. It’s free and confidential! 

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