Over a billion people in this world smoke. And about one-third of all adult smokers in the world smoke regularly. Each cigarette carton represents a day and a half lost life and a regular smoker smokes around 10 cigarettes a day, that is half a carton.
Smokers are at most risk of developing cardiovascular diseases, stroke, and lung cancer.
Studies show that 50% of the people who die from smoking-related diseases die in middle age – each losing more than 20 years of life expectancy. Imagine the things you’d miss in all these years. Is the time you spent inhaling and exhaling smoke worth the lost years?
If you are reading this, you’re probably in search of practical ways to quit smoking altogether. This decision of yours to quit itself is a smart one. You’re taking a step to have a better future.
The question is – what kind of steps can you take to get rid of this addictive habit that has been stuck with you for a while? Quitting does not happen in one single day. It is a series of events that need to be done on a lot of days or even months. But the benefits are for a lifetime.
The planning stage for quitting itself is a battle. But small steps can go a long way in your journey to quit! Here are 5 steps to quit smoking:
Reason to plan
Find reasons strong enough to keep you motivated. Think of how much your loved ones need you, of the killer diseases you will get if you do not stop smoking, and of the emotions that your family goes through while seeing you get weaker. Once you’ve found a reason that is strong enough – strengthen your willpower and set a mood to plan.
Plan to prepare
This is an important stage because when you put efforts into planning, knowingly or unknowingly, you become more focused and confident to quit.
Now that you’ve decided to quit, the first thing you need to do is pick a date. Your quit date should not be too far and should give you enough time to prepare for it. Rearrange your environment and stay away from any situations that will ‘trigger’ your smoking urges.
If you have already tried quitting before and failed, recollect what made you give up in the end. Plan how not to get into such situations that may influence you to give up.
Prepare to quit
Prepare for the challenges you may face right from your quit date. Throw away your cigarette (including the empty cartons), lighters and ashtrays. Stock up on things that will keep your mouth occupied – such as hard candy, sugarless gum, straws, and toothpicks. Stay away from friends or relatives who smoke may not be always possible but what you can do though, is to tell them about your serious plan to quit smoking and ask them not to smoke near you – or even better – ask them to join you in your journey. Doing this will motivate you even further.
Quit to resurrect
Right from the day one of your quit date – try to stay busy. Keeping your mind busy will distract you from any smoking urges or cravings. Exercise, keep chewing gum and stay hydrated.
Try to spend time with people who have successfully quit smoking. Ask them about the kind of difficulties they faced, how they overcame it, and how they feel after quitting. Also identify specific situations, activities, feelings, and people that you can associate with smoking – and avoid them. For example, if you have a habit of smoking while having coffee then have water instead of coffee, if you have a habit of smoking after a meal then keep chewing on something after you’ve finished a meal, if you smoke while feeling tensed then try to stay away from potentially stressful situations.
Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) is also effective in helping people quit smoking. NRT involves replacing cigarettes with nicotine substitutes such as nicotine gum, patch, inhaler and nasal spray. It is advised that you consult a doctor before using them because only a doctor will know what product is the best suited for you.
Resurrect to support
After you have successfully quit smoking, support a loved one in their quitting journey. You cannot make another person give up on smoking, the decision has to be theirs. But if they do make that decision, you can offer support and encouragement and ease the stress they face while quitting. This is the best thing to do to ensure that you do not relapse. So you’re not just helping them, but you’re helping yourself too.
Listening to them speak about their struggles and giving them advice will remind you of your quitting journey. Also, when you find them listening to your advice, it will make you feel empowered. It will make you realise you’ve achieved something that needed a great amount of effort and is impossible to a lot of people. You will never think about smoking again.
Once you’ve successfully quit, give yourself a reward! Keep aside the money you usually spend on cigarettes and ‘set smoke-free milestones’ like a week, 2 weeks or a month. Once you’ve got to one milestone, give yourself a treat – go out for a movie, buy some new clothes. Celebrate every day of your smoke-free life. You earned it!
Dr Mahadevan Ramachandran, a cardiac surgeon with over 15 years of independent experience in the premier hospitals of Kerala. He is currently working as Chief Consultant Cardiac Surgeon at the following hospitals:
Total Cardiac Care, Thiruvananthapuram
Cosmopolitan Hospital, Thiruvananthapuram
Azeezia Medical College, Kollam
NIMS Medicity, Neyyantinkara
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