For those who smoke, quitting is one of the best things you can do for your health. Quitting can be a difficult process, but through the support of loved ones and others it is possible. Gaining support from family, friends, past smokers and/or actual support groups is the first step to successfully quitting the habit. By letting friends and family know you are trying to quit, they can help to hold you accountable and help you stick to the goal.
The most successful smoking cessation programs help you gradually quit instead of going cold turkey. On average, it takes 8 to 12 weeks to quit, and during that time you slowly decrease the number of cigarettes you smoke or the nicotine you ingest. Quitting successfully usually takes a combination of weaning the body off of nicotine and making behavioral changes to break the habit. Nicorette patches, gum and lozenges, and prescription medications, such as Chantix, are all nicotine replacement products that can help you avoid the action of smoking a cigarette while you’re working toward quitting. E-cigarettes and vaping have been suggested as a tool to help people quit smoking, but there isn’t data available to support that. Without more research on the side effects or potential health risks, health care professionals recommend caution when using these products.
Although these medication therapies can be successful in helping you quit, some of them have significant side effects. Discuss what options are best for you with a health care professional.
If you’ve been smoking for a long time, the habit has most likely become a part of your routine and you’ll need to work to change that. First, identify what triggers your cravings to smoke and then find ways to distract yourself when the desire to smoke comes. If you normally smoke with your morning cup of coffee or while you watch TV, it may help to keep a puzzle nearby that you can distract your mind with until the craving passes. Set small goals for yourself and have your loved ones or support network help keep you accountable to them. For example, set a goal that you’ll stop smoking in the car or in your home by a certain date and get help working toward that.
Cone Health offers a 4-class smoking cessation series at multiple Cone Health locations to anyone 18 years of age or older who smokes. For information about meeting times and locations, go to conehealth.com/classes or call 336-586-4000.
Gretchen Dawson is an oncology nurse practitioner at the Cone Health Cancer Center at Annie Penn Hospital. She received a Bachelor of Science in nursing and a Master of Science in nursing from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2006 and 2014, respectively. Dawson completed a postgraduate fellowship in oncology nursing at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in 2015.