Strategies to help you smoke less or even quit

Posted May 09, 2011, at 4:25 p.m.
Photo: Associated Press

So you want to quit smoking, or at least cut down. The fact that you are still reading means that some part of you is considering this. And that’s GREAT! You have to want to quit smoking in order to be successful.

So what next steps might you take? Have you ever quit smoking before, even for a few days? If so, what strategy did you use? Using what has worked before is a great way to start. For some, using a nicotine-replacement product, like nicotine gum or the patch is helpful. These products give your body nicotine so you don’t crave smoking as much.

Other medicines, like Chantix or Wellbutrin, work in your brain to help reduce cravings.These medicines need to be prescribed by a health care clinician because you need to be monitored for side effects.

Other people use techniques to help reduce the number of cigarettes they smoke each day. For instance, delaying a cigarette, even by just a few minutes, can help you cut down. Distractions, such as reading, walking, or a getting involved in a hobby can help you “forget” to smoke. Choose an activity that you enjoy.

Another way to cut back is to look at what habits you associate with smoking. Keeping a smoker’s diary can help. Fold a regular sheet of paper into thirds the long way so you have a long, narrow folded paper and wrap this around your cigarette pack with a rubber band. That way you have to unwrap this paper to get to a cigarette. Use this paper to write down what you were doing when you smoked that cigarette.

For instance, you were drinking coffee, or talking on the telephone. If you are like most smokers, you are half way through a cigarette when you realize that you don’t even remember lighting it. So changing the time, place or activity associated with that cigarette can help you “notice” smoking it.

These habits in your smoker’s diary are habits that you have to change, even by just a little bit, and learn to associate them with not smoking. So if you smoke when you drink your black coffee, try drinking coffee with milk in it to change the habit.

Often smokers are triggered to smoke in certain situations such as meeting new people, after a big meal, or when angry or stressed. Knowing your triggers can help you plan what to do differently when you encounter these situations.

Quitting or cutting back on smoking is not easy. In fact, nicotine is the most addictive substance out there – even more addictive than heroin or cocaine. Yet there is hope. The fact that you have read all the way to the end of this article means that you have a strong desire to make a change. Talk to your health care clinician about  ways to quit or cut down. Talk to your family and friends and get their support. You can be successful, and you can be a quitter!

Physician Lisa Buck practices at the Summer Street Health Center in Bangor.

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