Quitting Tips for Thursday's Great American Smokeout
Being mentally ready to quit smoking is the most important indicator for success, said Robert DiGregorio, senior director of pharmacy services at the Brooklyn Hospital Center and an expert in smoking cessation.
For some people, graphic antismoking ads are a motivator. Others may decide to quit due to education and awareness about the effects of secondhand smoke on children. Still others quit because of the high cost of smoking.
Regardless of their reasons, many people find it difficult to quit. It can take an average of four tries over one to two years to kick the habit, DiGregorio said. There are a variety of questionnaires available online or from doctors that can help smokers determine if they're ready to quit.
The simplest indicator is to ask yourself if you are thinking about quitting in the next 30 days. If you are, then you are ready to quit and should seek help from a health professional to develop a specific plan, DiGregorio said in a hospital center news release.
He said the 30-day question is important for two reasons. First, it has been shown to be an effective predictor of readiness. Second, certain treatments take up to 14 days to be effective.
Many products are designed to help people quit smoking, including nicotine patches and the medications Chantix (varenicline) and Zyban (bupropion). Short-acting aids include nicotine gum, inhalers, nasal spray and lozenges.
Chantix and Zyban are effective, but have drawbacks, according to the news release. Chantix carries a warning about psychiatric side effects, and Zyban has been linked to seizures and mood disorders in some patients.
As for electronic cigarettes, the jury is still out on whether they are a safe and effective way to help people quit smoking, DiGregorio said.
If you are trying to quit smoking and have cravings, DiGregorio recommended using the five Ds: Delay until the urge passes, usually three to five minutes; distract yourself; drink an ice-cold glass of water; deep breaths to relax; and discuss your feelings with someone.
DiGregorio said successful quitters have a support network or coaches to help them get through the most difficult challenges and reward themselves for success.
The American Cancer Society offers a guide to quitting smoking.