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Despite the serious long-term health consequences associated with tobacco use, millions of Americans continue to smoke. Slightly over 19 percent of all adults in the U.S. admit to either smoking daily or smoking several times a week, according to statistics compiled from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. While these numbers have declined significantly in recent years (falling below 20 percent for the first time since the mid-1960s) when compared to the height of smoking’s popularity 50 years ago, quitting still remains incredibly difficult.

Considering the amount of pressure tobacco companies place on consumers to continue purchasing cigarettes, quitting can often seem like a great idea that gets lost in a crowd of advertisements, promotions, and social pressure. A 2008 study found that tobacco companies spend an estimated $27 million a day on advertising and promotions, which amounts to nearly $10 billion a year. Conversely, despite collecting billions in revenue from excise taxes, the 50 U.S. states combine to spend only $50 million a year on tobacco control and education programs, according to the CDC.

While hard to argue against the difficulties associated with trying to give up smoking, quitting the habit is possible. If you’re struggling with trying to quit, give these tips a try and remember that beating a tobacco addiction is a day-to-day battle.

Know Your Reasons for Quitting

Quitting smoking requires a tremendous amount of motivation and determination. Deciding to quit simply because smoking is detrimental to your health may be a good reason, but it probably won’t provide you with enough motivation to give up the habit for good. After all, fried chicken, pizza, alcohol, and lying out by the pool are all bad for your health as well, but that doesn’t mean you won’t keep eating chicken and drinking beer.

To become sufficiently motivated enough to quit smoking, you need a powerful, personal reason to quit. Whether that reason is to protect your family from secondhand smoke, fear of developing lung cancer, or a need to look and feel younger, you need to have an identifiable reason that possesses a strong enough pull to outweigh the urge to light up.

Save the Turkey for Thanksgiving

In the minds of many, giving up smoking cold turkey serves as a symbolic act that marks the beginning of their new life as a non-smoker. However, before you make a grand gesture of throwing away your last pack of cigarettes consider that 95 percent of people relapse when trying to quit smoking without medication or therapy. Nicotine’s additive qualities make quitting so difficult, and trying to give up a drug your body and brain have become dependent on all at once makes a relapse all but unavoidable. To avoid the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal, you need to gradually reduce the amount of the drug you intake everyday.

Replacement Therapy

The symptoms of nicotine withdrawal can make you feel restless, irritable, depressed, or frustrated. You may have a hard time resisting the need for “just one last drag” or “final cigarette.” Nicotine-replacement therapy can help to minimize these feelings so that quitting becomes at least a moderately tolerable experience. Whether you choose to use nicotine lozenges, patches, or gums, studies have shown that replacement therapy can double your chances of successfully quitting.

If you want a clean break from nicotine, talk with your doctor about prescription medications that can help to easy cravings. These medications work by altering brain chemistry that helps to easy cravings, while also making the act of smoking less satisfying.

Seek Support

For many people, quitting smoking is one of the most difficult ordeals they’ll ever have to overcome, and trying to overcome something this difficult alone makes the challenge even greater. However, by telling family, friends, coworkers, and classmates about your plans to quit, the encouragement you receive could make all the difference. You may also want to consider joining a support group or discuss your problems quitting with a counselor. Behavior therapy can help you better understand what triggers you to smoke, and identify successful strategies for quitting.

Avoid Triggers

While pitching a tent in the forest where there are no cigarettes or people for miles around may prove helpful when trying to quit, it’s not the most practical of solutions. Instead of choosing to live like a hermit, you’re going to need to avoid triggers and social situations that make quitting difficult. Cutting back on alcohol and coffee, two triggers for smoking, can help, as can avoiding bars or other social situations where you’ll be around others who smoke. Ask friends and family who smoke to abstain in your presence, as well.

Don’t Become Discouraged

The old adage of “if at first you don’t succeed, try try again,” certainly applies to smoking. As previously mentioned, relapses are not uncommon when attempting to quit smoking, and many people need multiple attempts before succeeding. If you suffer a relapse, try to understand what were the circumstances and emotions that led to your relapse. Also try to use your relapse as an opportunity to reaffirm your commitment to quitting, and set another date to quit again within the next month.

Timothy Lemke is a freelance health writer. To read more of his work, visit the website of Dr. Melissa Beadnell, a dentist in Southwest Portland.


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