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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Quitting Tobacco Use

Are you ready to quit?

Thinking about giving up tobacco is the first step. How ready are you to stop? To find out, take this quiz:

It's okay if you are not ready now. But you may want to quit at some point. So keep learning and preparing yourself. Most smokers do quit. You can do it.

How can you stop using tobacco?

You don't have to quit alone. Ask your family, friends, and doctor to help you. Quitting is hard, but if you have help and a plan, it is much easier.

  • Get ready. You don't have to stop right away, but set a date to quit. Pick a time when you won't have a lot of stress in your life. Get rid of ashtrays, lighters, or spit cups before you quit. Don't let people smoke in your house.
  • Change your routine. For example, if you smoke after eating, take a walk instead.
  • Use medicine. It can help with cravings and stress. You can buy nicotine gum, lozenges, or patches without a prescription. See a picture of how to use patches to help you quit smoking or stop using spit tobaccoClick here to see an illustration.. Your doctor may also prescribe medicine, such as bupropion (Zyban) or varenicline (Chantix). Using nicotine replacement products and/or medicine doubles your chances of quitting tobacco for good.1, 2
  • Get support. Seek help from:
    • Stop-smoking programs, such as the American Lung Association's Freedom from Smoking program.
    • National tobacco quit line: 1-800-QUIT NOW (1-800-784-8669).
    • Counseling from doctors, nurses, or therapists.

As soon as you stop, stay committed. Don't use tobacco at all. One cigarette never helps. It only makes it harder.

Why is it so hard to quit?

Quitting is hard because your body craves the nicotine, or is addicted to tobacco. Giving it up is more than just kicking a bad habit. Your body has to stop craving the nicotine. Nicotine gum, lozenges, patches, and other medicines can help reduce the cravings without the harmful effects of tobacco.

You also have to change your habits. You may not even think about using tobacco. You just do it. You may chew tobacco when you are stressed. Or maybe you have a cigarette with coffee. Before you quit, think of new ways to handle these things. For example, call a friend or practice deep breathing when you feel stressed. Try chewing sugarless gum instead of lighting up.

What if you feel bad when you are trying to quit?

You may feel grouchy, restless, or sad when you first quit. Or you may have trouble sleeping and want to eat more. But you won't feel bad forever, and medicine can help. Using medicines and products like nicotine gum can help with cravings and make you feel more like yourself.

Will you gain weight?

You may worry about gaining weight when you stop using tobacco. Don't let this stop you. You have a lot more to gain by quitting than a few extra pounds. You will feel better and save money. You may also have fewer health problems.

You can take steps to lower your chance of gaining weight:

  • Try to be active. Exercise can also improve your mood.
  • Eat more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and fewer high-fat foods.
  • Try not to substitute food for tobacco. Instead, chew on a drinking straw or a coffee stirrer.

What if you start using tobacco again?

Most people quit and restart many times (more than 5 times) before they stop smoking for good. If you start smoking again after you quit, don't give up. Each time you quit, even if it is just for a short time, you get closer to your long-term goal.

Remind yourself that by quitting you may avoid serious health problems and live longer. Use these tools to find your risk of heart attack based on how much you smoke and to find out how smoking affects your life span:

Each time you quit, you learn more about what helps and what gets in the way. Think about why you started smoking again, and make plans to succeed next time. You can do it!

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