Simple tips and tools to help smokers quit

Published 6:00 pm Wednesday, February 29, 2012

(ARA) – Every year, people across the country make resolutions to quit smoking, but research shows that less than 5 percent of those who quit without assistance are successful in their quit attempt. Quitting smoking is one of the hardest things to do. On average, it takes a smoker up to nine attempts to quit before they’re able to do so successfully. Every relapse begins with smaller lapses – so quitters shouldn’t stop trying after a lapse.

Smokers need a variety of tools to help them quit. “Even if you lapse when quitting smoking and have a cigarette, there are still opportunities for you to achieve your goal of quitting smoking successfully,” says Saul Shiffman, PhD, an addiction and dependence expert at the University of Pittsburgh and a world-renowned researcher in behavior change and relapse, and paid consultant to GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare. To work toward a resolution to quit smoking, Shiffman recommends these tips:

* Determine the best tools to help you quit smoking. Make a plan to help you quit successfully. Personalized quit plans can help a smoker make it though their quit attempt. There are a variety of resources available online to create a plan after inputting information about your personal habits and behaviors associated with quitting. Try or call 1-800-Quit-Now.

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* Use nicotine replacement therapy (NRT). NRT doubles a smoker’s chances of quitting smoking successfully versus placebo and numerous studies have shown it significantly increases a smoker’s chances of quitting long-term. NRT, like nicotine gum or nicotine patch, helps relieve cravings and withdrawal symptoms associated with quitting smoking, without exposing the quitter to the carcinogens and toxins from cigarette smoking. One recent study even showed that continuing to use the nicotine patch helps smokers recover from lapses in their quit attempt – it is essential to continue your quit attempt, even after lapses. For best results, you should follow the label and use the amount recommended for the duration recommended.

* Quit with a support network in place. Many studies have shown that combining NRT with behavioral support can increase a smoker’s chances of quitting successfully. You can get behavioral support through your own personal network of family and friends, a counseling program or hotline, or an online smoking cessation resource like Blueprint to Quit, which provides smokers access to trained experts and quitting materials. In addition, behavioral support can provide you with tips on how to get back on track if you lapse.

* Reward yourself along the way. To help with quitting smoking and managing difficult cravings, it helps to reward yourself throughout the quit process – even if you lapse and slip back into smoking. One cigarette should not ruin a quit attempt. Reward yourself for the progress you’ve made, even if it hasn’t been perfect. For example, use the money you save from no longer buying cigarettes to buy yourself a treat at the end of the week.

* Change up your daily routine. Quitting smoking is a two-part problem – both a physical addiction and learned associations with cues that produce cravings for nicotine. To avoid those behavioral cravings, change your daily routine during times when you would normally have a cigarette, like driving to work or after a meal. “If you’re used to staying at the table and having a cigarette after a meal, get up and move on to something else, so you don’t feel the craving,” Shiffman says.

For more information about how to keep your resolution to quit smoking, visit