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How to: Quit smoking

September 2011 

If only quitting was as easy as reading a ‘how to' article, putting down your pack and suddenly you'd be a non-smoker.

This article won't crack it for everyone but if you are thinking about quitting, or you know someone who is, maybe these tips could be the tipping point?

Always try and keep your reason for quitting front of mind, whether it's for your family, because you can't bear the idea of being a smoker in your 30s, you don't want the ‘I've spent 20 years sucking on cigarettes' wrinkles round your mouth, or it's for your health.

Whatever your reason - lung cancer is the biggest cancer killer and therefore quitting smoking is the single greatest thing that you can do to cut your cancer risk. Want to find a reason to quit? Check out this 3 step online tool.

Getting ready to quit

  • Understand your addiction - think about your habits, when you want to smoke, what triggers you to reach for the lighter, think about how much you smoke and whether you are addicted to the nicotine or whether it'll be the habitual behaviour that will be hardest to break.
  • Get your support structure in place - you can get support from your GP or other health professionals. Consider if you want to try medication or counselling, perhaps you could check out some online support groups too and importantly get the support of your friends and family.
  • Keep that all important reason to quit front of mind - it'll help you feel empowered to keep on trying. It's the equivalent to the photo of you in your two-sizes-too-small jeans being kept on the fridge. If you are still struggling for motivation perhaps have a look at how your body will respond when you give up.
  • Practice quitting - practice makes perfect, or so they say...try giving up for a day or a week, you could also try setting up some rules such as: I will no longer smoke in my car on the way to work, I will only have one cigarette a day, etc. Knowing what to expect will help you with planning for quitting permanently.
  • Set a date - this is crucial to move from cutting down to actually quitting. Think about when a good date would be, make it soon (in the next couple of weeks) and stick to it. Don't make excuses and change the date, mañana will not fly when it comes to quitting!

Ways to quit

  • Find out what resources are available in Victoria - call the Quitline to talk to someone 13 7848. Order a Quit Pack so you've got information at your fingertips, find a course or get a Quit Coach.
  • Research shows that people have the best chance of quitting if they get some coaching and use quitting medications. So speak to your GP about medication, patches, inhalers and gum.
  • Go ‘cold turkey'. For light smokers (10-15 cigarettes a day) then you may not need medications and this could be a way to quit. But consider getting some support or coaching to help you make the behavioural changes too.

Coping mechanisms

  • During the first few days try changing your environment and spend time somewhere new or in smoke free areas. Try to break the existing patterns of behaviour and most importantly have a positive mental attitude: you can quit!
  • Change your routine, if you usually smoke on your coffee break change things up and have a walk round the block instead.
  • Keep lots of healthy snacks around in case you find you want to eat more.
  • Treat yourself: so quitting has positive associations. You're saving money by not smoking so you can afford to reward yourself with little treats to help keep motivated.
  • Play games and always find a distraction - it can help to keep your hands and mind busy and occupied at times when you are at a loose end. Try puzzles on your phone, computer games, keep a book with you or your MP3 player.
  • Find other ways to deal with stress - exercise is a great stress buster.
  • Find little ways to relax your body, like controlling your breathing, being conscious of where tension is in your body and trying to relax the tense bits.
  • Social situations - this is one of the hardest things for people quitting.
    • Try meeting friends at smoke free venues like the cinema and restaurants.
    • If you are going to a bar with a group of smokers make sure you've got a non-smoking buddy that can offer you support and can chat to you while other smokers are outside.
    • Some people find that avoiding alcohol can help in the beginning, as it can affect your willpower, especially if you associate smoking with drinking.
    • Keep your hands and mouth busy - try gum, sipping drinks (ideally water) and playing games on your phone.
    • Remember it's OK to go home if you are finding the situation hard. Cravings can be terrible, don't worry if you want to leave early, you can afford to jump in a cab with the money you are saving on not smoking.
    • Never say ‘yes' to ‘just one'. For so many people that ‘one' is the one that leads back to being a smoker.

Don't beat yourself up if you start smoking again, just give it another go; try different coping methods; quit in a new way; think about what made you start again and how you can beat it this time.

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