Tips to Stop Smoking
Mark Twain said, “Quitting smoking is easy. I’ve done it a thousand times.”
Maybe you’ve tried to quit, too. Why is quitting and staying quit hard for so many people?
The answer is mainly nicotine. Nicotine Nicotine is a drug found naturally in tobacco, which is as addictive as heroin or cocaine. Over time, a person becomes physically dependent on and emotionally addicted to nicotine. This physical dependence causes unpleasant withdrawal symptoms when you try to quit.
The emotional and mental dependence (addiction) make it hard to stay away from nicotine after you quit. Studies have shown that to quit and stay quit, smokers must deal with both the physical and mental dependence.
How nicotine gets in, where it goes, and how long it stays When you inhale smoke, nicotine is carried deep into your lungs. There it’s quickly absorbed into the bloodstream and carried, along with the carbon monoxide and other toxins, to every part of your body. In fact, nicotine inhaled in cigarette smoke reaches the brain faster than drugs that enter the body through a vein (intravenously or IV).
Nicotine affects many parts of your body, including your heart and blood vessels, your hormones, the way your body uses food (your metabolism), and your brain. Nicotine can be found in breast milk and even in the cervical mucus of female smokers. During pregnancy, nicotine crosses the placenta and has been found in amniotic fluid and the umbilical cord blood of newborn infants.
Different factors affect how long it takes the body to remove nicotine and its by-products. According to the American Cancer Society, in most cases, regular smokers will still have nicotine and/or its byproducts, such as cotinine, in their bodies for about 3 to 4 days after stopping.
Others believe that it takes closer to a few weeks for nicotine to leave the body. Once nicotine
consumption is stopped, nicotine levels in the blood begin to gradually decrease. As nicotine levels in the blood recede - mostly in around a week - the body releases stimulants that had been triggered by nicotine.
Finally, as nicotine levels in the blood keep decreasing, the nicotine stored by various tissues in the body recedes to significantly lower levels. Patients waiting for surgical procedures are often advised to quit smoking a few weeks before surgery. When someone smokes, levels of oxygen in the blood are reduced due to the presence of increased levels of carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide. This results in blood that is low in oxygen. The presence of nicotine in the blood does not eliminate the chance for effective healing but it does slow healing significantly.
How nicotine hooks smokers
Nicotine causes pleasant feelings and distracts the smoker from unpleasant feelings. This makes the smoker want to smoke again. Nicotine also acts as a kind of depressant by interfering with the flow of information between nerve cells. Smokers tend to smoke more cigarettes as the nervous system adapts to nicotine. This, in turn, increases the amount of nicotine in the smoker’s blood.
Over time, the smoker develops a tolerance to nicotine. Tolerance means that it takes more nicotine to get the same effect that the smoker used to get from smaller amounts. This leads to an increase in smoking. At some point, the smoker reaches a certain nicotine level and then keeps smoking to keep the level of nicotine within a comfortable range.
When a person finishes a cigarette, the nicotine level in the body starts to drop, going lower and
lower. The pleasant feelings wear off, and the smoker notices wanting a smoke. If smoking is
postponed, the smoker may start to feel irritated and edgy. Usually it doesn’t reach the point of
serious withdrawal symptoms, but the smoker gets more uncomfortable over time. When the person smokes a cigarette, the unpleasant feelings fade, and the cycle continues.
Nicotine withdrawal symptoms can lead quitters back to smoking
When smokers try to cut back or quit, the lack of nicotine leads to withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal is both physical and mental. Physically, the body reacts to the absence of nicotine. Mentally, the smoker is faced with giving up a habit, which calls for a major change in behavior. Emotionally, the smoker may feel like they’ve lost their best friend. All of these factors must be addressed for the quitting process to work.
Those who have smoked regularly for a few weeks or longer will have withdrawal symptoms if they suddenly stop using tobacco or greatly reduce the amount they smoke. Symptoms usually start within a few hours of the last cigarette and peak about 2 to 3 days later when most of the nicotine and its by-products are out of the body. Withdrawal symptoms can last for a few days to up to several weeks. They will get better every day that you stay smoke-free.
Withdrawal symptoms can include any of the following:
- Dizziness (which may last 1 to 2 days after quitting)
- Feelings of frustration, impatience, and anger
- Sleep disturbances, including having trouble falling asleep and staying asleep, and having bad dreams or even nightmares
- Trouble concentrating
- Restlessness or boredom
- Increased appetite
- Weight gain
- Constipation and gas
- Cough, dry mouth, sore throat, and nasal drip
- Chest tightness
- Slower heart rate
These symptoms can make the smoker start smoking again to boost blood levels of nicotine until the symptoms go away.
Other substances in cigarette smoke
There is some evidence that other chemicals in cigarette smoke may act with nicotine to make it
harder to quit smoking. The effects of smoking on monoamine oxidase (a brain chemical) are still being studied. For some people, withdrawing from smoking causes more severe mood problems, which can result in worse cravings and more trouble staying quit.
Smoking affects other medicines
Smoking also makes your body get rid of some drugs faster than usual. When you quit smoking, it may change the levels of these drugs. Though it’s not truly withdrawal, this change can cause
problems and add to the discomfort of quitting. Ask your doctor if any medicines you take need to be checked or changed after you quit.
Dealing with smoking withdrawal
Withdrawal from nicotine has 2 parts – the physical and the mental. The physical symptoms are
annoying but not life-threatening. Still, if you’re not prepared for them, they can tempt you to go
back to smoking. Nicotine replacement and other drugs can help reduce many of these symptoms.
Most smokers find that the mental part of quitting is the bigger challenge. If you’ve been smoking for any length of time, smoking has become linked with a lot of the things you do – waking up in the morning, eating, reading, watching TV, and drinking coffee, for example. It will take time to “un-link” smoking from these activities. This is why, even if you’re using nicotinereplacement therapy, you may still have strong urges to smoke.
Rationalizations are sneaky
One way to overcome urges or cravings is to notice and identify rationalizations as they come up. A rationalization is a mistaken thought that seems to make sense at the time, but the thought isn’t based on reality. If you choose to believe in such a thought even for a short time, it can serve as a way to justify smoking. If you’ve tried to quit before, you’ll probably recognize many of these common rationalizations:
“I’ll just have one to get through this rough spot.”
“Today is not a good day. I’ll quit tomorrow.”
“It’s my only vice.”
“How bad is smoking, really? Uncle Harry smoked all his life and he lived to be over 90.”
“Air pollution is probably just as bad.”
“You’ve got to die of something.”
“Life is no fun without smoking.”
You probably can add more to the list. As you go through the first few days without smoking, write down any rationalizations as they come up and recognize them for what they are: messages that can trick you into going back to smoking. Look out for them, because they always show up when you’re trying to quit. After you write down the thought, let it go and move on. Be ready with a distraction, a plan of action, and other ways to re-direct your thoughts.
Use these ideas to help you stay committed to quitting
- Avoid temptation. Stay away from people and places that tempt you to smoke. Later on you’ll be able to handle these with more confidence.
- Change your habits. Switch to juices or water instead of alcohol or coffee. Choose foods that don’t make you want to smoke. Take a different route to work. Take a brisk walk instead of a smoke break.
- Choose other things for your mouth: Use substitutes you can put in your mouth such as
sugarless gum or hard candy, raw vegetables such as carrot sticks, or sunflower seeds. Some people chew on a coffee stirrer or a straw.
- Get active with your hands: Do something to reduce your stress. Exercise or do something that
keeps your hands busy, such as needlework or woodworking, which can help distract you from the urge to smoke. Take a hot bath, go for a walk, or read a book.
- Breathe deeply: When you were smoking, you breathed deeply as you inhaled the smoke. When the urge strikes now, breathe deeply and picture your lungs filling with fresh, clean air. Remind yourself of your reasons for quitting and the benefits you’ll gain as an ex-smoker.
- Delay: If you feel that you’re about to light up, hold off. Tell yourself you must wait at least 10
minutes. Often this simple trick will allow you to move beyond the strong urge to smoke.
- Reward yourself. What you’re doing isn’t easy, and you deserve a reward. Put the money you
would have spent on tobacco in a jar every day and then buy yourself a weekly treat. Buy a book or some new music, go out to eat, start a new hobby, or join a gym. Or save the money for a major purchase. You can also reward yourself in ways that don’t cost money: visit a park or go to the library. Check local news listings for museums, community centers, and colleges that have free classes, exhibits, films, and other things to do.
Keep very busy today.
o Go to a movie.
o Take long walks.
o Go bike riding.
Spend as much free time as you can where smoking isn't allowed. Some good places are
malls, libraries, museums, theaters, department stores, and places of worship.
Do you miss having a cigarette in your hand? Hold something else. Try a pencil, a paper clip, a
marble, or a water bottle.
Do you miss having something in your mouth? Try toothpicks, cinnamon sticks, lollipops, hard
candy, sugar-free gum, or carrot sticks.
Drink a lot of water and fruit juice. Avoid drinks like wine and beer. They can trigger you to
smoke. Stay Away from What Tempts You
Instead of smoking after meals, get up from the table. Brush your teeth or go for a walk.
If you always smoke while driving, try something new: Listen to a new radio station or your
favorite music. Take a different route. Or take the train or bus for a while, if you can.
Stay away from things that you connect with smoking. Do it today and for the next few weeks. These may include:
o Watching your favorite TV show
o Sitting in your favorite chair
o Having a drink before dinner
Do things and go places where smoking is not allowed. Keep this up until you're sure that you
can stay smoke-free.
Remember, most people don't smoke. Try to be near non-smokers if you must be somewhere
you'll be tempted to smoke, for example at a party or in a bar. Managing Cravings when you really crave a cigarette. Remember: The urge to smoke will come and go. Try to wait it out. Or look at the plan you made last week. You wrote down steps to take at a time like this. Try them!
You can also try these tips:
Keep other things around instead of cigarettes. Try carrots, pickles, sunflower seeds, apples,
celery, raisins, or sugar-free gum.
Wash your hands or the dishes when you want a cigarette very badly. Or take a shower.
Learn to relax quickly by taking deep breaths.
o Take 10 slow, deep breaths and hold the last one.
o Then breathe out slowly.
o Relax all of your muscles.
o Picture a soothing, pleasant scene.
o Just get away from it all for a moment.
o Think only about that peaceful image and nothing else.
Where you are and what is going on can make you crave a cigarette. A change of scene can
really help. Go outside, or go to a different room. You can also try changing what you are
No matter what, don't think that, "Just one cigarette won't hurt." It will hurt. It will undo your
work so far.
Remember: Trying something to beat the urge is always better than trying nothing. Find New Things To Do. Starting today you may want to create some new habits. Here are some things you might try:
Swimming, jogging, playing tennis, bike riding, or shooting baskets. It's hard to smoke and do
these things at the same time. How about walking your dog?
Keep your hands busy. Do crossword puzzles or needlework. Paint. Do woodworking,
gardening, or household chores. You can also write a letter or paint your nails.
Enjoy having a clean tasting mouth. Brush your teeth often and use mouthwash.
Take a stretch when you're tempted to reach for a cigarette.
Set aside time for the activities that satisfy you and mean the most to you. There are natural breaks even during a busy day. After dinner, first thing in the morning, or just before bed are good examples. You'll also need plenty of rest while you get used to your smoke-free lifestyle.
Remember the Instant Rewards of Quitting
The body begins to heal within 20 min after your last cigarette. The poison gas and nicotine start to leave the body. The pulse rate goes back to normal. The oxygen in the blood rises to a normal level. Within a few days you may notice other things:
Your senses of taste and smell are better
You can breathe easier
Your "smoker's hack" starts to go away (You may keep coughing for a while, though.)
Most of the nicotine leaves your body within three days. Your body starts to repair itself. At first, you may feel worse instead of better. Withdrawal feelings can be hard. But they are a sign that your body is healing.
Laser and Acupuncture as a Support to Quit Smoking
A recent study indicated that twice as many smokers managed to quit the habit when they received Acupuncture as part of their anti-smoking program. Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine have helped many people quit smoking. With the integrated Laser, Acupuncture and Herbal
Treatments offered at the Wellness Clinic, many smokers quit after one session.
However, treatments do not work as well for everyone. Some patients may require additional
treatments. The only way to find out if it works for you is to try it. Not smoking even for a short
period of time will largely cover the cost of treatment.
Ask yourself why you wish to quit smoking. If your response is that you truly wish to make a change in your life and quit this habit, the results of treatment are far better. Quitting smoking is not easy, but you can do it with the help of the Wellness Clinic.
“Haven't picked up a cigarette since my first Stop Smoking treatment! No cravings and really not having any urges to pick up the bad habit again. Thanks again for your help!”
"I am doing great! I am still smoke-free and after the acupuncture treatment I am no longer
using nicotine patches. I used the herbs for the first few days after the treatment but have not
needed them lately. I am 100% nicotine and tobacco free :)"
"Doing well, no smoking, a few times I have really wanted to but got through it. Was away to
Jamica over March break and kind of thought that would be hard but not too bad at all. Thank
you SO much."
American Cancer Society: www.Cancer.org; www.medicinenet.com; www.med-health.net