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Ex-Smokers Reveal What Helped Them Actually Quit Smoking For Good

Between the temptations, stress, and withdrawal, it's hard to kick the habit. See what former smokers say helped them quit smoking for good.

close up of cigarette in man's mouthErik Jonsson / EyeEm/Getty Images

The science of addiction

Smoking is one of the most addictive behaviors in the world—and the science behind this addiction is well understood. In fact, research published in The Journal of Neuroscience suggests that nicotine, the stimulant drug used in tobacco products, is as addicting as cocaine. Quitting is difficult, yes, but possible, and many users consider it one of their greatest accomplishments. Here, ex-smokers share what finally helped them quit—and why they’re so glad they did.

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“I quit during Covid-19”

Some people just need a change of environment and a deeper appreciation of themself: “I’ve attempted to quit twice before, but this time there was nothing that could distract me. Working from home meant I didn’t have contact with any smokers (my husband is a non-smoker) so it seemed the most sensible time to do it. I realize the previous ‘failures’ have been caused by anger, fury, and a sad reflection of low self-esteem. I was subjected to a humiliating experience last year and I chose to ‘hurt’ myself by starting smoking again that very evening. A year later, I’ve got it together again and I’m doing OK. I’m a good person and deserve to be as happy and as healthy as I can. My advice for smokers is to identify the trigger and find a way around it.” —Joanne Harvey-Strike, 57

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“I’m striving to be better myself and eliminate bad habits from my life”

Don’t let peer pressure get you on the wrong path: “I am a recent smoker. I started in 2017, mainly because all my friends were doing it. At one point, however, I decided that it wasn’t for me. I tried to quit multiple times, but as you can imagine, it wasn’t an easy task. Finally, when the quarantine struck, I made up my mind: It was now or never, so I quit all at once. I am happy I gave up cigarettes despite indulging in food more frequently now, as it feels as if I have conquered myself.” —Snezhina Piskova, 23 

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“I quit smoking and vaping weed during quarantine”

A virus that attacks the lungs can provide the proper motivation to stop: “I quit smoking due to Covid-19‘s specific complications in the lungs, and also to help boost my sleep for health purposes. Weed specifically interferes with your deep and REM sleep when your body is repairing and detoxing. I want my body to be in peak shape to fight this virus and want to give myself every advantage possible.” —Erik Levi 

woman using inhaleriStock/Remains

“I was sick all the time”

At times all it takes is a wake-up call about your health that makes you want to improve it. “I quit smoking for good because I was tired of constantly being sick. In fact, I found out later that I was asthmatic and that was probably the reason I was always sick.” —Dara Avenius 

pregnant woman with hands on bellyiStock/momcilog

“I got pregnant”

Some smokers say they finally kicked the habit when they found out they were pregnant. “I was down to two cigarettes a day and couldn’t seem to give them up until I went into my son’s eight-week sonogram. I walked out of there and never looked back. I haven’t smoked since then and he will be six years old in January.” —Razoni McClellan, 41

graduating students in caps and gownsiStock/Steve Debenport

“I was about to graduate college”

Setting up a quitting smoking timeline for yourself can quickly put things in perspective. “I quit smoking for good back when I was a senior in college because I didn’t want to enter the ‘real world’ as a smoker. I did it cold turkey on New Year’s Eve in 1999.” —Susan Cornick, 47 

woman being hypnotizediStock/Wavebreakmedia

“I tried hypnosis”

Not everyone can quit cold turkey, which is why you may have to try different strategies to get you to stop. “I tried everything from Chantix (twice) to Nicorette. Finally, I worked with noted hypnotist Ricky Kalmon who taught me how to do self-hypnosis. It worked for a while but then I stopped and went back to smoking. Finally, about a year ago I caught a cold that turned into bronchitis. I think the health scare coupled with the hypnosis kicking in and I haven’t smoked since.” —Val Allen 

toothpaste on toothbrushiStock/PeopleImages

“I brushed my teeth”

Just like some people turn to chewing gum to wean themselves off cigarettes, sometimes a healthy hygiene habit can be a positive influence. “One of my foolproof tricks to stop myself from smoking was to brush my teeth every time I craved a cigarette. Needless to say, it worked!” —Audrey Fix Schaefer 

blizzard snowy streetiStock/dovate

“There was a blizzard”

Ever wonder how to quit smoking? Testing your willpower can show you how strong you really are and can put you one step closer to quitting. “A blizzard in New York City made me quit. The roads were closed, and I was not walking 10 blocks to the closest corner store. So I ran out… and thought it would be interesting to see how long I could go without a cigarette. When I started calculating how much I was saving by not buying them anymore, I decided to quit for good!” —Reyne Hirsch

no smoking sign on windowiStock/Anna Rise

“I could no longer smoke at work”

If you’ve been a heavy smoker for years and now work by a company that doesn’t let you smoke near the facility, you may be motivated to quit. “I smoked for 10 years and then I started to work for a company that had a policy of no smoking on the property. I worked in a nightclub and there was no smoking in the club. I worked for the Board of Ed on Long Island and no smoking was permitted anywhere around the kids. One day I was posted on the first floor of the building and a fight broke out on the third floor…I ran from the first floor to the third floor and my heart was pounding to the point I saw stars. I thought I was about to blackout at that point and that’s when I knew it was time to stop.” —Andrew Wiles, 62

cigarette on moneyiStock/karen roach

“I quit because it was expensive”

The prices of cigarettes are high and getting higher. “My mother was in the hospital and almost died right around the same time [I became a dad], because she’d been smoking for over 40 years. Between June 2015 and December 2015, the temptation was pretty bad. I was helping my mother move, studying, and finishing school. It was just stress upon stress upon stress. I almost bought a pack of cigarettes. And then I saw the price tag and said, ‘Nah, I don’t really need this.'” —Stephen Giusto, 37 

colorful lollipopsiStock/EasyBuy4u

“I sucked on lollipops”

If you want to quit smoking, it can be smart to trade the bad habit for a better (or at least OK) one. “My husband John started smoking in high school. We tried three times to quit before we were successful. To get rid of cravings, we both sucked on lollipops, we ate more, tried to avoid sitting too long at the table with our coffee because we enjoyed smoking with a cup at that time. I thought that I would always crave a cigarette but I don’t. I would never even dream of taking a puff because I feel it’s like being an alcoholic. One puff and I might be back to a pack or more a day.” —Arlene Vernaleo, 66

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“I weaned myself off”

Some people can quit cold turkey while others need time to end their smoking habit. “When I was ready to quit in October 1988, I weaned myself off gradually. On each pack of smokes, I put a Post-it note on which I drew 20 small circles, one for each cigarette. My goal was to smoke two cigarettes less from each pack each day. Every time I lit up I imagined my children’s mother telling me I smelled of cigs. I imagined my oldest daughter Jessica asking me to quit smoking. I imagined my new baby daughter Hilary and my desire to live long enough to see her grow up. This process resulted in going from roughly three packs a day to six a day in less than six months.” —Joseph Rainey, 75

chewing gumiStock/Freila

“I went cold turkey”

Sometimes it’s as simple as quitting without baby steps. “I stopped smoking 32 years ago the minute I found out I was pregnant. All I can say is going cold turkey is the way to go about it. Lollipops helped a lot with the oral fixation, as did chewing gum, and I brushed my teeth a lot too. I drank lots of water and chewed gum. Now I can’t stand the smell, but my husband who still smokes knows that he is not allowed to smoke in the house or my car either.” —Angela Badamo Conran, 61 

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“I went on vacation”

If you are self-aware enough to know that you have an addiction, it may help to see what life feels like without it. You may find that it’s not as bad as you expected. “It all started when I was on vacation for my 30th birthday with my boyfriend at the time and he hated me smoking, so it was hard to smoke while there without him complaining. One night he was sleeping, and I went to smoke. I couldn’t find any matches or my lighter and was super frustrated, so for the rest of the trip, I decided not to smoke. When I got home, I thought, if I haven’t smoked for three days, I can continue. It was tough because I’d smoked for 12 years. I had to learn to live my life all over with no cigarettes and I even stayed away from smoking friends for about the first month. The trick for me was knowing I can never ever even have a puff. More than five years later, a cigarette still hasn’t touched these lips!” —Latifa Hines, 35

Next up: 12 mind-blowing ways your body heals after you quit smoking.

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