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The 22 Best Ways to Quit Smoking

Not sure how to quit smoking cigarettes? These tried-and-true tips have helped ex-smokers quit and go on to lead a smoke-free life.

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Make an honest list of all the things you like about smoking

Draw a line down the center of a piece of paper and write them on one side; on the other side, make a list of all the things you dislike, such as how it can interfere with your health, work, family, etc., suggests Daniel Z. Lieberman, M.D., director of the Clinical Psychiatric Research Center at George Washington University Medical Center in Washington, D.C. Think about the list over time, and make changes. If you are brave enough, get feedback from family and friends about things they don’t like about your use of cigarettes. When the negative side outweighs the positive side, you are ready to quit smoking.

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Then make another list of why quitting won’t be easy

Be thorough, even if the list gets long and discouraging. Here’s the important part: Next to each entry, list one or more options for overcoming that challenge, Dr. Lieberman suggests. For instance, one item might be: “Nicotine is an addictive drug.” Your option might be: “Try a nicotine replacement alternative.” Another reason might be: “Smoking helps me deal with stress.” Your option might be: “Take five-minute walks instead.” The more you anticipate the challenges to quit smoking, and their solutions, the better your chance of success. It's also a great idea to remember how smoking can take a toll on your looks.

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Set a quit date

The American Cancer Society suggests setting a quit smoking date within the coming month. It can be a random date or perhaps one with special significance like your birthday or anniversary.

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Write all your reasons for quitting on an index card

Here are some to get you started: “My daughter, my granddaughter, my husband, my wife…” You get the idea. Keep your list of reasons near you at all times, the American Cancer Society suggests, in case you need a reminder. If you're in need of some inspiration, check out these ways to take back your health after you quit smoking.

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As you’re getting ready to quit smoking, stop buying cartons of cigarettes

Instead, only buy a pack at a time, and only carry two or three cigarettes with you at a time (try putting them in an Altoids tin). Eventually, you’ll find that when you want a smoke, you won’t have any immediately available, Dr. Lieberman suggests. That will slowly wean you down to fewer cigarettes. Worried about gaining weight? Here's how to avoid weight gain after you stop smoking.

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Keep a list of when you smoke for a week before quitting

Also note what you're doing at the time and how bad the craving is to see if specific times of the day or activities increase your cravings, suggests Gaylene Mooney, a respiratory therapist and Program Director of Respiratory Therapy at San Joaquin Valley College in California.

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Prepare a list of things to do when a craving hits

Suggestions include: take a walk, drink a glass of water, kiss your partner or child, throw the ball for the dog, play a game, wash the car, clean out a cupboard or closet, have sex, chew a piece of gum, wash your face, brush your teeth, take a nap, get a cup of coffee or tea, practice your deep breathing, light a candle. Make copies of the list and keep one with you at all times so when the craving hits, you can whip out the list and quickly do something from it. Your quit plan is key, says the Smokefree.gov, an initiative from the National Cancer Institute to get more people to kick the habit for good.

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Quit when you’re in a good mood

Studies find that you’re less likely to be a successful quitter if you quit when you’re depressed or under a great deal of stress, Dr. Lieberman says.

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When your quit smoking date arrives, throw out anything that reminds you of smoking

That includes all smoking paraphernalia—leftover cigarettes, matches, lighters, ashtrays, cigarette holders, even the lighter in your car, suggests smokefree.gov.

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Put all the money you’re saving on cigarettes in a large glass jar

You want to physically see how much you’ve been spending. Earmark that money for something you’ve always dreamed of doing, but never thought you could afford, be it a cruise to Alaska or a first-class ticket to visit an old college friend. Smokefree.gov offers a free calculator to show you just how much money you can save once you give up buying cigarettes. Then check out the incredible ways your body will heal itself after you quit.

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Switch to decaf until you’ve been cigarette-free for two months

Too much caffeine while quitting can cause the jitters. This is another important tip from smoke free.gov.

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Think of difficult things you have done in the past

Ask people who know you well to remind you of challenges you have successfully overcome, says Dr. Lieberman. This will give you the necessary self-confidence to stick with your pledge not to smoke.

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Find a healthy snack food you can carry with you

In place of smoking cigarettes, try sunflower seeds, sugar-free lollipops, gum, carrot or celery sticks or another healthy snack if you're concerned about weight gain, smokefree.gov suggests. You can also switch your cigarette habit for a nut habit, and eat four nuts in their shell for every cigarette you want to smoke. This way, you're using your hands and your mouth, getting the same physical and oral sensations you get from smoking.

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Switch to a cup of herbal tea whenever you usually have a cigarette

The act of brewing the tea and slowing sipping it as it cools will provide the same stress relief as a hit of nicotine. Or carry cinnamon-flavored toothpicks and suck on one whenever a cig craving hits. Smokefree.gov is on board with this tip too.

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Instead of a cigarette break at work, play a game of solitaire on your computer

It takes about the same time and is much more fun (although, like cigarettes, it can get addictive). If your company prohibits games like that, find another five-minute diversion: a phone call, a stroll, or eating a piece of fruit outdoors (but not where smokers congregate). These strategies can help you stay the course once you quit smoking, according to smokefree.gov. Don't miss: Ex-smokers reveal what actually helped them stop smoking for good.

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Picture yourself playing tennis

Visualization can help smokers become ex-smokers, according to researchers at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. Imagine yourself cigarette-free, or picture yourself playing a game of tennis without getting winded.

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Create a smoke-free zone

Don’t allow anyone to use tobacco in your home, car, or even while sitting next to you in a restaurant. Make actual “No Smoking” signs and hang them around your house and in your car, Dr. Lieberman suggests.

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Post this list in a visible location in your house

Whenever you’re tempted to light up, take a look at all the ways smoking can damage your health, as per the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

• Increases risk of lung, bladder, pancreatic, mouth, esophageal, and other cancers, including leukemia

• Increases risk of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure

• Increases risk of diabetes

• Reduces levels of folate, low levels of which can increase the risk of heart disease, depression, and Alzheimer’s disease

• Affects mental capacity and memory

• Contributes to thin bones

• Increases likelihood of impotence

• Reduces fertility

• Affects ability to smell and taste

• Results in low-birth-weight, premature babies

• Increases risk of depression in adolescents

• Increases your child’s risk of obesity and diabetes later in life if you smoked while pregnant

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To minimize cravings, change your routine

Sit in a different chair at breakfast or take a different route to work. If you usually have a drink and cigarette after work, change to a walk. If you’re used to a smoke with your morning coffee, switch to tea, smokefree.gov suggests. Or stop at Starbucks for your cup of java—the chain is smoke-free. Here are 7 ways to take back your health after you stop smoking.

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Tell your friends, coworkers, boss, partner, and kids how you feel

Don't bottle up your emotions. If something makes you angry, express it instead of smothering it with cigarette smoke. If you’re bored, admit to yourself that you’re bored and find something energetic to do instead of lighting up. One study found that pregnant smokers are more likely to quit when they manage negative emotions that lead to smoking. These findings appeared in Addictive Behaviors.

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Make an appointment with an acupuncturist

There’s some evidence that auricular acupuncture (i.e., needles in the ears) curbs cigarette cravings quite successfully, says Ather Ali, N.D., a naturopathic physician formerly at the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center in Derby, Connecticut. This is how acupuncture can change your body.

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If you relapse, just start again

You haven’t failed. Some people have to quit as many as 30 times before being successful, according to a study in Addiction Research. Above all, remind yourself that smoking is the number-one habit to quit to improve your health. Now, check out the 51 brilliant health tricks you'll want to make a habit.

Sources
Medically reviewed by Michael Spertus, MD, on September 19, 2019