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Health Team

Make a plan, find support to quit smoking

Posted January 12

Quitting smoking is difficult.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 35 million smokers want to cut back or quit each year, but 85 percent of smokers fail if they try to do it on their own.

There's a reason it's so hard: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention points to research that suggests nicotine is as addictive as heroin, crack, cocaine or alcohol.

WebMD offers some tips that can help you quit and stay tobacco free.

A decision to quit smoking always requires "a reason to quit," according to the health website. It might be to protect a family from secondhand smoke, plus the desire to cut the risk of lung cancer, heart disease or other conditions.

The key is finding a reason that's stronger than the desire to light up.

Professional medical assistance can also increase the odds of quitting.

A smoking cessation trained doctor can find classes on quitting, recommend smartphone apps and offer counseling. A physician can also prescribe nicotine replacement therapy or other medications to help get past the headaches, mood changes and powerful cravings that come with nicotine withdrawal.

Even with a doctor's assistance, though, support of friends and family can help. Friends and family can encourage and hold a smoker accountable to goals.

Another tip: Take a break.

Replace the relaxation from cigarettes with other ways to unwind, such as exercise or a massage. Try to avoid stressful situations for the first few weeks after quitting.

For some smokers, cigarettes are paired with alcohol or with a cup of coffee, so avoiding smoking triggers can make it easier to stop, too.

Instead of smoking after a meal, find something else to do instead, such as taking a walk or chewing some gum.

Some smokers say the smell of cigarettes is a trigger, but that's difficult to avoid.

One strategy is to start at home: Clean the house and the car; throw out all the ash trays and lighters; and clean the carpet, drapes and upholstery.

WebMD also said some people might plan to fall off the wagon, but that shouldn't be part of quitting – there should not be a reason to cheat.

However, slip ups happen, but it shouldn't discourage a smoker from quitting. Instead, fall back on the support of family and friends, and start over again.

As goals are met, it's important to have rewards.

The biggest reward of all: Quitting has immediate health benefits.

Within a day of quitting, carbon monoxide levels in the blood fall back to normal, and in just a few weeks the cardiovascular system will begin to heal itself.

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