Most people now realize that smoking tobacco is a significant preventable cause of premature death and illness: cancer, heart disease, stroke, and lung disease. Most people are willing to stop, for that reason.
Despite the related health hazards, one in five American adults still routinely smoke. The key reasons for this is that nicotine is addictive, so it is difficult to break a habit. Yet help is in hand.
Evidence shows that one can break from the unhealthy routine with the right approach and kick the habit once and for all.
Below are ten of the most powerful strategies for quitting smoking and avoiding it.
1. Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT)
Nicotine is addictive in cigarettes, which is why people experience painful signs of withdrawal while trying to quit it. Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) contains reduced amounts of nicotine without the cigarette smoke’s other toxic chemicals.
It helps relieve some of the nicotine withdrawal symptoms, such as extreme cravings, nausea, tingling of hands and feet, anxiety, mood swings, and concentration trouble. NRT is available as:
Patches can be obtained without prescription at a pharmacy. They act by gradually releasing nicotine through the skin, which is absorbed into the body. The amount of nicotine to which the body is exposed is slowly decreased by transitioning to lower-dose patches over 8-12 weeks, until it is no longer required. Many people wear their patches all the time, delivering a constant dose of nicotine over 24 hours, while others take their patches off at night. Talk with your doctor about which choice is right for you.
Inhalers, gum, lozenges, and sprays work fast but their effects last only for a short time. As such, a patch is also prescribed to include a daily dose of nicotine and the fast-acting drugs that are used to alleviate severe cravings.
Evidence suggests that using a combination of NRTs will increase the chances of success considerably compared to using only one drug.
Varenicline (Champix) acts by inducing dopamine release. Dopamine is a chemical messenger that helps regulate the reward and the centres of pleasure in the brain. Smoking artificially increases levels of this feel-good chemicals in the body. And when smokers leave, they still feel depression and anxiety before they regain their normal levels of dopamine output.
Varenicline tends to reduce these low levels of dopamine and to relieve some of the effects of withdrawal from nicotine. At the same time, it blocks nicotine’s rewarding effects, should the person relapse and smoke. As such, reducing the nicotine reinforcing effects is also useful.
Bupropion (Zyban) is an antidepressant, but helping people avoid smoking has been discovered. Unlike varenicline, it eliminates the dopamine deficiency encountered in the removal of nicotine and therefore may mitigate the irritability and lack of concentration associated with stopping smoking.
Bupropion may be especially useful to those concerned about possible weight gain when quitting smoking, as it has been shown to decrease appetite and appear to over-consume
An e-cigarette is an electronic system that allows nicotine to be inhaled in a vapor without the other harmful tobacco by-products, including tar and carbon monoxide.
New research indicates that e-cigarettes can help to stop smoking as people can slowly reduce the e-liquid’s nicotine content in a manner similar to NRT. There is still some debate about this approach to smoking cessation in the literature
5. Allen Carr’s Easyway
Many people use Allen Carr’s Easyway to effectively stop smoking. It’s the bestselling book the planet has on how to quit smoking. It works by helping smokers understand common misunderstandings about why they smoke, and helping them overcome the concerns that hold them stuck on smoking.
The research reveals that smokers adopting the Allen Carr approach were six times more likely than those going cold turkey not to smok after 13 months.
There is anecdotal evidence suggesting that lobelia (also known as Indian tobacco) may help people quit smoking. Lobeline, the active ingredient in the lobelia plant, is thought to function by binding to the same receptor sites in the brain as nicotine, resulting in dopamine release, thereby helping with the mood changes and cravings that arise when smoking is stopped.
Lobelia can also help remove excess mucus from the respiratory tract, including the mouth, lungs, and bronchial tubes that smokers often encounter on quitting, although further work is required to determine if this is true.
7. Vitamins B and C
Different studies have shown that smokers have lower rates of circulating B vitamins and lower levels of vitamin C relative to non-smokers in general. Smokers also mention stress as one of the causes that heightens cigarette cravings. The vitamins B are known as vitamins “anti-stress” and can help regulate mood.
8. Use an app to track habits
Habits such as smoking are caused as an reaction to such signs. Research has shown that repetition of a simple action in a particular setting leads to activation of that action in similar settings; for example, smoking automatically with your morning coffee.
But healthy behaviors can be developed by regularly repeating healthy behavior in the same context and there are a number of free online applications that can help monitor your progress.
Such devices can help monitor smoking intake and signs of nicotine cravings; this knowledge can then be used to schedule when and where to strengthen a new safe habit instead of the old unhealthy.
9. Make a list
For those smokers trying to quit cold turkey, it can be helpful to make a list to keep motivated when times get rough. Those explanations may include:
- Improving overall health.
- Saving money.
- Setting a good example for children.
- Looking better and smelling better.
- Taking control and becoming free of addiction.
By reviewing the list every day, and especially in difficult moments, smokers can train the mind to concentrate on the positive aspects of their target and increase their desire to quit.
10. Practice Tai Chi
A research in the Addiction and Rehabilitation Journal indicates that doing Tai Chi three days a week is an successful way to help people “either avoid smoking or lower their intake.” Tai Chi’s added advantage is that it increases blood pressure and decreases stress. Mind-body activities such as yoga, meditation and Tai Chi give anyone seeking to leave an alternative drug-free treatment option.
Why not try to stop smoking on any of the above steps today? A combination of therapies is more likely to result in success than any single approach. If relapse occurs, try to pinpoint the reason for the slip up and try again; most smokers try to quit a few times before they finally kick the habit.