How to Quit Smoking

Reviewed Nov 1, 2017

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Summary

  • NRT and medications without nicotine and counseling can help people overcome tobacco dependence.
  • The START method gives people who smoke easy-to-remember steps to get ready to quit.

If you want to quit smoking but don’t know how, this article can help. It provides an overview of cessation methods proven to help people quit smoking. It also describes steps to help you prepare for quitting.

Medication works

Nicotine-replacement therapy (NRT) and medications without nicotine can reliably help people overcome tobacco dependence. In fact, medications can double your chances of success.

NRT gives you a measured dose of nicotine, which is the addictive ingredient in tobacco. It works by replacing the nicotine you get from smoking, thereby reducing cravings and easing symptoms of withdrawal so you can focus on quitting. You use less NRT over time to gradually decrease your body’s dependence on nicotine.

NRT comes in five forms: gum, inhaler, lozenge, nasal spray, and patch. The gum and lozenge can be purchased over-the-counter (OTC). The inhaler and nasal spray are prescription-only. The patch comes in both OTC and prescription forms. Some people wrongly think that NRT is harmful because it contains nicotine. But science shows that NRT is safe and works at helping people quit smoking.

Bupropion, also known as Zyban, comes only by prescription. It changes the brain chemistry, thereby reducing withdrawal symptoms and the urge to smoke.

Varenicline, also known as Chantix, comes only by prescription. It mimics nicotine’s action on the brain, thereby reducing withdrawal symptoms, and also blocks nicotine’s effect on the brain, making smoking less rewarding.

Most people can use cessation medications to help them quit. But each medication is different and has specific precautions, reasons for not using, and side effects to consider. Certain products may be easier for you to use or afford. Your doctor can help you choose a medication that is right for you. Medication guides also are available online.

If you are pregnant or planning pregnancy, talk to your doctor before using any medication. Your doctor can talk to you about quitting methods that are safe and effective during pregnancy.

Counseling works

For many people, smoking behaviors are harder to overcome than tobacco dependence. Counseling can help you identify your smoking triggers and how to avoid them. You can also learn practical skills to overcome cravings and prevent relapse. Counseling can also provide you with support and feedback along the way. Moreover, the more counseling you have, the less likely you will relapse.

Counseling comes in many forms, so you can pick one that suits your lifestyle. You may like one-on-one coaching or a supportive group environment. Telephone counseling, such as “quit lines,” are also effective.

Joining a support group either in person or online is also a great way to support the desire to quit smoking. There are also phone apps available to offer support and encouragement.

Medication plus counseling works best

A combination of medication and counseling will give you the best chance of quitting for good, which is why doctors recommend this approach.

Other methods, including e-cigarettes

Although some people are able to quit without cessation aids or counseling, there is no other method which has been proven to be more successful to help with quitting. This includes acupuncture, hypnosis, and electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes). E-cigarettes (electronic cigarettes) have not been fully studied. Consumers don't know how much nicotine (or other potentially harmful chemicals) are in e-cigarettes. We don't know if e-cigarettes even work. We don't know if using e-cigarettes, as intended, poses health risks. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not regulate e-cigarettes, unless they are marketed for therapeutic purposes.

If you want to try an alternative method to help you quit, consider also using medication and counseling. If you try an alternative approach alone and you do not have success on your first try, consider medication and counseling with your next attempt.

Get set to quit with START

You are serious about quitting. You have learned about the cessation methods that will give you the best chance at quitting success. Use the letters in “START” to keep in mind the final steps to get set to quit:

  • S = Set a quit date. Pick a date within two weeks so you don’t lose momentum. Write the date down in your calendar to make it official.
  • T = Tell friends, family, and co-workers about your plans to quit. Ask for their help by not smoking around you or keeping you busy when a craving hits. Tell them that quitting will be hard, and that you will appreciate their patience and understanding, especially in the first few weeks.
  • A = Anticipate and plan for the challenges you will face while quitting. The first three months are the toughest. Plan how you will handle withdrawal symptoms, cravings, and smoking triggers and cues.
  • R = Remove cigarettes and other tobacco products from your home, car, and work. Also get rid of things that remind you of smoking, such as ashtrays and lighters.
  • T = Talk to your doctor about getting help to quit. Your doctor can help you choose a smoking cessation medication and find a counselor. Some medications need to be started before you stop smoking.

Final thoughts

Although these methods can help you quit, don’t get discouraged: Quitting is hard. Quitting smoking is a process and may take you more than one try. Always strive for total abstinence. But if you relapse, don’t give up. Look back at your effort to quit and identify what worked for you and where you need more support next time. Then, try again. You can do it.

Resources

www.smokefree.gov

Guide To Quitting Smoking. American Cancer Society, 2014. Available at: http://www.cancer.org/Healthy/StayAwayfromTobacco/GuidetoQuittingSmoking/index

By Christine P. Martin
Source: Fiore MC, Jaén CR, Baker TB, et al. Treating Tobacco Use and Dependence: 2008 Update. Quick Reference Guide for Clinicians. Rockville, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service. April 2009. Rennard SI, Rigotti NA, Daughton DM. Pharmacotherapy for smoking cessation in adults. UpToDate website. Quit Guide: Preparing to Quit. Smokefree.gov, www.smokefree.gov/qg-preparing-steps.aspx; Electronic Cigarettes, www.fda.gov/newsevents/publichealthfocus/ucm172906.htm
Reviewed by Sherrie Bieniek, MD, Group Medical Director, Beacon Health Options

Summary

  • NRT and medications without nicotine and counseling can help people overcome tobacco dependence.
  • The START method gives people who smoke easy-to-remember steps to get ready to quit.

If you want to quit smoking but don’t know how, this article can help. It provides an overview of cessation methods proven to help people quit smoking. It also describes steps to help you prepare for quitting.

Medication works

Nicotine-replacement therapy (NRT) and medications without nicotine can reliably help people overcome tobacco dependence. In fact, medications can double your chances of success.

NRT gives you a measured dose of nicotine, which is the addictive ingredient in tobacco. It works by replacing the nicotine you get from smoking, thereby reducing cravings and easing symptoms of withdrawal so you can focus on quitting. You use less NRT over time to gradually decrease your body’s dependence on nicotine.

NRT comes in five forms: gum, inhaler, lozenge, nasal spray, and patch. The gum and lozenge can be purchased over-the-counter (OTC). The inhaler and nasal spray are prescription-only. The patch comes in both OTC and prescription forms. Some people wrongly think that NRT is harmful because it contains nicotine. But science shows that NRT is safe and works at helping people quit smoking.

Bupropion, also known as Zyban, comes only by prescription. It changes the brain chemistry, thereby reducing withdrawal symptoms and the urge to smoke.

Varenicline, also known as Chantix, comes only by prescription. It mimics nicotine’s action on the brain, thereby reducing withdrawal symptoms, and also blocks nicotine’s effect on the brain, making smoking less rewarding.

Most people can use cessation medications to help them quit. But each medication is different and has specific precautions, reasons for not using, and side effects to consider. Certain products may be easier for you to use or afford. Your doctor can help you choose a medication that is right for you. Medication guides also are available online.

If you are pregnant or planning pregnancy, talk to your doctor before using any medication. Your doctor can talk to you about quitting methods that are safe and effective during pregnancy.

Counseling works

For many people, smoking behaviors are harder to overcome than tobacco dependence. Counseling can help you identify your smoking triggers and how to avoid them. You can also learn practical skills to overcome cravings and prevent relapse. Counseling can also provide you with support and feedback along the way. Moreover, the more counseling you have, the less likely you will relapse.

Counseling comes in many forms, so you can pick one that suits your lifestyle. You may like one-on-one coaching or a supportive group environment. Telephone counseling, such as “quit lines,” are also effective.

Joining a support group either in person or online is also a great way to support the desire to quit smoking. There are also phone apps available to offer support and encouragement.

Medication plus counseling works best

A combination of medication and counseling will give you the best chance of quitting for good, which is why doctors recommend this approach.

Other methods, including e-cigarettes

Although some people are able to quit without cessation aids or counseling, there is no other method which has been proven to be more successful to help with quitting. This includes acupuncture, hypnosis, and electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes). E-cigarettes (electronic cigarettes) have not been fully studied. Consumers don't know how much nicotine (or other potentially harmful chemicals) are in e-cigarettes. We don't know if e-cigarettes even work. We don't know if using e-cigarettes, as intended, poses health risks. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not regulate e-cigarettes, unless they are marketed for therapeutic purposes.

If you want to try an alternative method to help you quit, consider also using medication and counseling. If you try an alternative approach alone and you do not have success on your first try, consider medication and counseling with your next attempt.

Get set to quit with START

You are serious about quitting. You have learned about the cessation methods that will give you the best chance at quitting success. Use the letters in “START” to keep in mind the final steps to get set to quit:

  • S = Set a quit date. Pick a date within two weeks so you don’t lose momentum. Write the date down in your calendar to make it official.
  • T = Tell friends, family, and co-workers about your plans to quit. Ask for their help by not smoking around you or keeping you busy when a craving hits. Tell them that quitting will be hard, and that you will appreciate their patience and understanding, especially in the first few weeks.
  • A = Anticipate and plan for the challenges you will face while quitting. The first three months are the toughest. Plan how you will handle withdrawal symptoms, cravings, and smoking triggers and cues.
  • R = Remove cigarettes and other tobacco products from your home, car, and work. Also get rid of things that remind you of smoking, such as ashtrays and lighters.
  • T = Talk to your doctor about getting help to quit. Your doctor can help you choose a smoking cessation medication and find a counselor. Some medications need to be started before you stop smoking.

Final thoughts

Although these methods can help you quit, don’t get discouraged: Quitting is hard. Quitting smoking is a process and may take you more than one try. Always strive for total abstinence. But if you relapse, don’t give up. Look back at your effort to quit and identify what worked for you and where you need more support next time. Then, try again. You can do it.

Resources

www.smokefree.gov

Guide To Quitting Smoking. American Cancer Society, 2014. Available at: http://www.cancer.org/Healthy/StayAwayfromTobacco/GuidetoQuittingSmoking/index

By Christine P. Martin
Source: Fiore MC, Jaén CR, Baker TB, et al. Treating Tobacco Use and Dependence: 2008 Update. Quick Reference Guide for Clinicians. Rockville, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service. April 2009. Rennard SI, Rigotti NA, Daughton DM. Pharmacotherapy for smoking cessation in adults. UpToDate website. Quit Guide: Preparing to Quit. Smokefree.gov, www.smokefree.gov/qg-preparing-steps.aspx; Electronic Cigarettes, www.fda.gov/newsevents/publichealthfocus/ucm172906.htm
Reviewed by Sherrie Bieniek, MD, Group Medical Director, Beacon Health Options

Summary

  • NRT and medications without nicotine and counseling can help people overcome tobacco dependence.
  • The START method gives people who smoke easy-to-remember steps to get ready to quit.

If you want to quit smoking but don’t know how, this article can help. It provides an overview of cessation methods proven to help people quit smoking. It also describes steps to help you prepare for quitting.

Medication works

Nicotine-replacement therapy (NRT) and medications without nicotine can reliably help people overcome tobacco dependence. In fact, medications can double your chances of success.

NRT gives you a measured dose of nicotine, which is the addictive ingredient in tobacco. It works by replacing the nicotine you get from smoking, thereby reducing cravings and easing symptoms of withdrawal so you can focus on quitting. You use less NRT over time to gradually decrease your body’s dependence on nicotine.

NRT comes in five forms: gum, inhaler, lozenge, nasal spray, and patch. The gum and lozenge can be purchased over-the-counter (OTC). The inhaler and nasal spray are prescription-only. The patch comes in both OTC and prescription forms. Some people wrongly think that NRT is harmful because it contains nicotine. But science shows that NRT is safe and works at helping people quit smoking.

Bupropion, also known as Zyban, comes only by prescription. It changes the brain chemistry, thereby reducing withdrawal symptoms and the urge to smoke.

Varenicline, also known as Chantix, comes only by prescription. It mimics nicotine’s action on the brain, thereby reducing withdrawal symptoms, and also blocks nicotine’s effect on the brain, making smoking less rewarding.

Most people can use cessation medications to help them quit. But each medication is different and has specific precautions, reasons for not using, and side effects to consider. Certain products may be easier for you to use or afford. Your doctor can help you choose a medication that is right for you. Medication guides also are available online.

If you are pregnant or planning pregnancy, talk to your doctor before using any medication. Your doctor can talk to you about quitting methods that are safe and effective during pregnancy.

Counseling works

For many people, smoking behaviors are harder to overcome than tobacco dependence. Counseling can help you identify your smoking triggers and how to avoid them. You can also learn practical skills to overcome cravings and prevent relapse. Counseling can also provide you with support and feedback along the way. Moreover, the more counseling you have, the less likely you will relapse.

Counseling comes in many forms, so you can pick one that suits your lifestyle. You may like one-on-one coaching or a supportive group environment. Telephone counseling, such as “quit lines,” are also effective.

Joining a support group either in person or online is also a great way to support the desire to quit smoking. There are also phone apps available to offer support and encouragement.

Medication plus counseling works best

A combination of medication and counseling will give you the best chance of quitting for good, which is why doctors recommend this approach.

Other methods, including e-cigarettes

Although some people are able to quit without cessation aids or counseling, there is no other method which has been proven to be more successful to help with quitting. This includes acupuncture, hypnosis, and electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes). E-cigarettes (electronic cigarettes) have not been fully studied. Consumers don't know how much nicotine (or other potentially harmful chemicals) are in e-cigarettes. We don't know if e-cigarettes even work. We don't know if using e-cigarettes, as intended, poses health risks. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not regulate e-cigarettes, unless they are marketed for therapeutic purposes.

If you want to try an alternative method to help you quit, consider also using medication and counseling. If you try an alternative approach alone and you do not have success on your first try, consider medication and counseling with your next attempt.

Get set to quit with START

You are serious about quitting. You have learned about the cessation methods that will give you the best chance at quitting success. Use the letters in “START” to keep in mind the final steps to get set to quit:

  • S = Set a quit date. Pick a date within two weeks so you don’t lose momentum. Write the date down in your calendar to make it official.
  • T = Tell friends, family, and co-workers about your plans to quit. Ask for their help by not smoking around you or keeping you busy when a craving hits. Tell them that quitting will be hard, and that you will appreciate their patience and understanding, especially in the first few weeks.
  • A = Anticipate and plan for the challenges you will face while quitting. The first three months are the toughest. Plan how you will handle withdrawal symptoms, cravings, and smoking triggers and cues.
  • R = Remove cigarettes and other tobacco products from your home, car, and work. Also get rid of things that remind you of smoking, such as ashtrays and lighters.
  • T = Talk to your doctor about getting help to quit. Your doctor can help you choose a smoking cessation medication and find a counselor. Some medications need to be started before you stop smoking.

Final thoughts

Although these methods can help you quit, don’t get discouraged: Quitting is hard. Quitting smoking is a process and may take you more than one try. Always strive for total abstinence. But if you relapse, don’t give up. Look back at your effort to quit and identify what worked for you and where you need more support next time. Then, try again. You can do it.

Resources

www.smokefree.gov

Guide To Quitting Smoking. American Cancer Society, 2014. Available at: http://www.cancer.org/Healthy/StayAwayfromTobacco/GuidetoQuittingSmoking/index

By Christine P. Martin
Source: Fiore MC, Jaén CR, Baker TB, et al. Treating Tobacco Use and Dependence: 2008 Update. Quick Reference Guide for Clinicians. Rockville, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service. April 2009. Rennard SI, Rigotti NA, Daughton DM. Pharmacotherapy for smoking cessation in adults. UpToDate website. Quit Guide: Preparing to Quit. Smokefree.gov, www.smokefree.gov/qg-preparing-steps.aspx; Electronic Cigarettes, www.fda.gov/newsevents/publichealthfocus/ucm172906.htm
Reviewed by Sherrie Bieniek, MD, Group Medical Director, Beacon Health Options

The information provided on the Achieve Solutions site, including, but not limited to, articles, quizzes, and other general information, is for informational purposes only and should not be treated as medical, health care, psychiatric, psychological or behavioral health care advice. Nothing contained on the Achieve Solutions site is intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment or as a substitute for consultation with a qualified health care professional. Please direct questions regarding the operation of the Achieve Solutions site to Web Feedback. If you have concerns about your health, please contact your health care provider.  ©2017 Beacon Health Options, Inc.

 

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