By now, you know smoking is bad for your health, but a new report shows just how bad: About 14 million cases of major medical conditions in the USA are attributable to cigarette smoking, including lung and heart disease, cancer and even diabetes. Quitting isn’t easy, but it’s never too late. Within just 20 minutes of your last cigarette, your body begins to heal. If you’re looking to quit, you need a plan for staying motivated, overcoming challenges and improving your chances of stopping for good. Start with these steps:
Choose a “quit day.” Pick one within the next few weeks so you have enough time to prepare, and mark it on the calendar. It can be a special day, like a birthday, or any day that’s not likely to be too stressful or busy. The American Cancer Society promotes its annual “Great American Smokeout” as a national quitting day. This year’s is Nov. 20.
Tell friends and family. Support is key to success; let your loved ones know how they can help. Also, look into local support groups, make use of mobile apps that help people quit, or even sign up for text messages that provide encouragement and tips at smokefree.gov.
Clear out smoking reminders. Get rid of ashtrays, lighters and any stashed cigarettes, and give your home, car or office a good cleaning to get rid of lingering smoke smells.
Be prepared for triggers. Think about activities, feelings or people you associate with smoking or that give you an urge to smoke, and develop ways to deal with or avoid them. For extra motivation, make a list of reasons you want to quit — whether it’s to be healthier or to save money — and review it regularly.
Talk to your doctor. Ask about medications to help manage symptoms of withdrawal (some prescriptions should be started a week or two before your quit date), as well as about counseling to help you quit. The combination of the two is more effective than either by itself, and new research suggests that smokers who use both behavioral support and medication have almost three times the odds of success as those who used neither.