If at first you don’t succeed: How to quit smoking for good

You don’t need to see the statistics to know smoking cigarettes is bad for your health. But, you’ve tried to quit several times without success.

Here’s a statistic that may surprise you: Almost 46 million people have quit smoking… for good. And you can be one of them.

If at first you don’t succeed…
If you’ve tried to quit before without success, trying again can be daunting. You don’t want to set yourself up for disappointment. Most people need a few “practice rounds” before they quit smoking for good, though. In fact, the average smoker tries to quit nine to 11 times before they are successful.

Some motivation
You know that when you stop smoking your health will improve. Here are some other reasons to quit. You’ll:

Be better prepared for success this time. Take the last quit attempt as a learning experience. What worked last time and what didn’t? Learn from your mistakes. Maybe you tried quitting when you were very busy at work. Choose a less stressful time to quit this go-round. Save money. Quitting also helps your wallet. If you smoke one pack of cigarettes a day, you spend about $150 a month on them. That’s $1,800 each year. Make a list of other ways you can spend the money. Make the people around you healthier. Secondhand smoke can harm your loved ones. It can cause breathing problems in kids, and lead to cancer and heart disease in adults.

Why quitting is so hard
Addiction to smoking is two-fold. Not only are you addicted to the nicotine in cigarettes, but you’re also addicted to the behavior of smoking.

Nicotine is a drug found in all tobacco products. It may make you feel calm, but alert and focused. Over time, your body gets used to the amount of nicotine you take in, and you need more to achieve that “good” feeling. This is why you probably started off smoking a few cigarettes each day, and now you’re smoking a pack each day or more.

The good news is that you can beat your addiction to nicotine. Nicotine replacement therapy products – like the patch or gum – gradually wean your body off nicotine. This will minimize the side effects of nicotine withdrawal. In time, you will not need the drug anymore, and you’ll feel normal without it. Ask your doctor if nicotine replacement products are an option for you.

Behavior change. Creating a new habit is one of the hardest things to do. Smoking is a big part of your life, and changing that behavior will not be easy. Many things “trigger” you to reach for a cigarette each day. You may light up when you feel a certain way – happy, sad or stressed – or when you’re in a particular situation, such as watching TV or being out with friends.

But, new habits can be formed. Experts say it takes about six months for a new behavior to become a habit. Getting through those first months is the most challenging part. It’s common to have setbacks and want to give up. With some careful planning and the right mindset, you can overcome these triggers and be on your way to a smoke-free life.

For success
You can quit smoking. People who use both nicotine replacement therapy and behavior change techniques double their chances of quitting for good. There are also prescription medicines that help some people quit smoking. Talk to your doctor about a program that fits your needs. Everyone is different. Together you can make a plan that is right for you.


American Lung Association. Quitting smoking. Accessed: 09/14/2009 Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Help for smokers and other tobacco users. Accessed: 09/14/2009 Smokefree.gov. Online guide to quitting. Accessed: 09/14/2009 Kelly RB, Falvo DR. Patient education. In: Rakel RE. Rakel: Textbook of Family Medicine. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2007. Accessed: 09/14/2009 University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center. How to stop smoking. Accessed: 09/14/2009