It’s no secret: smoking is bad for your health. But whether you’re an occasional or long-time smoker, it’s never too late to quit.
Quitting smoking means stopping a powerful one-two punch: habit and nicotine addiction. When you combine those hurdles with the mental and social components of smoking, know that it will be a fight. These five steps can help you quit today.
Step One: Make a plan.
If you’re thinking about quitting cold turkey, consider this: your success rate is a meager 3 to 5 percent. The most successful attempts combine therapeutics such as gum, patches, nasal spray, lozenges, inhalers and pills with a behavioral program, like the American Lung Association’s Freedom From Smoking class. Through the program, which is offered by Beaufort Memorial LifeFit Wellness Services, smokers can get help developing cessation plans and coping methods. Additional resources are available at
Step Two: Focus on short-term survival.
Take it one day at a time, suggests Bill Blatt, director of tobacco control programs for the American Lung Association. “Don’t think about quitting smoking for the next 50 years,” Blatt says. “Think about quitting for the next 24 hours.” The first two to three weeks will be the hardest, and withdrawal symptoms like irritability and headaches are likely. “It’s a rough time,” Blatt acknowledges. “But that rough time means your body is healing itself.”
Step Three: Avoid temptation.
When you quit, you’ll want to stay out of situations where you used to smoke and avoid exposure to tempting secondhand smoke. Even if you like your smoking buddies at work, don’t join them on breaks after you quit. Instead, join a friend for a walk. To disrupt your mental patterns, exit the building through a different door than you took for smoke breaks.
Step Four: Reward yourself.
Design and then sign a contract with yourself. No tobacco for a day, week or month, and treat yourself to some kind of reward. A small reward (a new iTunes song) or a large one (skipping weekend housecleaning) can lift your spirits and your sense of accomplishment on difficult days.
Step Five: Learn from setbacks and move on.
You decide to quit smoking and slip into your old habit after a few days. Don’t assume all is lost. Just think about what went wrong. Were you stressed? In a tempting situation? Then throw out your cigarettes and carry on. “Recognize it takes most people several attempts before they’re able to quit for good,” Blatt says. “Just keep going.”
How long does it take? Six months without smoking generally means you’ve made it, Blatt says. Once you do achieve complete smoking cessation, keep your guard up. Don’t smoke an occasional cigarette, or take a drag from a friend’s. Never forget your hard-won journey and live life knowing you’re one cigarette away from a full-time habit.
We can help. To learn more about the American Lung Association’s Freedom From Smoking program offered by Beaufort Memorial LifeFit Wellness Services, call 843-522-5570 and get help quitting for good.