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Are You Ready?
Assessing your willingness to change your smoking habits

Inspired by the new year, many people choose to make a change for the better in their lives. Some resolve to exercise more, eat better, keep in closer contact with friends or change a habit, like smoking.

If you decide to change your smoking habits (quit or cut down), you may want to start by evaluating how you feel about these changes and how committed you are to making them.

While everyone knows that smoking is associated with lung disease and other medical complications, it’s still a notoriously hard habit to break. Many experts believe that the best approach to changing your smoking habits is to see yourself as being on the journey to a smoke-free life.

Arthur Hoffman, MD, MPH, director of the Partnership for Prevention, an outreach program at Rush University Medical Center for people who smoke, is an expert in stress reduction and smoking issues. Hoffman believes that you need to know where you stand before you can be effective at making the necessary changes. “The first thing I encourage people to do is to make some kind of assessment of what they’re willing to do right now,” he says.

During this assessment you might ask yourself:

  • Am I willing to make a quit attempt starting today?
  • Am I ready to set a date to make a quit attempt or cut down?
  • Do I need six more months before I quit?
  • Am I pretty sure that I’m not ready to quit at this time?
  • Am I happy where I am now and am committed to smoking for rest of my life?

Serious About Continuing
“If someone is really committed to smoking for the rest of their lives, I encourage them to reevaluate this commitment every month or so,” says Hoffman.

Not Quite Ready
“For people who are considering quitting but not thinking about at this time, I suggest making a new year’s list of why they smoke and what’s important to them about smoking,” says Hoffman. “You need to first honor what is important to you about smoking, then see if you can give serious consideration to some of the things that would be important about not smoking, such as health issues that may be lurking in back of your mind or no longer having the expense of cigarettes to contend with.”

Don’t Get Stuck

If you’re waiting six months or more to make changes in your smoking behavior, you just may not be ready, but you should check in to see if you’ve been saying this for months and months or even years and years. “In these cases, you may just be stuck in contemplation,” says Hoffman.

“We understand that you may be stuck, but sometimes the thing to do is let action replace thinking,” says Hoffman. Commit to a day without smoking or decide to smoke three fewer cigarettes per day. You will make more progress by taking small steps than if you’re just thinking about quitting.

Ready for Action
The most important factor in quitting or cutting down is to build your confidence and make sure you have a concrete plan. “These two go hand in hand,” says Hoffman. “There are a million different plans that you can make but the key thing is that your plan helps you build your confidence that you can resist your impulse to smoke in difficult situations.”

There are medical interventions that can help support this process. “But, medications only work when you do,” Hoffman cautions. “You have to change your behavior. It’s only by taking action that you can let the medication help you.”

Read “Making the Commitment to Quit” for more information about practical steps to take when you’ve decided to stop smoking.

Find out more about our smoking program at Rush that meets smokers “where they are now” and provides the most effective assistance possible, visit the Partnership for Prevention home page.

Please note: All physicians featured in Discover Rush Online are on the medical faculty of Rush University Medical Center. Some of the physicians featured are in private practice and, as independent practitioners, are not agents or employees of Rush University Medical Center.

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