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10 Tips to Help You Quit Smoking

When you're ready to quit, these strategies can help

Quitting smoking for good can be a challenge, but your health and lifestyle will reap the rewards:

  • Just 20 minutes after you quit, your heart rate and blood pressure both drop.
  • Within two to three months, your heart attack risk begins to drop and your lung function starts to improve. 
  • Within nine months, you'll be coughing less and experience less shortness of breath.
  • Five to 15 years after quitting, your stroke risk will be the same as a nonsmoker's.

As any doctor will tell you, there's not a right or wrong way to quit; pick a plan that will work for you. The key to success will be finding a strategy you can stick with.

For some, quitting cold turkey is the best way. For others, nicotine patches and gum will help manage their cravings. Medications like Chantix can also help with stemming the desire to smoke.

How to get started 

When you are ready to quit smoking, these tips can help you succeed:

1. Set a date.

Setting a quit date in advance and making preparations is a key step to starting your new, smoke-free life. 

Select a meaningful date to begin, like your birthday, and mark it on your calendar.

2. Let everyone know. 

It's important to surround yourself with supportive people, so inform your family, friends and co-workers that you are giving up the habit.

And ask fellow smokers to quit with you, including your significant other if he or she smokes. Couples who quit together have a great success rate.

3. Learn from your mistakes.

If you've attempted to stop smoking before, think about what went wrong and what you could do differently this time.

4. Clean your environment. 

Throw away any remaining packs, lighters and ashtrays in your home and/or office. Get your car detailed (or just give it a thorough scrubbing), and wash your clothes and linens to get rid of the smoky smell.

5. Change your routine.

Skip the smoking breaks. As much as possible, avoid social activities that will entice you to smoke.

And make small changes to those times in your daily routine when you've typically smoked. For instance, if you always have a cigarette with a cup of coffee at home in the mornings, try taking a thermos of coffee with you to work instead. 

6. Start to smoke less. 

If you need to start slowly, begin by smoking only half the cigarette or extending the time between smoke breaks (until you can stop taking those breaks altogether).

As any doctor will tell you, there's not a right or wrong way to quit; pick a plan that will work for you. The key to success will be finding a strategy you can stick with.

7. Choose healthy distractions. 

When a craving hits, chew sugarless gum, or snack on carrot sticks or air-popped popcorn. Call a friend or take a walk (staying active will keep your mind off of smoking until the urge goes away). Cravings usually pass within a few minutes.

8. Seek support. 

Ask your doctor for a referral to a local smoking cessation program or use a telephone-based program. Toll-free tobacco quit lines are available in every state. (See below for a list of some reliable resources.)

9. Reward yourself for not smoking. 

The thought of not smoking for the rest of your life can be daunting, so set both short-term and longer-term goals. Then, reward yourself for each milestone you reach. Just don't reward yourself with a cigarette. Instead, go to the movies, get a massage or splurge on something with the money you've saved from not buying cigarettes. 

If it helps, make a contract with yourself or a friend to help you stay resolved and on track to reach your goals.

10. Be patient with yourself. 

Focus on your progress. Each day without smoking brings you closer to your goal.

And don't be discouraged if you give in to a craving. Many former smokers tried to stop several times before they finally succeeded. Just look at what went wrong, learn from it, and quit again.

Resources to help you quit

If you need help quitting smoking, consider using these resources for additional support:

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