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A great time to butt out, with helpful hints

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It is a time-honoured tradition.

Every year around this time, people come up with a list of New Year's resolutions -- steps they plan to take to make the next 12 months better than the last.

And among the most common resolutions made this time of year is the pledge to quit smoking.

That's not a big surprise. Quitting smoking is one of the best things a person can do to improve their life and health. But it is also one of the most difficult.

The reasons for this are well-known. The key ingredient in tobacco is nicotine, a powerfully addictive drug the U.S.-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says is just as addictive as heroin, cocaine or alcohol.

And yet it is possible to quit -- many people do it -- provided a person is ready and prepared.

There are, of course, many ways to quit smoking. Some simply stop smoking suddenly with little planning or preparation -- a process known as going "cold turkey." Others may try weaning themselves from smoking by using a nicotine patch or other nicotine-replacement product.

A number of smokers also try to quit with help from online support groups, help lines, challenges and individual counselling sessions.

All of these methods have their pros and cons and in the end it is up to the individual to determine what is best for them. It is worth noting, though, that studies show people who enrol in support groups have a better chance of quitting for good than those who go it alone. The group dynamic means smokers not only learn practical ways to change and handle the challenges of quitting from others, they also receive the support they need to overcome their fears. Often, smokers doubt they can change after many years with cigarettes being their crutch. They see through others it is possible to quit. Support makes a difference.

With that in mind, here is a list of tips designed to help smokers beat the addiction -- no matter what method they are planning to choose:

1) Clearly identify your reasons for smoking, triggers and desire to change.

2) Record what you are doing and feeling when you have a craving.

3) Reduce the number of cigarettes so your body can adjust slowly.

4) Learn about nicotine-replacement products, other aids and resources that can assist.

5) Plan to deal with your doubts, remembering quitting is not one big challenge, but a series of small ones, often several every day.

6) Identify and practise dealing with stressful situations without tobacco -- distraction or going for a walk.

7) Seek support. "It's hard to even imagine not smoking after 53 years -- my whole adult life. It's scary!" -- a Wellness Institute Kick Butt client and non-smoker for two years.

8) Choose a quit date that is right for you and commit to it.

9) Prepare for withdrawal symptoms and come up with supportive strategies such as reading a book/magazine when feeling irritated.

10) Reward yourself for small changes and frame every effort positively.

11) Ask family and friends to be understanding and let them know how they can support you.

12) Avoid situations and places that trigger the urge.

13) Remember, each day without a cigarette is a huge success and a new, better you.

14) Regularly review reasons for quitting, solutions to your concerns and strategies for coping.

15) Be patient, as healing takes time. You get stronger and healthier each day.

16) Plan ahead (like a fire drill) what to do if you slip. Even a few puffs can easily lead to regular smoking. Never quit quitting. Encourage yourself.

17) If you slip, butt out and change the situation. Throw away the cigarettes, leave the room, use relaxation breathing, do something or go somewhere impossible to smoke.

18) Changing your thinking is a big part of quitting. Focus on all the positives you gain from quitting. You want change -- it is hard but possible!

For more information on how to quit smoking, visit:


Marla Benjamin is a behaviour health coach with the Wellness Institute at Seven Oaks General Hospital.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 3, 2014 A19


Updated on Friday, January 3, 2014 at 7:05 AM CST: adds links

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