How to quit smoking

Looking for inspiration on how to break the cigarette habit? Some happy ex-smokers share real-life tips on how they did it

How to quit smoking

Source: © McNeil Consumer Healthcare, division of Johnson& Johnson Inc. 2009

When the authors of health website, asked readers how they quit smoking, the responses from happy ex-smokers poured in. Successful quitters used all sorts of strategies from simple distraction to cinnamon hearts! Many had tried before and failed; some quit because of illness, some to save money. But one thing came up over and over: the key is making the decision to quit. After that, it’s whatever works for you.

Here’s what worked for some successful ex-smokers.

Trick yourself

“I woke one morning and thought to myself ‘I just went 8 hours without a cigarette, let’s see how much longer I can go’ and I never picked another cigarette up again and it’s been almost two years. Two things got me through the hard times: I kept telling myself a craving only lasts a minute so just get through that minute until the next one, and when I gained weight and wanted to smoke again just to get thin, my friend said ‘You can lose the weight; you can’t lose cancer.'” ‘Paula O

“I made the decision to quit. Kept my lighter, cigarettes and ashtray in separate areas. This made it work to smoke. It makes you to think about it more and I usually found something that had to be done before finding the cigarette.” ‘Mary-Ruth G

“I started off picking a date at the beginning of the week and using the patch. I would carry around a lighter in my pocket and hold it and turn it in my hand when I would normally be having a cigarette. As well I had two cigarettes left in my package but hidden away. Knowing they were there and that I could have one at any time helped as in the past not having any would make me want them more. (I still have them and it’s been five years!)” ‘Thelma K

“I quit smoking cold turkey. Best advice I can give you is to change your habits. It used to be coffee and cigarette, now it’s coffee and newspaper. After dinner it’s dishes right away, as I have to do something with my hands. It’s worked great for me. As for my better half, I dangled a carrot ‘ new vehicle or smoking ‘ needless to say, the vehicle won and he’s been smoke-free for three years now. He ate a lot of gum but it worked. ‘Denise C

A friend to lean on

“Someone told me about the Cancer Society’s smoking cessation groups and programs. When I finished using the patch I wanted to make sure I didn’t relapse so I went. It helped a lot and I received group support, education, and trained professionals to answer my questions. They have a hotline for people trying to quit which thankfully I didn’t have to use, but eight years later they still call and see how I am.” ‘Kaela O

“The day after I quit I made an announcement at work in front of all my peers that I was trying to join the majority and needed their help. Wow, what support! They checked on me every day and that was a big help.” ‘Karen H

Go gradually

“I used to smoke about 20 cigarettes per day. I knew I could not quit cold turkey, so one day I decided to gradually cut the amount of cigarettes I smoked by keeping an old cigarette pack, placing 20 cigarettes in it and that’s all I smoked that day. The next day I put in 19 cigarettes, then 18, and so on. Within a little over two weeks I was down to only a couple of cigarettes. By then I just stopped smoking. Yes I miss it, but my health has never been better.” ‘Georgina B

“I cut back to one a day for five months before I finally gave up that last one. I found toothpicks helped a lot, gave my hands and mouth something to do that didn’t add any pounds!” ‘Grace G-O

“January 2, 1978 I took my last cigarette. There was a class in the local high school that night and I saw the ad in the paper and went. What helped me most was learning that each craving for a cigarette lasted 30 seconds. All I had to do was get through each craving without taking a cigarette. The cravings became further and further apart until they disappeared altogether.” ‘Marjorie R

Find a substitute

“After smoking for 35 years and in the end smoking four large packs a day I quit cold turkey. It takes willpower, but I chewed a lot of toothpicks, ate a lot of celery and carrot sticks. If you put one of those items in the pocket where you kept your cigarettes you will reach for that rather than a smoke. Good luck. I have not smoked since 1986 and I can now breathe easy.” ‘Pete B

“I kicked the habit by drinking water when I got the craving for a cigarette and going for a walk.” ‘Shirley B

“I was simply ready to do it. If you are ready, you will succeed, if you don’t really want to do it, you won’t. The hardest part wasn’t the nicotine it was the habit: having one with coffee or after supper. It becomes so much a part of the day that it is hard to change, but go for a walk, brush your teeth, drink water, whatever it takes. Someone will love you even more for quitting. Your smoking does affect others.” ‘Becky T

“I decided to quit smoking after my boyfriend quit. I used cinnamon heart candies. Every time I had a craving, I would put five in my mouth. They would burn, and just like Pavlov’s dog, I began to associate cigarettes with painful burning. In no time I was a non-smoker. I have been smoke free for six years now! As a bonus, I no longer eat cinnamon hearts either!” ‘Rachel G

Nicotine replacement therapies

“Giving up smoking has got to be one of the hardest things I have ever done. Having tried many times before I was more determined this time. I had some time off (three weeks). I purchased NICORETTE® Gum and removed ashtrays and lighters, and anything else that would remind me of smoking. Changing routine is an absolute. I changed my breakfast time, lunch and dinner. Picked up knitting so that my hands would be busy. Back at work I stayed away from the smoking areas. I have been smoke-free seven years.” ‘Madeleine K

“It’s been six years since I quit smoking. Before I’d tried a number of times to quit without help but it didn’t work. Last time though, I used patches and I really put pressure on myself. I persisted, but there’s no doubt in my mind that the patches helped. There’s no doubt either that though the patch gives us what we need, the habit has to be broken’ go outside, drink water, at least give yourself the chance to try.” ‘Johanne C

Plan ahead

“I quit smoking seven years ago after smoking for 39 years. I used the patch and followed the whole program. Before ceasing I began to plan and ‘mind-set’ that I would no longer smoke. I picked a date that I would quit and wrote out all the benefits that I would achieve by quitting. They became my bible, and I would use them as a mantra whenever I was tempted. I also carried a plastic cigarette in my pocket and would touch it if I felt a weak moment. I owe my success to the prior planning I did.” ‘Dianne T is a resource designed to support you and your family in the pursuit of everyday health and well-being. You’ll find expert advice, articles, tips, tools, special offers, and savings on your favourite health and wellness brands.