If you smoke, you’ve undoubtedly heard from friends and loved ones that you should quit. But it’s not always easy.
It’s hard to kick the habit for a reason, notes Dr. Ian Bushell, a family medicine physician and medical director with BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee.
“Nicotine creates a very powerful addiction in your brain,” he says. “And it requires a lot of mental, emotional, and physical commitment to overcome.”
But there are lots of great resources out there to help you. Here’s how to get started.
Consider the severity of the problem
Dr. Bushell: Smoking is one of the biggest factors negatively impacting public health.
Consider these statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
- Approximately 8 million people, or 12.5% of the adult population in the U.S., smoked cigarettes in 2020.
- More than 16 million people are living with a smoking-related disease.
- Cigarette smoking causes more than 480,000 deaths every year in the U.S.
- Smoking causes 90% of all lung cancer deaths.
- Smoking causes 80% of all deaths related to chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD).
- Smoking increases your risk of having a stroke by 2 to 4 times.
Not only that, but experts say that about 1600 young people try their first cigarette—but not their last—every day.
Dr. Bushell: The good news is that you can quit smoking. Many people have done it before, and you can do it, too.
Benefits of quitting smoking
Dr. Bushell: Motivation is essential. So one of the first things that you should do is focus on what you can gain from quitting smoking.
- Do you want to live longer—maybe as much as 10 years longer?
- Do you want better overall heath for yourself?
- Do you want better health for a loved one who may be harmed by exposure to secondhand smoke?
- Do you want to improve your skin’s appearance, since smoking is known for contributing to premature aging of the skin?
- Do you want to save money, since the average cost of a single pack of cigarettes is now $8?
Be honest and specific, and that will help you stay focused and more likely to be successful.
10 tips that can help you stop smoking:
- Set small goals. Setting and reaching small, achievable goals can build your confidence and keep you from giving up when the going gets tough—and the cravings set in.
- Enlist support. Tell your friends and family members that you’re going to quit, and ask them for their active support. Be specific about what you need, so they’ll know how best to help you.
- Exercise. A jog, walk, or bike ride can distract you from your cravings or even temporarily dispel them. And it can help you improve your heart health.
- Reduce your stress levels. Since many smokers use cigarettes to help them manage their stress, the American Lung Association suggests developing a plan of healthier ways to help you manage your stress levels. That could include deep breathing exercises, yoga, or other strategies.
- Avoid stressful situations. Certain situations might still send you running for your pack of cigarettes, but that knowledge can help you avoid those situations in the first place. Let your friends and family know what your triggers are, too, so they can help you avoid them.
- Try nicotine replacement therapy. You have lots of options for nicotine replacement therapy to help you resist strong cravings: inhalers, nasal spray, patches, lozenges, and gum.
- Keep your mouth busy. It might help to chew sugarless gum or enjoy a piece of hard candy, just to keep your mouth occupied.
- Ask for medication to help. Your doctor may be willing to prescribe a medication to help you stop smoking, such as bupropion or varenicline.
- Let technology help you. You can get help from the National Cancer Institute’s live 24-hour hotline, sign up for encouraging text messages from a program like BecomeAnEX or gov, or use the World Health Organization’s Quit Tobacco App. The National Texting Portal can also connect you with a text-messaging service.
- Find what works best for you. You may need use multiple strategies to kick the habit. These may be different from the ones that helped your neighbor or your cousin quit smoking, and that’s okay.
Don’t get discouraged
Dr. Bushell: Be prepared to try and try again before you reach success. For many years, experts believed that it took an average of 5-7 quit attempts for a smoker to successfully quit smoking. The CDC suggests it takes 8-11 attempts.
But that’s okay, and you shouldn’t get discouraged if you try and it just doesn’t take. Don’t let any past failures drag you down. Every quit attempt is another step forward.
You can always turn to your healthcare provider for help, too. If you don’t have one yet, it’s time to get one, so you’ll have an expert to turn to for guidance. Also, BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee members may be able to get connected with a smoking cessation coach to help you navigate the process so you don’t have to do it alone.
BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee members can access wellness-related discounts on fitness products, gym memberships, healthy eating and more through Blue365®. BCBST members can also use tools and resources to help improve health and well-being by logging into BlueAccess and going to the in the Member Wellness Center under the Managing Your Health tab.