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7 things to do before you stop smoking

November 12, 2015 | UCI Health
Stop smoking

The Great American Smokeout takes place the third Thursday in November each year. Around that time, you may feel that familiar nudge to quit smoking. You may have even tried to quit before and are unsure whether you can be successful this time. But you lived smoke-free in the past, and you really can regain non-smoker status.

“People forget that they taught themselves how to smoke, and so they can teach themselves how to not smoke,” says Marra Williams, a UCI Health certified health education specialist.

Williams offers the following tips to prepare you for success:

1. Determine your ‘why’

List all the reasons why you want to quit smoking. Perhaps it’s to please a loved one, to save money, or to reduce your cancer risk.

Now, focus on the reasons that center on your well-being. “If you’re doing it to please others, your chances of success will go down. Your No. 1 reason for quitting has to be for yourself,” Williams says.

2. Set a quit date

Aim for a quit date that’s two to four weeks in the future to allow yourself time to prepare for the transition to smoke-free living. Your quit date gives you the chance to smoke that last cigarette and create a sense of closure.

For best success, choose a date that’s meaningful for you, such as your birthday, an anniversary or holiday.

3. Get rid of all smoking paraphernalia

Round up those lighters, ashtrays, pipes and any leftover cigarettes, and clear them out of your vehicle, home and workplace. Do it now so that these items won’t be able to trigger the desire to smoke later.

4. Taper off the nicotine

Begin to reduce your nicotine use to help your body adjust to the change, which can ease your withdrawal symptoms.

“If you smoke a pack a day, then a few weeks before your quit date, cut down gradually to less than half a pack,” says Williams. “That way, by the time you quit smoking, your body will have adjusted to less nicotine and you won’t feel as bad as someone who quit cold turkey.”

5. Talk to your doctor about medications

Consult with your healthcare provider about over-the-counter smoking cessation aids — such as nicotine replacement patches, gums and lozenges — or prescription medications that may reduce your desire to smoke.

6. Build your strategy

Draft a quit plan that outlines how you’ll handle challenges and what new routines will replace your old smoking-related habits.

For example, if you normally smoke while drinking coffee in the kitchen and reading the newspaper, plan instead to drink tea in the living room while watching the news. If arguments trigger the need to smoke, plan to do a different stress-relieving activity, such as walking around the block.

7. Enlist support

Consider signing up for a smoking cessation class, such as the UCI Health free Stop Smoking Series for support, tips and help in drafting your quit plan.

You can also contact the California Smokers’ Helpline toll-free at 800-NO-BUTTS.

For more resources and support, visit our Quit Smoking page ›

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