The majority of us know the health risks associated with smoking but it's one thing to know and another to take action and quit an addiction that has both physiological as well as psychological components. Let's start by asking these 5 questions.
1. Are you ready to quit smoking?
Given everything that is going on in your life right now, how important is it for your to quit? If you've decided that it is very important, the second question you must ask yourself is, how confident are you that you will be able to quit?
(Rate both on a scale of 1 - 10, 10 being highest importance or confidence)
No matter what the therapy or intervention used to help you quit, will power plays a large role. If you rated both questions as 6 or more, proceed to questions 2.
2. Have you set a quit date?
Now that you've decided quitting is a priority, choosing a quit date within the next 30 days can help you mentally prepare to cut cold turkey or allow you time to start reducing your tobacco intake. Choose a date and write it on your calendar at home or in your phone, tell friends and family which date you've chosen to quit and stick to it! When that day comes, just remember, there's no time like the present to improve your health.
3. Should you quit cold turkey or gradually decrease?
Based on clinical evidence, whether you quit cold turkey or gradually decrease, the quit rates are similar. If you choose to gradually reduce tobacco intake, it should be done in a predetermined manner. Meaning, you decide the percentage reduction each week and stick to the step down method, such as increasing the interval between cigarettes or increasing the time from waking to your first cigarette of the day. This will allow you to gradually reach your quit date, which was chosen as the first day you are smoke free.
4. Do you have professional support to help you quit?
Every year nearly 40% of smokers attempt to quit, most without any counselling or professional help. Most people relapse within 1 week with abstinence rates at 6 months being very low. This might be due to the fact that many people have several triggers but having someone to help you identify those triggers as well as help you work through roadblocks, create healthier habits to replace smoking habits and listen to your concerns, can increase abstinence rates up to 22%. The amount of benefit you receive is correlated to how much time you spend with your counsellor. Based on clinical evidence, an ideal amount of time to spend with someone who it qualified to help you quite smoking, would be 2-5 hours spread out over several weeks. (At least one visit before you quite, another visit 1 week after your quit date then weekly as needed to optimise treatments and manage early relapse). Having social support from friends and family may also make the quitting process easier.
5. Will nicotine replacement therapies really help?
If you smoke more than 10 cigarettes per day, adding nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) to behavioural counselling for 2-3 months, may increase your odds of quitting and staying smoke free at 6 months. Nicotine patches and gum are available over the counter, doses and when you should start using them, should be discussed with your local pharmacist. Other pharmaceutical options are also available but require a prescription from a medical doctor to make sure they are right for you.
Natural Options to support Smoking Cessation
Naturopathic medicine offers many modalities that may help manage withdrawal symptoms such as, botanical medicine and acupuncture for anxiety and insomnia, and natural health products for headache prevention. Nutritional as well as lifestyle counselling (as mentioned in question 4 above) is also beneficial while quitting smoking. Maintaining a balanced, whole foods diet in addition to appropriate vitamins and minerals (not all vitamins are advised if smoking) can help reduce health risks associated with smoking.
CTC 7 Compendium of Therapeutic Choices
Nides, M. Am J Med. 2008:121;S 20-31