Every year, on 31 May, the World Health Organization (WHO) celebrates World No Tobacco Day. This annual campaign is an opportunity to raise awareness of the harmful and deadly effects of tobacco use and second-hand smoke exposure, and to discourage the use of tobacco in any form.
You don't need us to tell you that smoking is bad for you. Smoking is one of the biggest killers worldwide. Not only does it cause an abundance of negative health-related problems, but it also comes at a huge cost to your bank balance...and it doesn't smell particularly nice either!
However, giving up smoking is a lot easier said than done for many people. To help celebrate World No Tobacco Day, we've put together our top tips that will help you or your loved one to quit once and for all.
Start with a plan
One of the biggest mistakes people make when they decide they are going to quit smoking is simply diving straight in without a plan. They say: "I am giving up smoking on Monday," and they expect to stop, just like that. Unfortunately, it is never that easy, and the best thing to do is have a plan. What should that plan entail?
- A quit date - Having a quit date is important, but choose one that is realistic. For example, if you are going to a social event this weekend or you have a stressful week ahead at work, don't decide to quit during this - wait until you will have time to focus on quitting smoking. A start date within the next two weeks is ideal, as it will ensure you have enough time to prepare while also making certain you do not lose your motivation.
- Don't keep it a secret - Next, you need to tell your friends, family and co-workers that you are going to quit. This creates a sense of accountability, which means you will be less likely to stray. Moreover, you will get the encouragement and support you need from the ones you love. You may also find that someone else wants to quit smoking and you can do it together.
- Plan for any challenges along the way - Quitting smoking is a journey that often has a number of bumps along the way. Like any difficulties in life, if you plan for them, they will be a lot easier to manage. This is why it is a good idea to have a plan of action for cigarette cravings and nicotine withdrawals.
- Remove all tobacco products from your car, home and place of work - Throw everything away. Keeping an emergency packet of cigarettes will not help you.
- Talk to your doctor - It is a good idea to book an appointment with you doctor, as they will be able to suggest some medication that may help you during your journey. There are, of course, products available from supermarkets and pharmacies that may help as well, including nicotine gum, lozenges and patches.
One thing that will certainly help you to quit smoking is identifying your smoking triggers. If you understand the things that make you want to smoke, you will be better equipped to stop yourself from reaching for a cigarette. A good way to manage this is with a journal. Keep a journal and every time you experience a cigarette craving, make some notes, including:
When and where you had the craving
- How intense the craving was on a scale of one to 10
- How you felt
- Who you were with
- What you were doing
- How you felt after having a cigarette (of course, this only applies in the weeks leading up to your quit date, and if you relapse)
A lot of people smoke as they feel it is a good way of relieving stress or other negative emotions, such as anxiety, fear and loneliness. When someone has had a bad day, they often reach for a packet of cigarettes, feeling that it provides them with some much-needed comfort. If this sounds familiar, why not look for healthier sources of comfort? Examples include meditation, exercising and practising simple breathing exercises.
Other common triggers include having a cigarette after dinner, being around other people that smoke, and alcohol. So, how do you deal with these triggers? If you are someone that likes to end their meal with a cigarette, replace that moment with something else, such as a stick of gum, a square of chocolate, a healthy dessert or a piece of fruit. If you have a lot of friends, co-workers or family members that smoke, it can make it extremely difficult. Inform your social circle of your desire to quit and explain how important it is to you. With regards to alcohol, choose bars that don't have a smoking area, or enjoy non-alcoholic drinks during the first few weeks of your quitting journey.
Dealing with nicotine withdrawal symptoms
Last but not least, you need to learn how to cope with nicotine withdrawal symptoms if you are going to be able to quit effectively. You will experience symptoms quickly once you have quit. They usually last between 30 minutes to an hour, but everyone is different. It is not uncommon for you to experience these symptoms on and off for a few days or even a couple of weeks, but you need to ride them out.
Some of the symptoms you could experience are as follows:
- Decreased heart rate
- Increased appetite
- Upset stomach
- Difficulty concentrating
- Increased coughing
- Nervousness or anxiety
- Anger, frustration or irritability
- Cigarette cravings
It is important to remember that these symptoms are only temporary, and you will feel much better in the end once the toxins have been flushed from your body. It's a case of temporary pain for long-term gain.
Avoiding the smoking triggers mentioned above will help, and there are ways to manage the situation when you do experience cigarette cravings. This includes rewarding yourself for victories (not with a cigarette of course!), getting out of tempting situations, reminding yourself why you quit, and distracting yourself. Ways to distract yourself include getting active, drinking water, brushing your teeth, keeping your hands and mind busy, or finding an oral substitute.
If you follow the advice mentioned above, you will feel much more prepared when quitting smoking, and you will increase your chances of doing so successfully. Don't give up - you will thank yourself in the end.