Short answer? Now!!!
Regrettably, both smoking cessation product and tobacco industry websites continue to proclaim that a "key" to success is to not stop using today or quit smoking, dipping, chewing or vaping tomorrow, but to pick some future date such as our birthday, New Years or your nation's national stop smoking day, and then plan around it.
While such advice creates certainty that you'll have time to locate, purchase and toy with replacement nicotine or some other quitting product, it's deadly. Why? Because delay deprives smokers, dippers, vapers and chewers of significantly greater odds of success.
The study's authors were shocked to discover that unplanned attempts were 2.6 times more successful in lasting at least six months than attempts planned in advance.
Results from a 2009 study were nearly identical, also generating increased odds of 2.6.
According to Joel Spitzer, the real experts on this question are millions of long-term successful ex-users, and this isn't news to them. "Rarely do those with the longest initials for credentials do real research on how people stop smoking," he says.
"Conventional wisdom in smoking cessation circles says that people should make plans and preparations for some unspecified future time," writes Joel.
"Most people think that when others stop smoking that they must have put a lot of time into preparations and planning, setting a date and following stringent protocols until the magic day arrives. When it comes down to it, this kind of action plan is rarely seen in real-world [cessation]."
In an email to me Joel wrote, "My gut feelings here, I think the difference between planned and unplanned is that a person who is planning to stop isn't really committed." "If he were committed to it he would just do it - not plan it."
Waiting on some future day to arrive invites silly and exaggerated fears and anxieties about ending use, to gradually erode confidence and destroy core motivations. Imagine being emotionally drained and physically whipped before ever getting started.
According to Joel, most successful ex-users fall into one of three groups:
"All of these stories share one thing in common - the technique that people use. They simply stop smoking one day. The reasons varied but the technique used was basically the same."
"If you examine each of the three scenarios you will see that none of them lend themselves to long-term planning. They are spur of the moment decisions elicited by some external circumstance."
I visited the Philip Morris USA website during the initial draft of FFN-TJH. Philip Morris is the company that then held a 50% share of the U.S. cigarette market. Its "Quit Assist" pages told those hooked on nicotine to:
"Choose a specific quit date - perhaps your birthday or anniversary, or your child's birthday - and mark it on your calendar. If you give yourself at least a month to prepare, you're more likely to succeed than if you decide New Year's Eve to quit the next day. Pick a week when your stress level is likely to be low." Philip Morris USA
Delay recovery for at least a month? Until your next birthday? Wait for life to become nearly stress free?
Joel wrote an article attacking such insanity back in 1984. It opens with this rather lengthy list of cessation delay rationalizations, which fit snuggly with Philip Morris' advice to continue using.
"I will stop when my doctor tells me I have to." "I can't stop now, it's tax season." "Maybe I will stop on vacation." "School is starting and I'm too nervous to stop." "I will stop in the summer when I can exercise more." "When conditions improve at work I'll stop." "Stop now, during midterms, you must be nuts!" "Maybe after my daughter's wedding." "My father is in the hospital. I can't stop now." "If I stop now it will spoil the whole trip." "The doctor says I need surgery. I'm too nervous to try now." "After I lose 15 pounds." "I'm making too many other changes right now." "I've smoked for years and feel fine, why should I stop smoking now?" "I'm in the process of moving, and it's a real headache." "It's too soon after my new promotion, when things settle down." "When we have a verifiable bilateral disarmament agreement, I'll consider stopping." "It is too late. I'm as good as dead now."
"The best time to stop is NOW. No matter when now is. In fact, many of the times specifically stated as bad times to stop may be the best."
"I actually prefer that people stop when experiencing some degree of emotional stress. In most cases, the more stress the better. This may sound harsh, but in the long run it will vastly improve the chances of long term success in abstaining from cigarettes," suggests Joel.
He knows that if successful during a period of significant stress, that stress would never again be the mind's excuse for relapse.
Joel is careful to distinguish real-world cessation from the Internet phenomenon where some spend substantial time at WhyQuit.com reading, planning and watching many of his more than 190 free video stop smoking lessons before taking the plunge.
While Internet use is tremendous in industrialized nations, only about 1 in 3 humans were Internet users in 2012 (32.7%).
I suspect that the percentage of the world's nicotine addicts turning to the Internet to master their dependency, who have ever heard of the Law of Addiction, Joel Spitzer or WhyQuit.com, is vastly less than 1 percent.
Even with Internet access, while knowledge is power, time devoted to studying incorrect or false lessons can prove deadly. Regrettably, the primary lessons shared at the majority of websites are about toying with alternative forms of nicotine delivery, which can prove deadly. We wish it wasn't so, but it is.
When to get started? Unless delay is associated with quality learning that is diminishing needless fears and anxieties, the sooner the better. But even then, you can pack as you go, or as you continue to read, learn and become smarter and wiser than nicotine's grip upon you.
Ask yourself, what moment will ever be a more perfect time to take back control of your mind than when wanting and urges flowing from hijacked dopamine pathways are again commanding use?
FFN-TJH's lessons are presented in an order roughly paralleling recovery's sequencing and priorities. So, don't worry about finishing this book before taking that first brave step in saying "no."
Just here and now, these next few minutes, yes you can!