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Seventy Quit Smoking Tips

John R. Polito
  1. Like it or not, if you are a daily smoker and reading this list then in all likelihood you are a true drug addict in every sense of the word, addicted to a most amazing chemical called nicotine. Canada's cigarette pack addiction warning label reads, "Warning: cigarettes are highly addictive. Studies have shown that tobacco can be harder to quit than heroin or cocaine." There is no U.S. addiction warning label.
  2. Nicotine physically alters and desensitizes the brain. It causes eleven different brain regions to grow millions of extra acetylcholine receptors. Successful quitting is allowing time for re-sensitization, time for reconditioning subconscious nicotine feeding cues, and time to move beyond years of conscious smoking rationalizations and minimizations.
  3. Recent studies suggest that most of us became addicted to nicotine far quicker and while smoking far fewer cigarettes than previously believed possible. Two-thirds of all first time youth smokers will become chemically addicted. A June 2005 study (Kandel) found that 86.8% of students smoking nicotine at least once daily were already hooked solid using dependency standards contained in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders, 4th Edition.
  4. The law of addiction states "administration of a drug to an addict will cause re-establishment of chemical dependence upon the addictive substance at the old level of use or greater." Yes, just one powerful puff of nicotine and you'll be faced with enduring nicotine detox all over again. We're not that strong. But adherence to just one rule guarantees success to all ... no nicotine just one day at a time, Never Take Another Puff!
  5. Nicotine dependency is every bit as real and permanent as alcoholism. Don't play games with yourself. Treating a true addiction as though it were some nasty little habit is a recipe for relapse. There is no such thing as just one puff. It truly is an all or nothing proposition.
  6. Quitting smoking nicotine is not impossible. In fact, we have more ex-smokers in the U.S. than current smokers. Whether we eventually learn the power of one puff through the school of hard-quitting-knocks or in lessons such as this, knowledge truly is power. We can either master our dependency or it will continue to master us.
  7. While 91.2% of successful quitters quit entirely on their own, the odds of any particular uneducated and unsupported on-your-own attempt succeeding for one full year are roughly 5%. But again, anyone is fully capable of quitting so long as they remain obedient to the law of addiction.
  8. Although extremely addictive, like salt, nicotine is simply a chemical with an I.Q. of zero. It cannot plot, plan, conspire or think and is not some demon dwelling within. Although we'll never be stronger than nicotine we don't need to be. Our greatest weapon is, and always was, our vastly superior intelligence, but only if put to work.
  9. Only in an addict's mind would the chemical depriving them of freedom, and gradually destroying their body, be considered a friend, pal or companion. Cigarettes are not our friend. Imagine the sickness afflicting a mind willing to trade five thousand sunrises for one chemical.
  10. Are you having trouble getting started? Is your motivation in need of a boost? Visit WhyQuit.com and meet Noni, Bryan, Brandon, Kim or Sean, or watch one of eighteen short determination fueling movie clips. If you don't have Internet access visit your local library.
  11. Fear of success is the biggest obstacle to making a serious attempt. Your dependency-conditioned mind is likely terrified at the thought that life without smoking won't be worth living, or that you'll leave part of you behind. But within just two weeks you'll begin to develop a sense of both the gradually emerging beauty that is "you," and a growing feeling that life without nicotine might actually be easier.
  12. Visit WhyQuit.com, the source of these quitting tips, and make one complete read of Joel's Library before getting started. It's a free collection of roughly 90 short quitting articles, each containing a pearl of wisdom.
  13. Forget about quitting "forever." Like attempting the seemingly impossible task of eating an entire elephant, it's the biggest psychological bite imaginable. Instead, work hard at adopting a more manageable "one day at a time" standard for measuring victory. If we insist on seeing success only in terms of quitting forever, on which day will we be entitled to celebrate?
  14. Nicotine dependency recovery is a temporary journey of re-adjustment. It transports us home to the richest sense of mental quiet and deep inner calm that we've known since nicotine assumed command and control over the flow of more than 200 of our body's neurochemicals, including dopamine, adrenaline and serotonin.
  15. Nicotine's half-life is two hours. Unless replenished, the amount of nicotine remaining in your bloodstream will be cut by half every two hours. When quitting cold turkey, 100% of nicotine and 90% of its metabolites will be out of your system within 72 hours. It's then that neuronal re-sensitization (to your own acetylcholine) can begin in full.
  16. Regarding withdrawal symptoms, within reason, it's fairly safe to blame most of what you'll feel during the first three days on quitting. But after that you need to listen to your body and if concerned give your doctor a call. Don't blame your symptoms on where you're going but on where you've been. See each symptom as a true sign of ongoing healing.
  17. Each puff of smoke contained more than 500 different gases and 3,500 different particles. One or more of these 4,000 chemicals may have been masking an underlying hidden health problem such as a thyroid condition (iodine), asthma (bronchiodialiators), or even chronic organic depression (nicotine). Your cigarette's chemicals may also have been interacting with medications you were taking and an adjustment may be necessary. Stay alert and if at all concerned contact your physician or pharmacist.
  18. Chemical dependency upon smoking nicotine is one of the most intense, repetitive and dependable relationships you've likely ever known. It has infected almost every aspect of your life. Be prepared to experience a normal sense of emotional loss when quitting. Expect to travel through and experience six different emotional phases: (1) denial, (2) anger, (3) bargaining, (4) depression, (5) acceptance, and (6) complacency.
  19. According to evidence tables in the June 2000 USDHHS Guideline, a smoker's natural six-month odds of quitting "on-their-own" are roughly 10%. Education, new behavioral skills, and ongoing support can easily more than triple those odds.
  20. Talk to your doctor about Zyban or Wellbutrin should you feel the need to slightly diminish early anxieties. Both products contain the same active chemical, bupropion. You may find that your health insurance policy covers Wellbutrin (marketed for depression) but not Zyban (marketed for smoking cessation). In clinical studies, bupropion performed roughly 15 percentage points above placebo at six months. Although its use comes with some risks, including a one in a thousand risk of seizure, they pale in comparison to smoking's risks.
  21. The pharmaceutical industry has not been entirely candid with smokers regarding their odds of success while using nicotine replacement products (NRT). A March 2003 study (Hughes) combined and averaged the seven over-the-counter nicotine patch and gum studies. It found that only 7% of study participants were still not smoking at six months.
  22. Have you already tried quitting with NRT once? If so, it's important to note that only two studies have focused on repeat or second-time nicotine patch users. A 1993 study (Tonnesen) found that 0% of second-time patch users succeeded in quitting for 6 months and a 1995 study (Gourlay) reported a 1.6% rate. Unlike abrupt nicotine cessation, the odds of success generally decline with subsequent NRT attempts.
  23. Little known is the fact that NRT studies measured smoking cessation while all but ignoring nicotine cessation. A November 2003 study (Shiffman) found that up to 7% of those attempting to quit with nicotine gum were still using the gum at six months. It makes you wonder if anyone actually breaks free of nicotine while chewing it. The study also reports that up to 36.6% of all current nicotine gum users are today engaged in persistent long-term use.
  24. More recently, a June 2004 study (Mooney) reviewed 73 double blind NRT studies and found that they were not blind as claimed. Nicotine is a psychoactive chemical producing a dopamine/adrenaline high. The study found that 71% of NRT studies assessing blindness failed their own assessment as "subjects accurately judged treatment assignment at a rate significantly above chance." Would you be able to tell if your nicotine gum was nicotine-free? So could they.
  25. Unlike clinical studies, all real-world quitting surveys to date (California, Minnesota, Maryland, London, Quebec and the UK) have found that those quitting with nicotine replacement products do not perform better than those quitting without them. A survey published in the September 2002 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association concludes, "NRT appears no longer effective in increasing long-term successful cessation in California smokers."
  26. Regarding hypnosis, a 1998 Cochrane Review of nine different hypnosis quit smoking studies concluded that "we have not shown that hypnotherapy has a greater effect on six month quit rates than other interventions or no treatment."
  27. A 2002 Cochrane Review of 22 different acupuncture studies concluded that, "there is no clear evidence that acupuncture, acupressure, laser therapy or electro-stimulation are effective for smoking cessation."
  28. Don't let the above quitting method study findings frustrate you. Instead use them to gauge just how serious the challenge before you is. In 2002 41.2% of U.S. smokers quit smoking for at least one day. Sadly, only 1 in 20 succeeded in remaining quit for one year. But few had any understanding of the amazing chemical they were up against.
  29. Once in the heat of battle, it is normal for your mind to quickly forget many of the reasons that motivated you to quit smoking. Write yourself a loving reminder letter, carry it with you, and read it often. Make it your first line of defense - a motivational tool that you can pull out during moments of challenge.
  30. As with achievement in almost all human endeavors, the wind beneath your recovery wings will not be strength or willpower but robust dreams and desires. Keep your dreams vibrant and on center-stage in your mind and no circumstance will deprive you of glory.
  31. Each puff of nicotine was our spoon, releasing stored fats into our bloodstream. It allowed us to skip meals without experiencing wild blood-sugar swing symptoms such as an inability to concentrate or hunger related anxieties. Learn to again properly fuel your body by spreading out your normal daily calorie intake more evenly. Do not skip meals.
  32. Drink plenty of acidic fruit juice the first three days. Cranberry is excellent and a bottle will cost you about the same as a pack of cigarettes. The acidic juices will not only aid in more quickly removing the alkaloid nicotine but will help stabilize blood sugars. Take care beyond three days as juices can be rather fattening.
  33. Regarding weight, you'd need to gain at least 75 extra pounds in order to equal the health risks associated with smoking one pack a day. Eat vegetables and fruits instead of candies, chips and pastries to help avoid weight gain.
  34. Engage is some moderate form of regular exercise if at all concerned about weight gain. A substantial increase in overall lung function of up to 30% within just 90 days will aid you in engaging in extended periods of physical activity, in shedding any extra pounds, and in building cardiovascular endurance.
  35. Recognize that contrary to popular thinking, smoking nicotine did not relieve stress but only its own absence. Nicotine is an alkaloid. Stress is an acid-producing event capable of quickly neutralizing the body's nicotine reserves. As smokers, we added early withdrawal to every stressful event. You will soon discover an amazing sense of calm during crisis.
  36. You cannot quit for others. It must be your gift to you. Quitting for a child, spouse, parent or friend creates a natural sense of deprivation that will ultimately result in relapse. If quitting for another person, how will an addict's junkie mind respond the first time they disappoint us?
  37. A positive can-do attitude is important. We are what we think. Take pride in each hour of healing and freedom, and in each challenge overcome. Celebrate the full and complete victory each reflects. The next few minutes are all that matter and each is entirely do-able. Yes you can!
  38. Years of smoking nicotine conditioned us to be extremely impatient, at least when it comes to our addiction. A deprived nicotine addict could inhale a puff of nicotine and have it arrive and release dopamine in their brain within just 8 seconds. Realize the importance of patience to successful recovery. Baby steps, just one hour, challenge and day at a time and then celebrate the new found patience you just demonstrated.
  39. Get rid of all cigarettes. Keeping a stash of cigarettes makes as much sense as someone on suicide watch keeping a loaded gun handy just to prove they can. Toying with a 50% chance of depriving yourself of 14 years of life isn't some game. Fully commit to going the distance and seeing what it's like to awaken to an expectation of going your entire day without once wanting to smoke nicotine. Oh, it'll still happen from time to time but such events will become the exception, not the rule.
  40. Amazingly, nicotine somehow doubles the rate by which the body depletes caffeine. Your blood-caffeine level will rise by 203% if no intake reduction is made when quitting. Although not a problem for most light to moderate caffeine users, consider a caffeine intake reduction if troubled by anxieties or if experiencing difficulty relaxing or sleeping.
  41. You conditioned your mind to expect nicotine when encountering certain locations, times, events, people or emotions. Be prepared for each event to trigger a brief crave episode. Encountering a trigger cannot trigger relapse unless you take a puff. Take heart, most triggers are reconditioned by a single encounter during which the subconscious mind fails to receive the expected result - nicotine.
  42. In contrast to conscious thought fixation (the "nice juicy steak" type thinking), no subconsciously triggered crave episode will last longer than three minutes.
  43. A recent study found that nicotine cessation causes serious time distortion. Although no crave episode will last longer than three minutes, to a quitter the minutes can feel like hours. Keep a clock handy to maintain honest perspective.
  44. The "average" number of crave episodes (each less than three minutes) experienced by the "average" quitter on their most challenging day of recovery is six episodes on day three. That's a total of 18 minutes of challenge on your most challenging day.
  45. But what if you're not average? What if you established and must encounter and recondition twice as many nicotine-feeding cues as the average quitter? That's 36 minutes of significant challenge. Can you handle 36 minutes of serious anxiety? Absolutely! We all can.
  46. Be prepared for a small spike in crave episodes on day seven as you celebrate your first full week of freedom from nicotine. Yes, for most of us smoking was part of every celebration, and also part of every celebration that for one reason or another suddenly turned sour. Also stay alert for subtle differences between crave triggers. For example, the Sunday newspaper is much thicker and may have required three cigarettes to read instead of just one.
  47. The average quitter will be experiencing just 1.4 crave episodes per day by day ten. After that you'll soon begin to experience entire days without encountering a single un-reconditioned subconscious crave trigger. If a later crave episode ever feels far more intense it's likely that it has been some time since your last significant challenge and you've dropped your guard and defenses a bit. It can feel as though you've been sucker punched. If so, see the distance between challenges as a wonderful sign of subconscious healing.
  48. One coping method is to practice slow deep breathing when experiencing a crave episode. Try briefly clearing your mind of all needless chatter by focusing on your favorite person, place or thing.
  49. Another popular three minute crave coping exercise is to say your ABCs while associating each letter with your favorite food, person or place. For example, the letter "A" is for grandma's hot apple pie. "B" is for warm buttered biscuits. I think you'll find that you'll never make it to the challenging letter Q.
  50. Another coping technique is to mentally reach out and embrace your crave. A crave cannot cut you, burn you, kill you, or make you bleed. Try being brave just once. In your mind, wrap your arms around the crave's anxiety energy and then watch as it slowly fizzles and dies while in your embrace. Yes, another trigger bites the dust and victory is once again yours!
  51. Recognize the fact that everything you did as a smoker you will learn to again comfortably do as an ex-smoker. Meet, greet and defeat your triggers, don't hide from them. You need not give up anything except nicotine.
  52. Be extremely careful with early alcohol use during the first couple of weeks. Using an inhibition diminishing substance and then intentionally surrounding yourself with smoking smokers, while still engaged in early withdrawal, is a recipe for relapse. Get your quitting feet under you first.
  53. If you do use alcohol, once ready to challenge your drinking triggers, consider breaking the challenge down into manageable trigger segments. Try drinking at home first without smokers around, go out with smokers but refrain from drinking, or consider spacing your drinks further apart, or drinking water or juice between drinks. Have an escape plan, and a backup, and be fully prepared to use them both.
  54. Don't expect family or friends who have never been chemically dependent themselves to have any appreciation of your challenges or the time required to achieve substantial comfort. It simply isn't fair to them or you.
  55. Recognize that smoking nicotine cannot solve any crisis. There is absolutely no legitimate excuse for relapse, including an auto accident, financial crisis, divorce, job loss, a terrorist attack, a hurricane, or the eventual inevitable death of those we love most.
  56. Unlike a less than three-minute subconscious crave episode, we can consciously fixate on any thought of wanting to smoke for as long as we're able to maintain our concentration. Don't try to run or hide from thoughts of wanting but instead place the thought under honest light. Flavor? Are there any taste buds inside your lungs?
  57. Treat nicotine dependency recovery as if it were no different than alcoholism. Don't debate with yourself about wanting "a" cigarette. Instead, ask yourself how you'd feel about going back to your old level of consumption or greater.
  58. Save the money you usually spend on cigarettes and buy yourself something you really want after a week or a month. Save for a year and treat yourself to a vacation.
  59. Quickly climb from that deep smoker's rut by spending time in places where you couldn't smoke, such as movies, libraries and no smoking sections of restaurants, by engaging in activities lasting longer than an hour, and by ever so slightly pushing your normal limits of physical endurance in order to sample the amazing healing within.
  60. Tell people around you that you have quit smoking. Fully commit to your recovery while taking pride in each and every hour and day of freedom from nicotine.
  61. Avoid crutches. A crutch is any form of quitting reliance that you lean upon so heavily in supporting your quit (yes, a noun) that if quickly removed would likely result in relapse.
  62. Do not lean heavily upon a quitting buddy who quits at the same time as you, as their odds of successfully quitting for one year are extremely small. Instead ask an ex-smoker for support, call your local Lung Association, Cancer Society or Heart Association office, or visit a free online support forum such as WhyQuit.com's Freedom from Tobacco.
  63. Be prepared for an extremely vivid smoking dream as tobacco odors emitted from horizontal healing lungs are swept up bronchial tubes by rapidly healing cilia, and come in contact with a vastly enhanced sense of smell. See it as the wonderful sign of healing it reflects and nothing more.
  64. Your quitting means thousands of dollars in lost profits to the tobacco industry. They do not want to lose you. See store tobacco advertising and the hundreds of neatly aligned packs and cartons for what they truly reflect - bait. Behind the pretty colored boxes and among more than 600 flavor additives is hidden what many dependency experts now consider earth's most captivating chemical.
  65. Regardless of how long you've smoked, how old you are, or how badly you've damaged your body, it's never too late to arrest your dependency, become its master, and commence the deepest and most intense period of healing that your body and mind have likely ever known.
  66. Study smokers closely. They are not smoking nicotine to tease you. They do so because they must, in order to replenish a constantly falling blood-serum nicotine level. Most nicotine is smoked while on autopilot. What cue triggered the public feeding you're now witnessing? Watch acid-producing events such as stress or alcohol quickly neutralize their body's nicotine reserves. Witness their endless mandatory cycle of replenishment.
  67. There is a major distinction between thinking about smoking and wanting to smoke. Don't confuse the two. After years of smoking you should expect to notice and smell smokers (especially in movies) but it doesn't necessarily mean that you want to smoke. As for thoughts of wanting, with each passing day they'll gradually grow shorter in duration, generally less intense and a bit further apart.
  68. What should you call yourself? Although it's normal to want to consider ourselves non-smokers, there is a major distinction between a never-smoker and an ex-smoker. Only the ex-smoker need protect against relapse.
  69. Don't let complacency destroy your healing and glory. The ingredients for relapse are a failing memory of why we quit and of the early challenges, rewriting the law of addiction to exempt or exclude ourselves, and an excuse such stress, celebration, illness, finances, war, death, or even a cigar at the birth of a baby.
  70. Remember that there are only two good reasons to take a puff once you quit. You decide you want to go back to your old level of consumption until smoking cripples and then kills you, or, you decide you really enjoy withdrawal and you want to make it last forever. As long as neither of these options appeals to you - no nicotine just one day at a time ... Never Take Another Puff!

The above collection of quit smoking tips was compiled by John R. Polito, director of WhyQuit. WhyQuit is the Internet's oldest free forum devoted exclusively to the art, science and psychology of abrupt nicotine cessation. John also presents bimonthly nicotine cessation programs at the College of Charleston.

The list was developed primarily from recent medical studies and from Joel's Library, an insightful collection of 90 short quitting articles written by Joel Spitzer of Chicago. WhyQuit's education director. Joel's articles are available for download as a free electronic PDF book at WhyQuit.

Be sure to share this list with friends and loved ones who smoke. Not being able to discover the law of addiction through the school of hard-quitting-knocks is a horrible reason to die.

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Written 07/20/05.
Reformatted 08/16/2018 by John R. Polito