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Quitting Smoking Strategies: Finding What Works for You

  • Category: Lung Health
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  • Written By: LVMC Staff
Quitting Smoking Strategies: Finding What Works for You

Nicotine is one of the most highly addictive drugs on the planet. Experts have even studied whether nicotine is as addictive as illicit drugs such as cocaine. It’s no surprise, then, that quitting smoking is so difficult. Even if you want to quit, tobacco products such as cigarettes, cigars, hookah, and even many e-cigarettes, are highly addictive because they contain nicotine. Unfortunately, it’s probably not news to you that smoking cigarettes can have profoundly negative impacts on your future health, increasing your risk for a range of health conditions, such as cancer, respiratory diseases, cardiovascular disease, rheumatologic disease, and more.

At Lompoc Valley Medical Center, we believe that knowledge is power. We aim to partner with our patients and support them with the information that they need to make healthy choices about their lives and future health. We can be powerful allies when it comes to quitting smoking, too. Here’s what you need to know about strategies to quit smoking, and how to find what works for you.

How Hard is it to Quit Smoking?

The answer to the above question is not a shock if you've ever tried to quit yourself: Very hard. Researchers on smoking cessation note that Mark Twain once said, “Quitting smoking is easy: I’ve done it thousands of times,” which illustrates the challenge at hand when you attempt to banish cigarettes from your life. Experts note that up to 70 percent of adults who smoke want to quit. However, only 3 to 5 percent of people can quit smoking on their own, without any help. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that more than half of adult smokers have made an attempt to quit within the past year and that fewer than one in 10 people in the United States successfully quit each year. While this seems defeating, it also means that in the year 2018, 2.9 million people successfully quit and released the hold that nicotine had on them.

The Bright Side of Nicotine

Nicotine, itself, is not the substance in cigarettes that can be so deadly—instead, it’s the chemicals that are in tobacco that can cause a toxic storm, triggering lung damage and setting you up for diseases like COPD and cancer. Nicotine simply keeps you coming back for more and more of these toxic chemicals because it is so immediately satisfying for your brain. One of the silver linings of the highly addictive potential of nicotine, then, is that it can be harnessed for good: Nicotine addiction is a treatable addiction. Tricking your brain by using nicotine-replacement therapy can help you stop smoking for good. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) notes that when nicotine replacement therapies such as skin patches, lozenges, or gums, are used as directed, they can double your chance of successfully quitting smoking once and for all.

Strategies for Quitting Smoking

When it comes to quitting smoking, it’s all about finding a strategy that works for you. Don’t get discouraged if your first few attempts don’t pan out. Each attempt increases the likelihood of your success, and it is not uncommon for it to take a few trials before you’re able to quit once and for all. Experts report that estimates of how many attempts it takes to stop smoking are underreported, with the true number potentially approaching 30 attempts. Below are many strategies that can be helpful when you decide you want to quit smoking.

Quit Smoking Using Help Lines

Using a smoking helpline, or “quitline,” can be a powerful strategy when you decide that you want to be done with cigarettes once and for all. These helplines can be useful because they provide in-person, tailored coaching to help you quit smoking over the phone. They are also available in many languages. Research shows that these types of telephone counseling services can help people both quit smoking initially and remain abstinent. Some studies have shown success rates to be twice as high for people who used a quit line, compared to those who did not. Even one or two brief calls can make a difference, though the effectiveness of this strategy does increase the more you use the service.

Quit Smoking Using An App recommends using a Smokefree application that you can download onto your smartphone. A smoke-free app can deliver 24/7, customized support. These apps can provide you with assistance based on personalized information that you provide, such as the reason why you want to quit, your smoking patterns, and your moods and emotions related to smoking. You can also indicate locations and specific periods during the day when you anticipate you’ll need more guidance, redirection, or support.

Quit Smoking Using a Text Message Service

Staying accountable by using a text message service can be a helpful way to quit smoking. By texting QUITNOW to 333888, you can be launched into a national texting portal that helps connect you to resources within your state that provide advice for quitting, as well as encouragement. Regular data rates do apply when using a texting service. This service is also available in Spanish.

Quit Smoking Using Medications

Aside from nicotine replacement therapies, like gum, lozenges, or patches, other medicines can also be helpful when it comes to a smoking cessation strategy. For example, a prescription medicine known as varenicline (Chantix) can help reduce your urge to smoke as well as how much you enjoy the act of smoking cigarettes. To start the medicine, you begin at least a week before you quit smoking, taking one pill twice a day, then gradually reduce the amount that you’re smoking. The medicine works by blocking the receptors in your brain that make smoking so pleasurable. According to the CDC’s page of Tips from From Smokers, “your chance of successful quitting with a single medicine is best with varenicline.”

Another medication, known as Bupropion (Wellbutrin) can also be useful. Similar to varenicline, you start taking it before you quit smoking. It has a few advantages, such as helping improve depressive symptoms and reducing the weight gain that can occur when you stop smoking.

Quit Smoking Using Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS)

Many new technologies may make it easier to quit smoking. For example, the FDA has given marketing clearance to a device that uses a technique known as transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). During this type of treatment, certain circuits within the brain are stimulated by using electrical impulses. When researchers studied people who had failed at least one prior attempt to quit smoking, they found that when they received three weeks of daily TMS, followed by once weekly TMS sessions for three weeks, they had significantly fewer cigarette cravings by week two, compared to the control group.

Quit Smoking Using a New Hobby

One of the best strategies for quitting smoking is developing a plan of action for something to do to distract yourself from cravings. Smoking is a ritual that includes not only buying cigarettes, but also thinking about smoking them, and then actually smoking them. When you quit smoking, you may suddenly find that you have more “space” in your daily routine, so it’s important to find a way to fill that vacuum. Many people find that picking up a new hobby, such as playing a game on their phone, learning to cross-stitch, or even using a fidget device, can help them stay distracted during the day and less likely to think about cigarettes.

Quit Smoking Using Exercise

One of the healthiest ways that you can distract yourself from smoking is through exercising. According to, short periods of exercise can help lower your urge to smoke, especially if it is a type of cardio exercise that gets your heart rate up. This can include running, dancing, cycling, or swimming. Symptoms of withdrawal and cravings can decrease while you’re exercising and last for up to 50 minutes after you stop exercising. Exercise can also help you prevent the weight gain that’s associated with quitting smoking.

How Lompoc Valley Medical Center Can Help You Quit Smoking

Smoking is a habit that can be, quite simply, deadly. However, once you’ve successfully quit smoking, your risks of many smoking-related diseases greatly diminish over time, including cardiovascular disease. This is why it is always worth the effort to quit smoking, regardless of how old you were when you started, how long you’ve been smoking, how much you’ve smoked per day, or how old you are now. Reducing your body’s exposure to toxic chemicals is a good thing, no matter what.

At Lompoc Valley Medical Center, we are focused on helping patients live their best lives with the highest quality of health. Our teams of family medicine, internal medicine, and behavioral health providers can support you along every step of your smoking cessation journey, from the pre-contemplation phase (before you’re even thinking of quitting) through to the hardy high-five waiting for you once you’ve announced your success. To learn more, make sure to contact us today.