Descriptions of the main "pillars" of any stop smoking plan and a breakdown of the different aspects of quitting that need to be taken into consideration, or, "treated".

How to build a Stop Plan Becoming smoke-free is a result of planning and commitment, not luck. Your Stop Plan should combine various strategies, or plans of action, for:

  • coping with symptoms of nicotine withdrawal
  • surviving urges to smoke
  • improving overall physical and emotional health
  • gaining social support and guidance, when necessary

Don't expect to find a ready-made Stop Plan that you simply adopt as your own. No one "plan" works for everybody — in the same way that there is no one "right way" to stop smoking. Build a Stop Plan you are comfortable with and fits your lifestyle. Choose various techniques and tools that you feel suit your needs. These become your "strategies" to stop smoking.

  • Generally, Stop Plans combine several strategies. Studies show that using more than one strategy increases your chance of becoming smoke-free.
  • Experiment with and adapt strategies to achieve a combination you feel comfortable with.
  • Keep it simple for the first week.
  • Be flexible. If you are using your Stop Plan but feel something is not working, revise your plan.

Stop strategies Listed below are some important strategies to help you stop smoking:

Self-help: Working on your own with available health resources to plan and maintain your stop smoking attempt. The resources include publications from national health organizations, such as the American Cancer Society, American Lung Association and Centers for Disease Control, as well as state and local public health departments. There are many Web sites that have excellent information. Self-help is important for building motivation and confidence. The knowledge you gain helps you handle cravings and avoid high-risk situations to smoke. It provides direction and purpose to change your behavior in positive ways: exercising regularly, improving your diet, getting enough sleep and reducing stress.

Group support: Sharing the stopping process with other individuals working to become smoke-free. The group, headed by a group leader, meets regularly in an organized treatment program. These programs generally offer multiple sessions over at least a 2-week period, each session lasting 20 to 60 minutes. The sessions provide problem solving and skills training to stop smoking. It provides you with social support among others dealing with similar problems. There are programs associated with public health departments in many communities and on college campuses. Some businesses maintain smoking cessation clinics for their employees.

Individual counseling: One-on-one contact with a trusted physician, psychologist, nurse or counselor for professional advice and support. Trained professionals allow you to express your feelings, your fears of not being able to stop or problems with family or friends. They help you gain coping skills, overcome obstacles and learn to live as a nonsmoker. You can contact them when you experience withdrawal symptoms or need encouragement to handle the urge to smoke.

Cold turkey: The most frequently used method to stop smoking. It is a sudden, decisive break from cigarettes — on a chosen day, you stop smoking completely with little or no reduction beforehand. Cold turkey is not something you do on a whim. Rather, it requires preparation emotionally and physically to withstand the strong desire to smoke that occurs. Some form of medication is usually recommended for smokers who use this method to stop.

Nicotine tapering: This is the opposite of cold turkey. It involves gradually reducing your daily nicotine intake over a period of time. The goal is to lessen the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal until you reach a point where you can stop smoking completely.

There are several ways you can attempt this:

  • Reduce the number of cigarettes you smoke each day
  • Take fewer puffs of each cigarette
  • Inhale less deeply on each cigarette

Warning: Many smokers "compensate," often unknowingly, when their bodies begin to produce withdrawal symptoms from the reduced nicotine levels. For example, if they switch to a low nicotine cigarette, they may begin to smoke more cigarettes. If they reduce the number of cigarettes they smoke, they may begin to inhale more deeply. We do not recommend nicotine tapering to stop smoking completely. This method prolongs withdrawal symptoms and provides too many opportunities for relapse. However, a limited form of nicotine tapering is beneficial for heavy smokers. That is, to reach a lower level of smoking prior to their Stop Day. For example, 40-cigarette-per-day smokers may want to cut back roughly 2 cigarettes per day over two weeks to get to 1 pack per day. (Dropping below this level may prolong nicotine withdrawal.) At this point, they set a Stop Day and go cold turkey with the aid of nicotine replacement or non-nicotine medication.

Medication: This is an important help for smokers. Medication helps ease the withdrawal symptoms of nicotine until the worst effects are over. It also allows people to focus on other concerns, such as changing their behaviors that lead to smoking. There are two basic types of medication:

  • Nicotine replacement products

    deliver nicotine to your brain via the bloodstream — without smoking. As your nicotine dependence weakens you gradually decrease the use of these medications. The gradual reduction of your nicotine replacement dose reduces the chance of withdrawal.

  • Non-nicotine medication

    such as bupropion (Zyban®) does not contain nicotine. It is believed that bupropion raises the level of a chemical in your brain called dopamine — the same chemical affected by nicotine. Raising the level of dopamine replicates the pleasure response you get from smoking. As your nicotine dependence weakens you gradually decrease the use of this medication.

Other assistance:

  • Find a "buddy":

    Ask a non-smoking friend or family member to be available for you to contact whenever there are tough times or moments to celebrate.

  • Alternative therapies such as hypnosis or acupuncture:

    These may help relieve stress symptoms associated with nicotine withdrawal but are not in themselves effective strategies to stop smoking.

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