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This guide will help you to prepare and take action to successfully stop smoking. Take the time to think about the issues and follow the steps. Move at your own pace. If you do, you'll be able to set and reach your goal.
Think of other tough decisions that you've faced in the past and how good it felt once you made the right choice.
Quitting will make you feel like this and much more: strong, healthy and confident!
It may be a habit or an addiction, or both. You may like how it makes you look or feel. It may help you relax, give you energy, give you time to yourself, or distract you from stress. It may be something you share with others. You may even think it helps to control your weight.
Whatever it may give you, smoking takes away much more. It seriously harms your health, each time you light up. It can lead to deadly cancers, chronic lung and heart disease, and an early and painful death. These are proven facts.
Quitting will give you a real and powerful sense of self-control...right now! You will feel, perform and look better. You won't have to leave your house or workplace just to smoke. Your relationships with non-smokers will improve. Your sense of taste and smell will improve. You'll be a better role model for children. You won't have to worry about other people being exposed to second-hand smoke from your cigarettes.
Take a few moments now to think about what you want to achieve by quitting, including how you would like to improve your health, image, relationships and finances.
Former smokers live longer than those who continue to smoke. For example, those who quit before age 50 have only half the chance of dying from a smoking-related disease in the next 15 years compared with those who continue to smoke.
In fact, your body will start to heal within 24 hours of quitting:
If you're like most smokers, you probably reach for a cigarette automatically when you do or feel certain things, when you're with other smokers, or as part of your daily routines.
When do you routinely smoke? Drinking coffee or alcohol, relaxing after work or a meal, talking on the phone, driving, or feeling stressed or angry are common smoking "triggers"á- things that may make you want to smoke. Try using the Tracking Card inserted into this guide to note what you're doing and feeling each time you reach for a cigarette.
Anticipate your triggers. Try to delay lighting up by keeping your hands and mouth busy with other things. Drink a glass of cold water, brush your teeth, or enjoy a low-calorie snack. Stretch, take a walk, or talk with a non-smoking friend.
Think about the times when you almost always reach for a cigarette. Then, whenever these things, feelings or situations occur, ask yourself: "Do I really need this cigarette? Do I even really want to smoke? Can I wait or just do something else?"
This highly addictive chemical in tobacco makes you feel energized, alert or calm. Over time, your brain gets used to it. It thinks the extra stimulation is normal. So when nicotine leaves your system, soon after smoking, your brain begins to crave it. You feel uncomfortable without it and get the urge to smoke again.
As you smoke less, your brain also gets used to having less nicotine. You may get cravings or feel irritable or "down" for a while, but these things never last long. The more cravings you resist, the fewer you will have. They will soon be much shorter and weaker. Your brain will soon naturally replace the artificial "lift" you got from nicotine. This will happen no matter how long or how much you have smoked.
You have what it takes!
You have already dealt successfully with things in your life that are uncomfortable and difficult to control. You have what it takes to successfully stop smoking!
Quitting smoking is about making a change in your life. It's about walking away from something that may have been part of your life for a long time -- something you've come to depend on. You may be worried about how hard it might be, about reactions from friends who still smoke, about giving up time to yourself, about gaining weight, or even about losing a part of who you are. It's normal to have doubts. But remember...
Quitting isn't one big challenge -- it's a series of small ones. You can meet each one, including cravings, with clear thinking.
You're never too old or too addicted to quit. Deciding to quit, taking the first step and continuing to try are all things to be proud of and feel good about. They're as much a part of your success as actually living smokefree. Because with quitting, as with every form of positive change, success isn't something you find, it's something you create, day by day. In time, small changes can lead to big transformations -- like a smokefree life!
Health Canada's website also offers a free eight-week e-mail message service called e-Quit that's already helped thousands of smokers. The program is based on the material in this guide.
Over time, your body often needs more and more nicotine to get that short burst of energy or temporary calm. Nicotine causes your heart rate and blood pressure to rise -- thus adding even more stress to your body! Worrying about the impact of your smoking on your own health or that of your family and friends is also very stressful to most people.
The prospect of dealing with withdrawal symptoms and having to change your routine can be stressful for many people. Some people describe quitting smoking like losing an old friend.
Learning what to expect when you quit smoking and how to deal with withdrawal symptoms will help greatly to increase your self-confidence and reduce your stress level. For example, begin by making some time for yourself each day for relaxation (e.g. listen to soft music, read a good book, enrol in a fun course at a local school, or try yoga -- a good way to relax). Plan regular rewards for yourself to celebrate your accomplishments. Maintain a healthy diet and eat proper meals at regular intervals. Becoming more physically active helps to release calming chemicals in the brain and promote better sleep. Don't dwell on your problems, find one or two people with whom you can talk to explore solutions.
Learn to deep breathe.
Take a slow deep breath in through your nose and hold it for a count of five. Push your tummy out at the same time. This makes the air go deeper into your lungs, where the smoke used to go. Slowly breathe out through your mouth to the count of seven. Repeat this three times, and feel the relaxation as your stress drops away.
If you're ready to quit,
the next section will help you follow through!
If you're not,
you may need more time to think and decide. Review this guide in a couple of weeks. In the meantime, if you can, visit Health Canada's website at www.gosmokefree.ca and have a look at the online version of On the Road to Quitting. It offers an interactive tool you can use to create a customized picture of why you smoke and how you can stop.
Choose the right time. Think about the activities you have planned for the next few weeks. Choose a time when you won't be too stressed. For example, find a week when you have no major deadlines at work or home. You may want to begin on a weekend so you can plan some activities that will keep your mind off cigarettes. If you're a woman, don't pick a date immediately before your period.
Instead of continuously putting off your quit date, use unexpected circumstances to your advantage. For example, sometimes having to deliver a big project can help distract you from cravings and urges to smoke. If you're going through a stressful period, remind yourself that smoking actually increases the effects of stress by increasing heart rate and breathing. Over the longer term, quitting will reduce your stress.
Choose a date no more than three weeks from today. Mark it on every calendar. Look at it every day as a reminder. Each time you do, remember that it's an opportunity. Think about all the reasons you want to quit, and all that you have to gain.
Having a specific action plan can improve your chances of quitting smoking for good.
A good plan should be written down because it requires you to think more carefully about what you need to do and how you will do it. You can find some tips about preparing your own action plan on page 23 of this guide.
It's always wise to speak to your family doctor when you're planning a major lifestyle change. Your doctor will be able to provide you with advice on nicotine replacement therapies and also refer you to other possible sources of support to stop smoking.
Nicotine replacements like gum and patches can help you with cravings. You use nicotine gum to control cravings one at a time. Patches keep a controlled amount of nicotine (in gradually reduced amounts) in your system at all times for up to three months. Both are available without a prescription. Bupropion is an anti-depressant pill that has been found to help people with nicotine withdrawal; however, it must be prescribed by your doctor and started at least a week before you quit.
If you keep it to yourself, it may be easier to change your mind. Telling your family, friends and co-workers gives you another reason to stay focussed, and it will encourage them to help you when you need support. Tell friends who smoke about your decision. They're sure to understand.
You might want to talk with someone if you need extra help to resist the urge to smoke. Tell a close non-smoking friend what you plan to do. Explain that you might call upon them for support.
You might also consider calling a toll-free quitline for help and information. When you call, you will speak to a knowledgable, friendly and supportive specialist, someone who understands what you are going through.
To access resources call:
This means taking the time to understand where and why you smoke, preparing mentally to break the patterns and deal with withdrawal, then stopping all at once. You may wish to visit Health Canada's On the Road to Quitting website at www.gosmokefree.ca for additional help to quit smoking and to complete a questionnaire to help you better understand why you smoke and your level of addiction to nicotine.
This means slowly reducing the amount you normally smoke as you move closer to your quit date. Cutting back allows you to get a sense of what it will be like to quit for good. It gives you the chance to solve a few challenges at a time, instead of all at once.
The easiest cigarettes to cut out are the ones you don't need. Each time you reach for a cigarette, stop and think "Do I really need it?" Wait five or ten minutes before acting on your urge to smoke. Smoke less of each cigarette than you normally would. Start to "ration" your cigarettes by carrying only enough to get you through the day and refusing to get more. Every day or two, reduce that amount. Cut down as far as you can. Try delaying your first cigarette of the day by at least two hours and eliminating cigarettes at various other times, such as at afternoon breaks or after dinner.
How do you make decisions?
Think of one or more significant decisions or changes you've made quickly and completely. Then name one or two decisions or changes you've made after thinking, testing and practising for some time. Which ones have been most successful? Why?
Instead of saying "I will not," try another approach so that you can say "I will." For example, if you normally smoke after dinner, you could say: "Right after dinner tonight, I will go for a short walk." Remember the encouragement you've already received from those you told about your plan to quit smoking.
Each day and week without cigarettes is worth celebrating. Think of a few things you would really like to have or do that you could "earn" by staying smokefree. Consider putting the money you would have spent on cigarettes in a "piggy bank" or jar. Use it to treat yourself in big or small ways.
Over time, the things you normally do while smoking have become "triggers."
Like other reminders, such as the sight or smell of a cigarette or a certain time of the day, they automatically make you want to light up. Breaking those routines can give you the confidence and motivation you need to change more.
Having a specific action plan can improve your chances of quitting smoking for good.
Indicate who else will benefit from your decision to quit. Try to imagine how you'll look. How will you feel about yourself? You may be concerned about your health or want to regain control of your life. You may wish to set a good example for your children or improve your relationship with family and friends. You may also wish to keep more of your hard-earned money!
Next to each concern, write down one or more things you'll do to overcome this challenge. For example, you may be concerned about failure. Many people try more than once to quit smoking. Each quit attempt is a success, as you'll learn skills that you can apply to your next quit attempt.
Take a moment to write down one or two strategies you can use to deal with each withdrawal symptom, in case it happens to you. Being able to recognize withdrawal symptoms will also help you to remember that the effect is only temporary.
Think about the times you've gone without smoking in the past. What did you do to keep yourself from smoking? Which of these strategies seemed to be most helpful? Have you become more physically active, changed your diet, started wearing your seat belt, stopped putting things off? How did you do it? Could these skills help you to change your smoking behaviour?
Most people underestimate the support they think they'll get from their family and friends. List the people you can count on to help you. Who can you call for encouragement? Who will help distract you when you crave a smoke? Who can help you avoid tempting situations?
Before you quit, use your Tracking Card to record how much you smoke, where you were when you smoked, who you were with, as well as what you were thinking, feeling and doing immediately before, during and after you smoked. Review the notes after one week to see if you can find any patterns to your smoking. For example, does the amount you smoke change according to who you were with, where you were, what you were doing or how you were feeling?
If coffee reminds you of smoking, switch to tea or juice. If you tend to smoke in a certain chair, sit in another chair or go outside. Remove all ashtrays from sight.
The final step of your quit plan should be to set a date to begin your life without cigarettes. Try to pick a specific date within the next three weeks.
I have committed to stop smoking on __________. On that day, and on each day afterwards, I will not smoke. I will do whatever it takes to keep this promise so I can have a new and better life without cigarettes.
Your signature here
Remember your smoking "triggers" and when they're likely to happen. Prepare to face them, and remember what you plan to do instead of smoking.
You may be feeling nervous as your quit day approaches. You may feel that you're about to give up something important in your life. To help you deal with this feeling, remind yourself that you're well prepared and that you have what it takes to succeed. Let your family, friends and co-workers know that tomorrow is your quit day. Ask them to understand if you appear tense and irritable. Let them know that you appreciate their support.
Are there any periods of high stress? Will you be going out or spending time with a friend or family member who reminds you of smoking? For each tempting situation, think of at least three things you can do to cope, like avoiding the situation or doing something that is incompatible with smoking (e.g. choosing a non-smoking restaurant).
Before you go to bed... Throw out all your cigarettes. Do not keep any for "emergencies." Throw away your lighters and ashtrays too! Most of all, feel good about having the courage to quit.
Today is the first day of your healthier, better, smokefree life. Celebrate it. Be proud of yourself. You have taken the steps to learn and prepare. You're doing the right thing. Now you're ready to enjoy all the benefits of being a non-smoker.
Quitting could seem stressful over the next few days. Make it easy on yourself. Take some time for yourself. Try to avoid or walk away from situations that give you more stress. Among other things, avoid places where you might see and smell cigarettes.
Take control. If you find yourself in a situation that makes you want to smoke, remove yourself from that situation. Shift your attention to something else. Think beyond the cravings and work through them. Remember that every urge will pass and that you will feel stronger after every one.
Your cravings may be timed to different events in your day like driving to work, coffee breaks, and meals. Break up patterns in your day that trigger cravings, take a different route to work or school, do something different at coffee break and after a meal.
In the days ahead... Continue to think positively about the change you've made. Remind yourself that you can do this, and that it takes a bit of time to heal. Each day without cigarettes will make you healthier and stronger.
After you quit, the brain will continue to crave nicotine, and you'll probably experience some symptoms of withdrawal. These include urges to smoke; thoughts about having "just one"; and feeling restless, irritable, frustrated or uncomfortable. You may also have difficulty concentrating, experience coughing, mild depression or have trouble sleeping for a while.
However, urges rarely last more than a few minutes and the other symptoms seldom last for more than 10 days. Think of each one as a bridge you have to cross to reach the reward on the other side. Prepare to think past them, work through them. Remember that they are temporary, while the benefits of quitting will be with you for life. Remind yourself that you've worked hard to prepare and that you will succeed!
The key to staying quit is to develop new behaviours instead of just trying not to smoke. Right from the start, you'll have to find ways to help yourself feel satisfied without cigarettes. If you work at it, staying smokefree gets easier because you develop the skills and confidence you need.
How long does withdrawal last?
For many people, withdrawal is at its worst for the first few days and then it begins to lessen after three or four days. After a week to ten days, all withdrawal symptoms should be gone. Your main task in quitting is to find a way to get through the first few days. If you do, you have a much better chance of succeeding for good.
Each day without cigarettes will get easier. Each day without cigarettes will make you stronger. Each day without cigarettes is worth celebrating. So, each and every day for the next month :
If you need extra help or more information in the days and weeks ahead, visit the Health Canada website at www.gosmokefree.ca, to sign up to receive a free electronic quit message each day for eight weeks; call the 1-800 quitline in your province; or call your family physician or public health office.
The best way to cope with temptations is to avoid them. Avoid situations that involve alcohol, people and things that make you want to smoke. The key is to learn to recognize potentially tempting situations, and then prepare two or three strategies you can use if the situation comes up. Do this until not smoking is more natural than smoking.
Think about positive things about not smoking. Consciously focus on what is good about quitting smoking. Some people keep the money they've saved in a jar and look at it (a lot). Some people think about how much easier it is to breathe when they play hockey, soccer, go for a brisk walk, or try to keep up with their children.
Think about negative things about cigarettes and smoking. Some people have a picture of what smoking does to the lungs. Others have a butt jar (a jar filled with water and old cigarette butts). Do what works for you.
If you're tempted to smoke, try to distract yourself by doing something that requires concentration. For example, play a game of cards, check out the Internet (e.g. Health Canada's www.gosmokefree.ca site), write a letter to a friend, get started on a project or cook dinner. To relieve boredom or irritability, try chewing sugarless gum, listening to relaxing music, taking a shower or bath, or doing some deep breathing and relaxation exercises.
Carry something you can look at or read that reminds you of why quitting is your goal, like a card with your reasons for quitting, a picture of your children or family members who support you, or anything that makes you feel good about not smoking.
A slip is like a fire alarm. When the alarm rings, you need to know exactly what to do, what to say, where to go and whom to ask for help. You don't want to lose control of a situation. Plan ahead in the same way as you would plan for a fire drill.
Remember... If you do slip, don't worry about it. It doesn't mean you have to give up. Just keep on working at it! Try to figure out why it happened and make plans to avoid it in the future.
For example, after you stop smoking, you may be tempted to eat more because your food will smell and taste better. You may eat as a substitute for keeping your hands or mouth busy. You may also gain weight because your metabolism is no longer being sped up by nicotine. Sometimes, people gain weight because they feel hungrier after they quit smoking. Finally, you may gain weight because subconsciously you believe you have a legitimate reason for doing so.
You'll be less likely to gain weight if you don't change your diet, stick to very low-energy snacks and increase exercise or physical activities. Using the nicotine patch or gum or Bupropion as part of your quit attempt may also slow weight gain. Individuals who are more physically active before they stop smoking are also much less likely to gain weight.
Some people are able to make several lifestyle changes at the same time. However, most people find it easier to tackle one challenge at a time. Try to maintain your normal diet. It also helps to drink lots of water and to snack on healthy foods. If you do gain weight, try becoming more physically active.
Some people who quit say that taking walks every day helps them keep their weight under control. It also helps with food and nicotine cravings and gets them out of the house so that they do not smoke out of boredom.
Help is just a Phone Call Away!
When you call our toll-free number, you will speak to a knowledgeable, friendly and supportive specialist, someone who understands what you are going through.
Call the Smokers' Helpline for:
You might also consider calling a toll-free quitline for help and information:
To access resources call: