Set a P-L-A-N to quit smoking

You’ve made the decision to quit smoking, now what?

You’ve made the decision to quit smoking, now what?

Quitting smoking is the best thing you can do for your health. But how do you go about doing it … and succeeding? Do you buy a bag of hard candy and a pack of straws and warn everyone to stay away? Well, that’s an option but not a very realistic one.  The best thing you can do once you have decided to quit smoking is P-L-A-N.

Pick a date. Just like any other goals, pick a date that you will start your journey to becoming smoke-free. This will give you time to set your plan into action.

Let those closest to you know you have decided to quit. Build your support team and ask friends, family members, neighbors and co-workers to help you along the way. Exchange phone numbers, ask if you can text them and make a pact that you will call when you need their support.

Accept the challenges that lay ahead of you. Since smoking is an addiction, you will be tackling one of the biggest challenges of your life. James T. Jennings, M.D. Norton Community Medical Associates – Brownsborosays if you fail at smoking cessation, you have to forgive yourself and start over. Most smokers will attempt to quit five times before they are successful.

Nicotine replacement therapy is available and, if used as directed, is a safe way to help you quit smoking. Gum and patches are the most readily available, while inhalers and medications may require a prescription. Here’s a deeper look at several products and their pros and cons:

Nicotine gum, mints and lozenges

These products work by delivering a controlled amount of nicotine to your system through the lining of your mouth to help relieve the craving. Manufacturers recommend using the products to help with nicotine withdrawal, allowing you to focus on getting through the smoking triggers that come up in your daily routine.

With most of these products, you cannot eat or drink anything for 15 minutes PRIOR to use. The food and drink can block the absorption of the nicotine into your body. According to, you can still smoke and use these products to help taper off; however, Dr. Jennings warns against the possibility of too much nicotine in your blood stream, leading to nicotine poisoning.  Side effects of nicotine poisoning include rapid heart rate, nausea, dizziness and disorientation.

Nicotine spray

Similar to nicotine gum, mists and lozenges, nicotine spray is a quick way to overcome an immediate craving. Spray products are designed to deliver nicotine into your body very quickly through the lining of your mouth.

Nicotine replacement patches

Patches are adhesive bandages that stick to your skin and contains nicotine that slowly releases into your skin. Typically these are sold in kits and may include a step-down option, allowing you to wean yourself off the nicotine at your own pace. (The strength level of the nicotine reduces with each kit until you don’t need it anymore.)

There is the option to use nicotine replacement gum or lozenges in conjunction with the patches to help curb the onset of cravings, but again you will want to talk with your health care provider and watch for symptoms of becoming nicotine toxic.

Wearing the 24-hour patch has been known to affect sleep in some people. Some users complain of having difficulty sleeping or having vivid dreams. If you experience sleep disturbances, consider using a 16-hour patch instead or removing the patch a few hours before you go to sleep.

Nicotine inhalers

There are several brands, as well as prescription and over-the-counter versions of the nicotine inhaler to choose from if you go this route. The concept of the inhaler is two-fold: 1) The inhaler provides low levels of nicotine in hopes to help you quit smoking by lessening the physical signs of withdrawal symptoms; and 2) it is in the shape of a cigarette and helps overcome the “I need something to do with my hands” problem most smokers encounter when trying to quit.

One very important detail to note: Ask your doctor, health care provider or pharmacist about any medical conditions or medications you take. The inhaler may not be recommended and may cause an adverse interactaction with certain conditions or medications.

Prescription medications

There are a few different options when it comes to prescription medication to help you quit smoking.  Two are bupropion and varenicline.

  • Bupropion is an antidepressant medication that has shown success in helping people quit smoking. It doesn’t contain nicotine and works by helping with the withdrawal and by lessening the urge to smoke. Side effects of the medication include dry mouth and trouble sleeping.  Bupropion is primarily prescribed through Zyban or Wellbutrin for smoking cessation assistance.
  • Varenicline, commonly prescribed as Chantix, helps to reduce nicotine withdrawal and the urge to smoke. It also blocks the effects of nicotine from cigarettes if you start smoking again. Side effects can include nausea and vivid dreams, and some people have reported mood swings, depression and suicidal thoughts. It is important to consult your physician or health care provider while taking this medication.

If you opt for a prescription medication to help you quit smoking, be sure to read all the instructions and talk to your doctor, health care provider or pharmacist if you have any questions. Also, keep in mind that the medications don’t do all the work in helping you quit smoking. The medications are an aid to help in your efforts, but they won’t completely take away your urge to smoke. So plan ahead and have a strategy in mind for dealing with the cravings and triggers.

Other forms of support

SmokefreeTXT is a mobile text messaging service that is free of charge and available 24/7 with encouragement, advice and tips to help you quit smoking.

QuitSTART is a free smartphone app to help you quit smoking. It allows you to track your cravings and moods, monitor your progress toward achieving smoke-free milestones, identify triggers, and get encouragement and “pick me ups” to help you on your journey.

Call a quitting hotline and talk to someone. There are several options, including (800) QUIT-NOW (784-8669). Trained professionals can help talk you through your triggers and cravings while encouraging you along the way.


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