The Key to Kicking the Habit

6 December 2008 By Kelly Sanford

In the December 2008 issue of Dockwalk, we told you why you should quit smoking. Now we're telling you how.

In 2004 the US Surgeon general published a comprehensive report regarding the health effects of smoking. Among the alarming list of findings was the conclusion that “smoking harms nearly every organ in the body.” According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 70 percent of adults who smoke want to quit, but according to the American Cancer Society only 5-10 percent of them will succeed. So when you are ready to quit, what choices do you have and what can you to improve your odds?

Look I’ll admit it. I’m an ex-smoker (12 years and counting). It started as a few cigarettes at the bar when I was in college, then blossomed into an excuse to take a break once I started working and eventually I was having a cigarette with my morning coffee and smoking the last one before I brushed my teeth for bed.

I can’t tell you how many times I said to myself, “That’s it! I’ve smoked my last cigarette,” and I would defiantly crumple-up and throw away half a pack of cigarettes…only to buy another before the day was over. (Sound familiar?) Sure, there were times I’d stop for a few weeks or a few months, and as much as I protested that I was not addicted, I was not only CLEARLY addicted, I also suffered from a raging case of denyiarrhea. Ask anyone who has successfully quit, and they will tell you that the key is to know that it is an addiction. Once you put your “last cigarette” down, you have to be committed to never touching one again.

Are you ready? Well, here are some tips to help you improve your odds:
1) Admit you have an addiction, and make a commitment to take back control.
2) Pick a stop date and stick to it.
3) Have a strategy and a support system in place.
4) Tell EVERYONE you are quitting. (It’s something my husband calls, “The shame method.”)

There are a number of strategies out there to help you quit. Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) is very popular. However, long term success with the “magic pill” method remains elusive. About 30 percent of smokers are able to remain smoke-free after six months, yet according to studies in the U.S. and UK, less than half remain smoke-free after one year.

A second “magic pill method” includes prescription antidepressants. About 35 percent of smokers who use antidepressants to quit are smoke-free after three months but fewer than half remain smoke-free after a year. Early trials of a newer drug called Chantix showed that 44 percent were smoke-free after three months, and about 22 percent remained smoke-free after a year. These results were slightly better when combined with NRT.

Other popular methods which have little scientific data to support their success are acupuncture, laser therapy, hypnotism and even electro-shock therapy. However, according to the ACS, 90 percent of those who quit for good used the “cold-turkey” method. The key to going cold turkey is to have a support system in place (or a “shame system”- depending on which is a better motivator for you) because 95 percent who go it alone will fail.

The important thing to remember is that it can be done.

Need help? Want to help? Post your trials, tribulations and tips here. Which method will help you quit?

Here are some useful links:

ACS Quiz: Do You Need Help to Quit?

ACS Guide to Quitting Smoking

NHS Quit Tools

ACS Bookstore: Recommended Books
Surgeon General’s Report – The Health Consequences of Smoking