Dr. Mike's
Top Ten Tips
To Quit Smoking.

1. Have a “big enough why.” Spend time thinking about why you want to quit. What are your personal reasons to quit? Then write down the reasons. Post your written reasons on your refrigerator and elsewhere, and let the list remind you every day of these important reasons. It’s your life, so be motivated to succeed.

Some famous motivational speakers and “gurus” use “leverage” to give the smoker motivation to quit. Tony Robbins, for example, has charged people $15,000 or more for a one-hour smoking cessation session. If you’re willing to pay $15,000 to quit, you’re probably motivated, and also more likely to succeed. Other trainers may have the person (besides paying a fair amount of money) do tasks, such as homework exercises, before the person is taken as a client. Doing so ensures that the person is motivated to quit, which helps get better results.

My tip is for you to determine the real reasons you want to quit, and to internally experience how important it is for you to quit once you know your “big enough why.” Take time every day to experience the feelings of how important it is for you to quit, once you know your personal reasons … once you know your big enough why.

2. Throw away all cigarettes and related items. Toss them in the garbage. All cigarettes, matches, ashtrays, lighters, rolling papers, cigars, hookahs, logo clothing, and other items from tobacco companies that they try to use to brand you as a smoker—discard anything to do with smoking. Don’t allow any of that stuff at home, at work, or in your car. Some say to put away ashtrays and lighters. I say throw them away, so that it will cost you money if you don’t stick to your goal of quitting.

3. Set a quit date. Determine a definite date when you will quit (or will start a gradual scheduled reduction program --- for more information on gradual scheduled reduction, see pp. 341-3 in Ending The Tobacco Holocaust).

4. Change your identity and self-image to “I am a nonsmoker.” You are no longer a smoker having a problem with quitting. Change your identity to that of a nonsmoker so that smoking isn’t congruent with who you are. In a calm moment, you may want to close your eyes and visualize yourself as smoke-free, happily breathing fresh healthy air into your lungs, and feeling relaxed and refreshed doing so.

5. Share your goal with friends and family. Tell them you’re quitting and ask for their support in helping you to do so. (Hypnotist Marshall Sylver has people come up on stage and tell the audience that if anyone in the audience ever sees them smoke again, then that person from the audience can collect $1,000 from them. How’s that for social and financial motivation?)

6. Avoid all triggers, and learn new replacement behaviors. Identify your personal triggers for smoking beforehand, and write them down. Avoid alcohol, coffee, and other triggers for smoking. If you smoke when you are anxious, replace that behavior with a new one, perhaps simply breathing in fresh air in a relaxing manner. Some possible relaxation methods include progressive muscle relaxation, deep breathing, internal visualization, and meditation. Some people learn yoga, meditation on the breath, and other techniques to quickly relax and to replace the urge to smoke.

When’s the last time you just took a good ole deep breath and relaxed? If you’ve been drawing in cigarette-poisoned air to get that deep breath, skip the poison and just breathe the fresh air. Over the long run, your body will thank you.

An excellent book to help avoid temptation, deal with urges to smoke, and not relapse once you have quit is Out of the Ashes: Help for People Who Have Stopped Smoking by Peter and Peggy Holmes.

7. Set a no-smoking policy. Don’t allow anyone to smoke in your home or car, and avoid other people when they are smoking. Even a few whiffs of smoke have been known to entice people trying to quit back to smoking.

According to Laura Juliano, Ph.D., “… the relapse process begins with a single smoking episode, which may appear at the outset to be a lapse or a slip. Although it is possible that an individual could achieve long-term abstinence despite having had a smoking lapse, this is rarely the case. Rather, 79%–97% of individuals who experience a smoking lapse subsequently return to some pattern of regular smoking (indicated by three or more consecutive days of smoking).”

Assert your right to fresh air. Take your efforts seriously and (as much as possible) avoid all tobacco smoke. Those efforts will pay off when you successfully quit.

8. Get support. Utilize group counseling, an individual counselor, Nicotine Anonymous, and/or Quitlines. For example, the National Cancer Institute Smoking Quitline toll-free number is 1-877-44U-QUIT.

The most recent scientific data show that people who try to quit on their own have less than a 5% chance of being smoke-free one year later. (While getting support is helpful, the odds of being smoke-free one year later greatly improve with the addition of nicotine replacement or gradual scheduled reduction methods, and medication.)

9. Use scientifically proven methods. Use methods that have been confirmed to be effective by research. When testing single methods in rigorously designed studies, the best results have been shown in studies using medications, such as with the new Chantix (varenicline), bupropion SR (brand name Zyban or Wellbutrin), or with second-line medications, nortriptyline hydrochloride, or clonidine. Other medications available are supported by less data than those named above, and new medications may be approved in the next few years.

Nicotine replacement therapies have helped many people, though the data is less dramatic for them than for medications. These therapies include the nicotine patch, nicotine gum, nicotine nasal spray, and the nicotine inhaler. (Don’t smoke when you use these replacement methods.) I believe that gradual scheduled reduction methods hold promise to possibly be more effective than nicotine replacement therapies (see pp. 341-3 in Ending The Tobacco Holocaust).

10. Combine methods and “Commit To Quit.” Combining methods for quitting seems to be most effective, though there are far fewer studies that have tested the many possible combinations than for single methods. At Kaiser Permanente, the best results seem to be obtained when patients take a seven-week class, use the nicotine patch and bupropion SR, talk with a counselor from the smoking cessation department, and also use outside quit resources, such as books, the Internet, quitlines, and/or Nicotine Anonymous. Your goal isn’t to prove one method or the other; it is to quit smoking and live a healthy life. So put in the effort for your own physical and financial well-being as well as your family’s, your friends’, and society’s.

I may get some flack from colleagues for saying this, but I also think that if the standard methods don’t work for you, try any non-harmful method that fits your budget, that you like, and that you think may help you to quit. While methods such as hypnosis haven’t been proven effective according to the standards required by the scientific community, many people claim it has helped them (e.g., hypnosis worked for celebrities Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, but not for Robert Downey Jr.). Also, there’s no reason why methods such as hypnosis can’t be combined with standard scientifically proven methods (such approaches are called complementary medicine). One caution: herbal supplements may have interactions with medications, so use of those should be discussed with your physician before you try them.

If money and time are big issues, try the scientifically proven methods first. However, we’re literally talking about your life here, so if you’re not constrained by money and time limitations, then invest your money and time to be successful at quitting. If using non-harmful complementary methods help you to achieve success, that’s wonderful.

Never give up! The average smoker takes ten to eleven attempts to finally quit. (Most smokers try repeatedly to quit on their own with no outside help and we know that approach typically gets poor results.) With current methods, as tested in large populations, there still is more than a 50% chance of not succeeding for one year. I hope that doesn’t happen to you, but if it does, don’t give up. Over 50% of all smokers have successfully quit. View each attempt as a learning experience on the way to successfully quitting. Take to heart these words from Winston Churchill, “Never give up” until you succeed.

On the other hand, if this is your first attempt to quit, I don’t want to influence you to believe that you need to attempt quitting many times before you can be successful. Millions of people have been successful at quitting for life with their first attempt to quit. For a first-time attempt it might be helpful to remember the words of the Star Wars movie trilogy Jedi Master Yoda: “Do, or do not. There is no ‘try.’”

Legal Disclaimer: The information on this website is not meant to be used to diagnose or treat any disease. All diagnosis and treatment of illness and disease should be done in consultation with your licensed health professional. It is suggested that all smoking cessation efforts be undertaken with the help of support services and also in consultation with a health care professional.

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