Here Are A Few Top Tips If You Are Trying To Quit Smoking

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Here Are A Few Top Tips If You Are Trying To Quit Smoking
Here Are A Few Top Tips If You Are Trying To Quit Smoking Graphic ©
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What the World Health Organization says about smoking is pretty damning: “Tobacco kills up to half of its users.” [1] According to their data, tobacco kills more than 8 million people yearly, with about 7 million due to direct tobacco smoke and 1.2 million due to secondhand smoke. Over 22.3% of the world’s population smoke tobacco and the WHO has declared this “habit” a global epidemic that must be curbed.

Fast Facts on Smoking Cessation

Dr. Mike Evans, founder of Health Design Lab at the Li Ka Shing Institute of Knowledge in Canada and Associate Professor of Family Medicine and Public Health at the University of Toronto has some good advice on how to stop smoking. According to Dr. Evans, about 75% of people who smoke want to quit while the remaining 25% have no plans to. These numbers are not far off, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reporting that 68% of adult cigarette smokers wanted to stop smoking in 2015. However, only about 7.5% of people who tried to quit smoking actually succeeded. [2]

The Stages of Change

Dr. Evans presents a few concepts on how to stop smoking in one his popular Youtube videos. The first concept is understanding that smoking cessation can come in stages.

1. Contemplation

The first stage is contemplation, when a smoker is just thinking about quitting in the near future but not really acting on it yet. They are receptive to information about the benefits of quitting smoking and have greater awareness of why smoking cessation is vital to their health.

2. Preparation

The second is preparation, when a smoker is now planning the steps to take in order to quit. Preparation is important according to Dr. Evans, especially among people who have tried to quit before and failed. They can now plan using data from previous attempts to quit smoking: What worked and what didn’t – and why.

3. Action

The third stage is the action stage, when a smoker actually stops smoking. This is when a person needs the most support because this is the most difficult phase, as external pressures like stress can often lead to slip ups.

4. Maintenance

The last stage is maintenance, when a person becomes a non-smoker and tries to stay that way. Dr. Evans emphasizes the importance of remembering why you tried to quit smoking in the first place to improve your control, developing new habits and keep a healthier lifestyle from this stage onwards.

The four stages Dr. Evans discussed in his video are actually the same stages advised by the Government of Canada, with one difference: an additional stage before contemplation, called the pre-contemplation stage. This stage is when a person isn’t really thinking about quitting smoking and would even try to defend their smoking behavior. They aren’t receptive to information about the detrimental effects of smoking and often believe that their “addiction” cannot be cured. [3]

Cold Turkey (The Most Effective Way!)

Going “cold turkey” is the straightforward kind of change and studies have shown that among different kinds of smoking cessation methods, it is the kind that was most effective. Khariwala, S., et. al. in 2020 published a study that compared different kinds of tobacco cessation methods: cold turkey vs. pharmacotherapies (nicotine patch, gum, bupropion, and varenicline). The results showed that cold turkey was the most commonly used method among smokers (81.1% of respondents) and had the best results, with smoking cessation of up to 60 days using the method, with these other methods in declining effectiveness: nicotine gum, nicotine patch, and varenicline. [4]

Another study published earlier in 2016 compared gradual and abrupt smoking cessation and found that abrupt was more effective, similar to the results of Khariwala. The researchers found that after four weeks, 39.2% of the gradual group abstained from smoking compared with 49% in the abrupt group. [5] Of course, Dr. Evans reminds us that every smoking cessation journey is different and what may work for a lot of people can’t for some.

Why Give Up Smoking?

According to de Groot and Munden in 2012, cigarette smoking by far is the greatest risk factor in developing lung cancer. [6] Conlon, et. al. report that many head and neck cancers are strongly associated with tobacco use, which affect the efficacy of treatment and recovery from the condition. [7] Other studies have even linked active and passive smoking to an increased risk for breast cancer. [8][9]

Why Do People Smoke?

1. Peer Pressure. It’s very often peer pressure that causes teenagers and young adults to start smoking. Friends around them are seen as daring, rebellious and cool and this behavior is mimicked in the hope of achieving higher social status. Smokers also form a kind of social bond with other smokers through the smoking ritual, gifting (offering of a free cigarette or a light) and the social element of doing something together.

2. Smokers believe that smoking relaxes them. This is not the case. When you feel relaxed when you smoke, you are not really being relaxed – you are feeding your addiction, which gives you a temporary high. [10]

3. Smokers believe that smoking improves concentration. This can be explained by smoking causing an increase in heart rate and blood pressure, which can mimic an increase in concentration and focus. [11]

Here Are A Few Top Tips If You Are Trying To Quit Smoking:

1. Know and understand your triggers. Smoking is often caused a trigger, typically a stressful or emotional situation. More examples of triggers include having an alcoholic beverage or hot drink or simply being offered a cigarette.

Know what your triggers are and find ways to avoid them, understanding that your triggers do not have a causal relationship with smoking (dissociating them from the act of smoking).

2. Change your habit. If having a cigarette in your hand or mouth has become a habit, Dr. Evans recommends picking up other habits that have you doing something with your hands and mouth, like chewing gum or candy and playing with your phone or one the ever popular fidget toys.

3. Make healthier lifestyle choices. In lieu of smoking, pick up activities like exercise, healthy dieting, and gardening that improve your quality of life.

4. Consider treatments. There are treatments available to help with smoking cessation such as laser therapy, acupuncture, and even hypnosis but Dr. Evans reports that the statistics compared with the placebo group are the same. Instead, he recommends pharmacotherapies such as nicotine replacement therapies (nicotine patches and gum/candy) and even medications like bupropion that help with smoking cessation. [4]

5. Have a good support system. Being around people who support your journey towards quitting smoking is one of the best ways to help you quit. Counseling is also another option, with Lancaster and Stead publishing a study in 2017 that showed how individual counseling can assist smokers in quitting. [12]

6. Have willpower. Willpower gets a bad rep because it seemingly paints a situation black or white; you can either have willpower or your don’t. However, Dr. Evans emphasizes that failures are part of the process; they are dress rehearsals for eventual success – and the same goes for quitting smoking.

7. Make a commitment to your health. Health is the most important asset we have. Without it, a high quality of life is extremely difficult. Nothing matters more than this. Choose health and affirm that choice continually.

Topic: What is the Single Best Thing You Can Do to Quit Smoking?
Who? DocMikeEvans

Learn More: This Is What Happens In Your Body After You Stop Smoking



[1] World Health Organization. Tobacco.

[2] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Smoking and Tobacco Use.

[3] Government of Canada. 5 Stages to Quitting.

[4] Khariwala, S., et. al. (2020). ‘Cold turkey’ or pharmacotherapy: Examination of tobacco cessation methods tried among smokers prior to developing head and neck cancer.

[5] Lindson-Hawley, N., et. al. (2016). Gradual Versus Abrupt Smoking Cessation: A Randomized, Controlled Noninferiority Trial.

[6] de Groot, P. & Munden, R. (2012). Lung cancer epidemiology, risk factors, and prevention.

[7] Conlon, M., et. al. (2020). Cigarette-smoking characteristics and interest in cessation in patients with head-and-neck cancer.

[8] Jones, M., et. al. (2017). Smoking and risk of breast cancer in the Generations Study cohort.

[9] Macacu, A., et. al. (2015). Active and passive smoking and risk of breast cancer: a meta-analysis.

[10] Picciotto, M. & Kenny, P. (2020). Mechanisms of Nicotine Addiction.

[11] Al-Safi, S. (2005). Does Smoking Affect Blood Pressure and Heart Rate?

[12] Lancastar, T., & Stead, L. (2017). Individual behavioural counselling for smoking cessation.

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