Did you know that lung cancer is the second most common cancer in both men and women, contributing to more than 480,000 deaths each year in the United States? Sadly, 80-90% of those lung cancers are linked to tobacco. Even people who have never smoked, but come in contact regularly with secondhand smoke, are at an increased risk of lung cancer (and even other types of cancers) because of the harmful chemicals that tobacco products contain.
It’s true that quitting smoking this the best thing you can do, no matter how old you are, or whether or not you have already been diagnosed with a certain type of lung disease. Anyone--even people who have smoked for several years or even decades--can benefit from eliminating nicotine from their life. According to the Lung Institute, your body starts to return back to normal just 20 minutes after your last cigarette!
While quitting smoking can be hard, it’s not impossible. In honor of National Kick Butts Day--a national day of activism aimed to empower people to fight back against Big Tobacco--we’d like to share 5 tips to help you kick the habit for good so you can regain control of your health.
1. Prepare before you quit smoking
Some people are able to quit smoking cold turkey--but most other people need a plan. In all honesty, this is one of the best things you can do to set yourself up for success since a quit plan gives you ways to stay focused on and motivated about your goal. Different approaches work for different people, so be open and honest about your needs. There are a variety of ways to get a plan in place, including the Create My Quit Plan created by the Tobacco Control Research Branch of the National Cancer Institute.
2. Have a support system
You don’t have to quit alone. Telling friends and family members about your goal can open the door for a lot of support! Help can also be found from a number of groups, including:
- 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669), which offers free telephone support
- Smokefree.gov, an online support resource
- QuitGuide, a free mobile app
Don’t be afraid to lean on your support system when you need them. They are there to help!
3. Avoid triggers
Triggers are anything that can set off your urge to smoke. These can be people, places, things, and even certain situations. To overcome your new “quit smoking” challenge, try to avoid all your triggers on quit day. Some ways that you can do this may include:
- Tossing out remaining cigarettes, lighters, ashtrays, or any other items related to smoking
- Drinking water instead of caffeine and/or alcohol--two beverages that have been known to trigger cigarette cravings
- Spending less time with smokers and more time with non-smokers
- Eating out at restaurants where smoking is prohibited
- Focusing on getting more rest
- Finding ways to reduce your stress level
It’s almost guaranteed that a trigger will come along urging you to light up. If this happens, look for a healthy distraction until the craving passes.
4. Stay busy
Staying busy can really help keep you distracted from cravings that make you want to smoke. There are a variety of activities you could try, which could include:
- Exercise (walking, running, biking, yoga, swimming, going to the gym, etc.)
- Chewing gum or sucking on hard candy
- Drinking lots water
- Going to see a movie
- Spending time with friends that don’t smoke
- Going out to eat at a restaurant that doesn’t allow smoking
- Prayer, meditation, and/or deep breathing exercises
Research shows that being active can help ease some withdrawal symptoms. Whenever you feel the urge to smoke, get up and get moving, focusing on activities that will help you push through.
5. Reward yourself
Rewarding yourself throughout this process can be a great motivational tool to help you reach success. Many smokers associate ‘reward’ with cigarettes--so when it comes time to quit, they often feel as though they’re missing out on something. To keep this from happening, you have to train your brain to associate ‘reward’ with a healthier alternative.
Your rewards don’t have to cost money, but they can. The less you smoke, the more money you’ll have in your pocket to spend on something fun. Book a massage, go to a fancy restaurant, take that vacation, buy that expensive outfit--whatever!
Eventually, your brain will start to find enjoyment in things other than smoking, making those difficult days a bit easier for you to get through. Remember, smoking isn’t about what you’re giving up, it’s about what you’re gaining!
Kick Butts Day activities are currently scheduled in the following cities in and around Maryland: Baltimore, Greensboro, Easton, Cambridge, Andrews Air Force Base, and several locations within Washington D.C. Visit their website to learn more or to plan and register an event.