Causing 16 Cancer Types and Counting: How to Quit Smoking to Save Your Life

“Cigarette smoking causes more than 480,000 deaths each year in the United States,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, knowing the death rates and health risks of tobacco use does not make it any less challenging to end the cancer-causing and life-threatening habit.

Whether you are an occasional or pack-a-day smoker, quitting is easier said than done. Nicotine — the ingredient acting as a stimulant in cigarettes — offers a quick and reliable way to reduce stress, anxiety, and even manage appetites for weight loss. But a question you need to ask yourself is, “Is the temporary relief in tobacco worth risking your life for?”

To stop smoking successfully, you will need the right game plan. Here are steps you can take to survive your first non-smoking day and be confident about maintaining it.

Rid Your Life of Smoking Triggers

A “trigger” occurs when something or someone causes a negative emotional response. With smoking, triggers are the people, places, things, and situations that ignite your urge to smoke.

Before your first official day of quitting, remove all potential triggers, which may include:

Cigarettes, matches, lighters, and ashtrays
Caffeine, which can make you feel too nervous or excited
Lack of sleep. Tiredness can push you to light a stick
Going to restaurants that do not have separate rooms for smokers
Spending too much time with smokers

Maintain an Active Lifestyle

Having less time to sit and think about the stresses of life is a great way to prevent yourself from reaching for a cigarette. Try some of these activities to distract you from your nicotine cravings. One day, you might even wake up and realize you no longer want it.

Exercise, whether alone or with a friend
Keep your mouth preoccupied with sugar-free gum or candy
Drink plenty of water
Practice deep breathing exercises
Visit parks and breathe in fresh air
Walk your dog
Spend time with non-smoking friends and family
Keep your hands busy with a fidget cube or by playing games on your mobile device

Stop Counting the Minutes

For many chain smokers, quitting can be an impossible task. Only 4 to 7 percent of people who attempt to quit can do it successfully, which is about 1.3 million smokers each year. One good advice to give someone struggling with nicotine addiction is to stop thinking of quitting as forever. Do not pay attention to the minutes, hours, and days that have passed since your last stick. Instead, focus on today and the time will add up.

Get Professional Help

All 50 states offer some type of free telephone-based program that connects callers with professional counselors. Men and women who use telephone counseling have twice the success rate in quitting smoking as those who do not. To find a counseling program in your area, you may contact the American Cancer Society for help at 1-800-227-2345.

It best to remember that no single approach to quitting works for everyone. If you are not ready to stop today, be honest about your needs and set a quit date that makes sense for you and your health.