Body

Tips and tricks for quitting smoking

It's never to late to kick the habit for good.

Whether it’s the health concerns, the expense, or having to get up and to light up outdoors when you socialise, there are so many reasons to quit smoking.

And even though smoking is a tricky habit to break, there’s more understanding and support than ever.

“Chances are if you’re smoking now you’ve been smoking for a long time, so you’ve got a high level of dependence, and smoking has become so much part of your everyday life that it’s difficult to let go,' says Dr Sarah White.

Having a realistic outlook is as important as being open to change and learning how to cope with withdrawal symptoms. As always, the goal is to never give up on quitting.

“There’s no such thing as a failed quit attempt,” Dr White says. “Every time you try, you learn something more about what does and doesn’t work for you.”

Give nicotine replacement therapy a go

More people successfully quit when they use some form of nicotine replacement therapy (NRT).

“These products work by releasing a slow, steady rate of nicotine into your bloodstream, which helps to minimise or avoid withdrawal symptoms and reduce cravings,” Dr White explains.

NRT patches, nasal sprays, gum, inhalers and lozenges are sold over-the-counter without a prescription at pharmacies and some supermarkets.

“A common misconception about NRT products is that they’re dangerous or addictive, but that’s simply not true,” Dr White says.

Support and strategies

If you’ve previously tried quitting on your own, consider talking with a trained professional for help in changing your thoughts about smoking.

Evidence shows this kind of behavioural therapy combined with NRT or medication greatly improves your chances of quitting success.

“Your first step is to call Quitline and talk to a smoking cessation therapist,” Dr White says.

“They have motivational interviewing skills and techniques that increase your confidence and desire to change, and assist you in developing a long-term plan to address your addiction.”

It’s not therapy as such, but tailored advice.

“They can provide practical tips and strategies, such as setting a quit date, avoiding potential triggers and suggesting non-smoking activities,” she says.

Ask about medication

Your doctor can prescribe a range of medications to help curb cravings and physical symptoms, but they’re not suitable for everyone.

“While [some] medications are safe and can greatly reduce withdrawal symptoms when you quit, they can trigger strong side-effects in some people,” Dr White explains.

These include dry mouth, headaches, nausea, vomiting, difficulty sleeping and changes in taste. As with NRT, it can also help to have some counselling support while using cessation medication.

“It’s not just about nicotine replacement but also changing behaviours and habits,” Dr White says.

Go cold turkey

“A lot of people cut down by eliminating the cigarettes they think they can do without,” Dr White says.

“Then they find it really difficult to let go of the ones that support their dependence, such as the first cigarette of the day.”

If you’re still determined to cut back, some experts advise removing your “favourite” cigarettes first, as leaving these to last can make them seem more enjoyable.

Dr White adds: “That’s why it’s more effective to go cold turkey, use NRT and call Quitline.”

Be a super supporter

How to help a quitter when it’s your:

Husband

Encourage him to seek professional support as a starting point.

“Often, people feel that they should be able to quit on their own, but it’s crucial that he’s supported during his attempt. Ask him to see his doctor or call Quitline,” clinical psychologist Donita Baird advises.

Elderly parent

Aside from telling your parents how happy you are they’ve chosen to quit, Donita says you can gently remind them how their smoking affects others, too.

“Reiterating that they can’t smoke around younger family members might be all that’s needed to help them through cravings,” she explains.

Adult child

Fighting cravings is half the battle, so make a pact with yourself not to get into disagreements if they seem extra snippy.

“Helping your child develop a plan of action to overcome cravings in times of stress can also be helpful,” Donita says.

Best friend

Be there to celebrate milestones.

“Whether it’s a day, a week or a month, it might be the first time that they’ve not smoked in 20 years, so be glad they’re making attempts,” she says.

“Day three is particularly challenging as it’s when nicotine cravings peak.”

Avoid e-cigarettes

The long-term health effects of using e-cigarettes are still not known.

“In terms of their health impact, risk of cancer and heart disease, e-cigarettes are almost certainly not going to be as bad as traditional cigarettes but we certainly don’t have any evidence that e-cigarettes are better than NRT, which is proven to be very safe and has been used for decades,” Dr White says.

What about hypnosis?

Mixed reports abound, but Dr White says there’s no proof hypnosis helps quitters in the long run: “It could be the hypnotherapist is providing a little bit of the support you might get if you talked to a counsellor.”