Hyack Your Health: Quitting Smoking

Rainbow Cigarettes
by Isobel Bloedwater, via flickr, use by creative commons license

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As we get into the swing of things in 2010, it’s time to start following through on those resolutions! To help you out a little, we’ll be running a series of posts with advice from local folks on how to help keep common resolutions.

Cough cough, hack hack. Sound familiar?

I quit smoking October 1, 2003 and have never smoked since. I had decided I didn’t want to turn 30 and still be a smoker – 12 years at a pack a day had taken its toll on me – I had a continual hack, I couldn’t smell a thing and my fingers were an embarrassing shade of yellow – so I gave myself a 6 month cushion before that pivotal birthday and picked a day and quit. Sounds simple, right?

When I quit smoking there were a few methods – will power was the old standby with wavering results for different people. Some people swore by non-mainstream methods like herbal supplements or even hypnosis. The field of medicine had brought us nicotine replacement methods such as the patch and nicotine gum – since I’ve quit there is also lozenges and an inhaler. I was successful using the then-new prescription drugs you take daily in advance of your quit date that work on the brain to help manage the withdrawl symptoms, rather than replace the nicotine. My doctor and I felt that it wasn’t necessarily the nicotine I was dependent on, it was the habit itself my brain and body craved.

Here are my tips to help you quit:

  • Pick a date and stick to it. If you need to, make it two months down the road. But don’t waver. Pick your date, prepare for it, and then quit. Postponing your date because, say, you have half a pack left is just an excuse. Throw them away. I picked my date three months in advance and put together a game plan.
  • Change up your routine. I used to have my first cigarette every morning as I waited for my ancient Volkswagen to heat up. That cigarette was always accompanied by a huge steaming cup of black tea with lots of sugar and milk. In order to help break that association, I stopped drinking black tea and my poor Volkswagen stopped getting heated up in the mornings. It was almost 4 years later that I started having that cup of black tea again.
  • Quit with a buddy. It helped me immensely that my then-boyfriend also quit. It was easier for the two of us to avoid smoking traps (like house parties and seedy bars) if we had a like minded person to spend our social time with. We went to a lot of movies and we did lots of activities that you can’t smoke at like swimming and running.
  • Tell everyone you know you’re quitting. They’ll keep you honest and they’ll likely be a little bit more forgiving if you’re snappy and distracted. You might inspire a fellow smoker to quit with you.
  • Check out online resources like Quit Now. It’s operated by the BC Lung Association and is packed with amazing resources -it features a message board where you can talk with other quitters, the latest science and info about why it’s so hard to quit, and even a phone support number. Quit Now.ca is also on Twitter, Facebook, and You Tube.

If quitting smoking is on your list of New Year’s Resolutions, don’t wait. You can do it. Attend a Smoking Cessation Clinic at a local London Drugs (as of this writing one isn’t schedules for New Westminster, but there is one at a number of Burnaby and Vancouver locations) or see your doctor.