The current debate over national healthcare and the increasing price of cigarettes has many people thinking about their health and the benefits of quitting smoking. According to the 2008 National Health Interview Survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 21 percent of Americans 18 or older are smokers. Taking all of this into consideration, quitting smoking will likely be a popular resolution this year. Setting a goal to quit smoking is a good first step, as studies have shown that people are 10 times more likely to follow through with goals when they explicitly set them for themselves. Figuring out what to do after making the decision to quit smoking is often more difficult and this is where people tend to get lost.
The most important step to take (after deciding to quit) is to do some research and make a plan. Whether you are considering cessation classes, using nicotine replacement therapy, or going “cold turkey,” it is best to have a plan that is as specific to your needs as possible. Talk to your family and friends; let them know what you are doing and lean on them for support. If possible, try finding a buddy who is also trying to or who has recently quit smoking. Next you must set a plausible quit date. You don’t want to quit on a date that will only cause you extra stress. Make a specific list of reasons why you want to quit smoking. Instead of saying “I want to quit smoking for my family’s health,” say “I want to quit smoking because my son has asthma.” Keep this list with you so that you can refer to it when you feel the urge to smoke. Also make a list of rewards that you will give yourself for every milestone.
Maybe you will use the money you would have spent on a week’s worth of cigarettes to buy a CD or lunch.
Once your quit date approaches, you must get rid of every cigarette you have in your house, car, desk, etc. Don’t hide any for emergencies because you will only be setting yourself up for failure. Have your patches ready or your first smoking cessation class scheduled before your quit date. Once you have all your tools in place you will have to follow through with the hardest part, actually quitting smoking. Remember that you are taking the first step in improving your life and the lives of others, because smoking harms the health of everyone around you.
Finally, there are many resources available to you, especially living in the state considered to be “America’s non-smoking section.” A great resource is the California Smoker’s Helpline, which is based out of UCSD. The helpline is a free resource to anyone who wants more information on quitting smoking and they have counselors available in six different languages, as well as TDD/TTY for the deaf and hearing impaired. Counselors at the helpline can help you find a smoking cessation class near you or you can get free over the phone counseling through them. Whether you are ready to quit or just thinking about it, call 1-800-No-Butts. Give yourself the gift of better health for the New Year.
Liliana Sandoval is a cessation facilitator at Vista Community Clinic. For more information, call (760) 631-5000, ext. 7142 or visit www.vistacommunityclinic.org.