The last pack of cigarettes is crumpled up in the trash can, the ashtrays have been disposed of and the lighters put away: Stopping smoking is one of the most common resolutions for the new year. But usually only a few make it. In a recent British study, only 15 percent of smokers who wanted to quit succeeded in permanently banning cigarettes from their lives.
“Quitting smoking is easy,” Mark Twain once said. “I’ve done it a hundred times. ” But you can do better, read our tips.
If you have read our article “What happens when I quit smoking“, you know what positive effects non-smokers experience over time. It is known that smoking is not healthy. It is also known that quitting is not easy. If you would like to quit smoking, then you should decide now. Do not put it off. I myself have quit smoking. It was almost 20 years ago and I still remember it well. I still have weak moments where I feel that I would smoke a cigarette if I was still a smoker. But I’m glad I’m not anymore. Sure, discipline is needed, but there are a lot of tips and tricks you can use to help you maintain your discipline:
Tip 1: Set a date for your first nicotine-free day.
Choose a fixed date. Set the day you want to be cigarette-free for the first time clearly and precisely. Do not put off this day. In a maximum of 14 days the hour should strike.
Tip 2: Get rid of everything that reminds you of smoking
Clear all smoking utensils from your surroundings and field of vision.
Tip 3: Distract yourself
Did you know that the acute craving for a cigarette only lasts for about five minutes? Think of distractions that last about that long: For example, listen to your favourite song, eat some fruit, chew sugar-free gum or spend more time with friends who don’t smoke. This way you avoid the temptation of smoking together.
Try out new activities. Deal with things and tasks that distract you when you think about smoking!
Tip 4: Do something for good taste
Enrich your taste buds by drinking as much as possible. Besides water, drink teas and juices in different flavours.
Tip 5: Reward yourself
Reward yourself for your stamina! Give yourself something nice as a present from the money you have spent on cigarettes so far. Quickly a paperback book or a visit to the cinema or a nice dinner comes together. This will give you enormous encouragement!
Tip 6: Sport makes you happy
Move it! Get some exercise! Exercise releases happiness hormones, makes you awake, distracts and gives you a good body feeling. You also prevent slight weight gain. The moment you quit smoking is the ideal moment to buy new running shoes or contribute to a gym.
Tip 7: Snack healthy
Treat yourself to a healthy diet. Snack lots of fruit and vegetables in between. If you get the craving for a cigarette, take a sugar-free chewing gum or sugar-free sweets.
Tip 8: Stay away from smoker’s lounge & Co.
Get out of here quickly: Avoid situations where you used to smoke. For example, if you always smoked a cigarette with your coffee, switch to tea now. Apart from that, you will be amazed how intensively you will suddenly perceive the aroma of different types of tea. Of course you should also avoid the smoking area for the break, rather take a five-minute walk in nature.
Tip 9: Do not think about smoking
If the desire to smoke overcomes you, consciously turn your attention to something else! There is no point in imagining how beautiful something would be that you actually do not want to do anymore! So you should rather focus your thoughts on something beautiful that you can do with a clear conscience and a happy heart. This can be a book, a personally very effective inner image or a fragrance. These attacks last only a short time and pass – whether you smoke or not.
Tip 10: Withdrawal symptoms are ok
See the importance of withdrawal symptoms in a positive light! Your body signals to you that it is on the best way to recover from the stress of smoking and to cleanse itself! Rejoice in this! Moreover, these accompanying symptoms disappear after a short time. Even if the withdrawal symptoms are more severe during a cold turkey, try to stay strong and distract yourself with other things.
Tip 11: If there is no other way: chewing gum and plasters
If you can hardly stand it and you think you cannot live without nicotine, then get nicotine preparations, for example plasters or chewing gum, from the pharmacy. Your pharmacist will be happy to advise you!
Tip 12: One? No, none
Stand firm! Neither good news nor bad news or whimsy will allow you to smoke “just that one cigarette”. There is no such thing, they will soon want another one and another one. Be proud of yourself instead! Reward yourself!
Tip 13: Look at your success
Enjoy every day in the full knowledge that you are free and do not need cigarettes anymore! Every single day helps your health, your fellow men and your wallet – you can be happy about yourself! Celebrate this success!
Tip 14: Never stop smoking on a Monday
It is also important to choose a time for the start that is as stress-free as possible. Although the beginning of the year is the ideal starting point for many people, it is usually the time when there is a lot going on. It is better to wait until the pressure has eased a little or until you have a few days off. A quiet weekend is more suitable than a turbulent Monday.
Tip 15: Brushing teeth tricks craving for nicotine
Smoking cessation is about changing behaviour patterns: Those who like to smoke after meals brush their teeth or drink a glass of water. Those who smoke with coffee switch to tea in the first instance.
If you are stressed, chewing gum, sucking candy or drinking coffee can help you resist the urge to smoke.
Tip 16: Stop with a friend
A problem shared is a problem halved. Studies have shown that quitting is easier if you don’t have to do it alone. So if possible, find a friend or colleague at work who wants to quit as well. This way, you can motivate each other and it is only half as hard to quit smoking. More about this under support for quitting smoking.
Tip 17: Always think positively!
If you are tempted, think of everything except lighting a cigarette – a beautiful day in nature, a meal or a nice memory. The less you think about smoking, the easier it is to stay smoke-free.
Tip 18: Make a list
Hold on to why you want to stop smoking. Regularly checking the list can help you get through the hardest time. By the way, you already know our Stop smoking overview: Benefits? You may find it a great motivation.
Tip 19: Avoid your favourite pub for the first few weeks
In addition, especially in the early stages of quitting smoking, you should avoid places where people smoke – be it the smokers’ meeting place in front of the canteen or your favourite pub, where you might be tempted by friends who smoke to come outside for a cigarette.
Anyone who has had several unsuccessful attempts should ask a doctor for advice. There are various preparations, nicotine products (chewing gums with nicotine etc.) and withdrawal methods that help to make withdrawal easier.
Tip 20: Therapy in the group
A good success rate is achieved by behavioural therapy weaning programmes in the group. These are offered, for example, in the university smoking outpatient clinics on a scientific basis. “The group offers support and creates a kind of helpful social pressure to really persevere,” explains Mühlig, who himself leads such courses. Until now, some of the therapy has had to be paid for by the participants themselves; five to ten-hour courses cost between 150 and 300 dollars. Statutory health insurance companies subsidise the measure with 75 to 100 dollars per year; some reimburse the total amount. If you are interested, ask your health insurance company whether they will contribute to the costs. The money invested in your own health is quickly saved by giving up cigarettes. After six to eight weeks as a non-smoker, the course has already paid off financially for the average smoker.
Tip 21: Nicotine replacement and medicines from the pharmacy
Nicotine replacement products, for example in the form of chewing gums, patches or lozenges, facilitate withdrawal by releasing nicotine and thus greatly alleviating withdrawal symptoms. “The preparations do not require a prescription, but the costs are not reimbursed by health insurance companies,” says Mühlig. There are also other prescription drugs in tablet form that can effectively alleviate withdrawal symptoms and increase the success of abstinence. However, as these can also cause serious side effects, they are only available on prescription and can only be taken under medical supervision. These drugs are also not reimbursed by the statutory health insurance.
The e-cigarette is increasingly used as an alternative to the tobacco cigarette:”Although it is probably less hazardous to health, it is also not completely unproblematic. From a health point of view, a complete stop smoking alone is recommended”. The e-cigarette has been controversial as a cessation measure up to now. Critics point out that there is no uniform control of the ingredients and nicotine content of the liquids filled in. There are still no long-term studies on the harmfulness of some ingredients. In addition, depending on the design, the devices release more or less nicotine from the liquids. Thus, the user cannot determine what dose of nicotine he actually inhales. On the other hand, some studies show that, under certain circumstances, even steaming nicotine-free e-cigarettes can lead to lower cigarette consumption.
Alternative methods of nicotine cessation
The range of alternative therapies is large. Addiction researcher Mühlig warns against expensive, sometimes dubious methods that advertise with half-truths and allegedly high success rates. Acupuncture and hypnosis are particularly popular. However, “Their benefits have not been sufficiently scientifically proven,” says Mühlig. Anyone who wants to play it safe can find out about recommendable programs in the immediate vicinity on the joint website of the German Cancer Research Center and the Federal Center for Health Education.
More tips and advantages of quitting smoking
The advantages are quickly felt
Already three days after the last cigarette the function of the respiratory tract improves. After only one week, blood pressure drops and after about nine months, coughing attacks and shortness of breath decrease, the sinuses become clearer and mucus is dissolved in the lungs. The risk of infection also decreases.
Two years after stopping smoking, a former smoker has almost the same risk of cardiovascular disease as a non-smoker. After five years, the risk of cancer of the oral cavity, throat, esophagus and bladder is also reduced by half. The risk of stroke can also fall to that of a non-smoker after just two to five years.
Not smoking brings years of life
According to DKFZ calculations, more than ten cigarettes per day rob men of an average of 9.4 years of life and women of 7.3 years. Even moderate consumption of less than ten cigarettes per day still reduces life expectancy by about five years for both sexes.
The worst case scenario is that of a male, obese, heavy smoker who drinks a lot of alcohol and eats a lot of red meat – he loses up to 17 years of life expectancy compared to the fellow human being with the most favourable risk profile. For women it is 13.9 years.
If you quit smoking you’ll live longer. And that alone should be worth it.
Non-smokers save money
A cigarette currently costs about 32 cents. Anyone who smokes about ten cigarettes a day for ten years spends about 11,680 euros on cigarettes. For the money there would be also its own Sauna with LED sky, calculates the savings calculator of the action smokeless of the German Federal center for health education (BZgA). With 30 cigarettes per day, costs of more than 70,000 euros accumulate over 20 years.
Good preparation helps
Experts advise to set a concrete date for the smoking cessation. According to the DKFZ, this should be as stress-free a time as possible. In addition, it is advisable, especially in the first few weeks, to avoid situations that encourage smoking, such as an evening in a smokers’ bar. Instead, sport, for example, can provide distraction.
People who quit smoking often feel uncomfortable, restless and easily irritated. Often, those affected also suffer from hunger and thirst. Tea, water, fresh fruit and sugar-free chewing gum can help overcome the first physical withdrawal symptoms – as can patches, tablets or inhalers containing nicotine. The advantage of substitute products: Smokers can initially focus on their psychological addiction.
The TABEX PAED Method
Pub, stress at work, boredom: Anyone who wants to quit smoking will always find themselves in situations where the urge to smoke becomes strong. “Then you have to leave the situation as quickly as possible and distract yourself with something else,” advises the Federal Centre for Health Education. It could also help to take a deep breath, ideally ten times. This relaxes and postpones the desire to smoke. These recommendations are also called the TABEX PAED Method: Procrastinate, avoid, escape, distract.
When in doubt, a little thicker
On average, people gain three to five kilos when they stop smoking. If you want to prevent this, you have to be ironclad, especially in the first three months. During this period, belly, hip fat and bottom grow most strongly in former smokers. However, there are considerable differences in weight gain. Some even lose weight when they quit smoking.
And: a small weight gain is often healthier than smoking. According to a study from 2016, ex-smokers can gain up to 40 kilograms until their excess weight shortens their lifespan by a similar amount as cigarette consumption.
Setbacks are okay
Only very few people succeed in stopping smoking at the first attempt. Ex-smokers should therefore look at setbacks in a relaxed manner. How difficult the withdrawal is also depends on the degree of physical and psychological dependence. The internationally recognised Fagerström test reveals the degree of dependence. According to the DKFZ, it is more important to remain optimistic after a relapse.