How to Quit Smoking Part 1: Overcoming Doubts & Finding Resources to Help You Quit
Whether you've tried to stop smoking before or you're just now considering it, it's often difficult to quit on your own. Fortunately, you don't have to go it alone; there are tons of quit-smoking experts, techniques, resources, and programs that can help you quit.
About 1.3 million people in the US are able to quit smoking every year, and with the right tools and support, you could be one of them! Even if you're not trying to quit cold-turkey yet, it's good to know what kind of help is out there in case you ever decide that you're ready to quit in the future.
Utilizing public programs and other smoking cessation tools can give you the extra boost that makes all the difference in success, whether it's your first quit attempt or you've tried and failed before. For people with chronic health conditions that can get much worse when you smoke (e.g. heart disease, asthma, and COPD), an effective quit-smoking strategy could even mean the difference between life and death.
Even though it's far from easy, stopping smoking is one of the best things you can do to improve your health and prevent chronic diseases. Because of this, it's worth it to take advantage of any and all options that can improve your chances of quitting for good.
How to Use This Quit Smoking Guide
This is part one of a comprehensive, three-part guide on how to quit smoking for good. Our goal is to touch on all the important tools and strategies you need to create a successful quit-smoking plan, and to help you tackle your next attempt to quit smoking with confidence and finesse.
In this first post, we're going to introduce you to the wide variety of both public and private resources designed specifically to help smokers quit. We've included a large number of free smoking cessation tools and programs as well as some that are paid, including online support groups, counseling, mobile accountability apps, educational resources, and more.
In parts 2 and 3, we'll cover other important quit-smoking strategies and tools, including how to cope with withdrawal, how to choose a nicotine replacement therapy, and how to put together a personalized quit-smoking plan. We'll even walk you through the first steps of quitting and show you how to utilize a variety of everyday strategies to keep yourself on track.
If you are a smoker who's thinking about quitting, or you know someone who is, then the information in this guide could be a valuable resource on your journey to stop smoking.
Here are some ways you can use this guide:
- As a reference for smoking cessation programs, resources, and support
- To compare and contrast different types of quit-smoking medications and tools
- To learn what you can expect after you quit smoking
- To remind yourself of the benefits of quitting smoking
- To learn how to put together an effective and comprehensive quit-smoking plan
- To prepare for and make it through your quit day
- As a reference to a variety of different practical strategies and techniques you can use in everyday life to resist cravings and stay smoke free
But before we get started with programs and resources to help you stop smoking, let's first take a moment to address some of the things that might be holding you back. It's normal to have doubts and apprehensions about quitting, and dispelling them might make you feel better about the idea and help you strengthen your resolve to quit.
Frequently Asked Questions About Quitting Smoking
Even when you have the right tools to quit smoking, there are lots of little questions and concerns that can get in the way. Can I do it? Is it worth it? Will it even make that big of a difference in my health?
It can be difficult to plan for a major lifestyle change with all these apprehensions rolling around in your brain. That's why, in this first section, we're going to answer these and other common concerns that people have about quitting smoking.
Once you put your worries to rest, you can approach the challenge with a clearer head and open mind. Instead of dwelling on reservations, you can focus instead on the positive ways that quitting smoking can improve your life.
What if I've Tried to Quit Before, But Couldn't?
Just about everyone who smokes knows that it is not good at all for their health, and research shows that more than half of smokers have tried to quit at least once in the past year. In spite of this, most quit attempts fail, and more than 34 million people in the US continue to smoke every day.
While this might seem discouraging at first, it's important not to let the possibility of failure discourage you from trying to quit. Studies also show that at least forty percent of all adults who have ever smoked have quit, and that most people fail at least several times (or up to 30!) before it eventually sticks.
You can't ignore the fact that it's hard to quit smoking, but you can realize that failure is a normal, and potentially necessary, step on the way to success. Just because you didn't succeed last time, or even if you don't succeed this time, it definitely doesn't mean that any future attempts are doomed.
For many people, quitting smoking is a game of persistence; if you just keep at it for as long as it takes, you're bound to eventually win. The main challenge is not losing hope, and not letting slip-ups and failures derail your efforts for good.
Is it Even Worth Quitting When I've Been Smoking for Such a Long Time?
All experts agree that quitting smoking is pretty much always a good idea, no matter how old you are or long you've been smoking. Whether you're 25 or 65, you can gain a wide range of health benefits once you successfully quit.
When you stop smoking, your heart, your lungs, your skin, your nose, and many other parts of your body will benefit. It can also make you feel better in general by reducing anxiety and improving your overall mood.
In part 3 of this guide, we will discuss these benefits in more detail and give you a timeline you can use to estimate when certain benefits will appear. If you keep that section handy, or take notes on the benefits that mean the most to you, you can look over them again to remind yourself whenever you find yourself doubting whether or not it's worth it to quit.
As soon as you find the resolve to stop smoking, don't let it fade by putting it off; stopping sooner is always better because it reduces your chances of developing a smoking-related disease.
If that sounds like too much pressure, try to think of it this way: the earlier you quit, the longer you get to enjoy the benefits of living a smoke-free life!
What if I Gain Weight After I Quit?
Weight gain is a relatively common side effect of quitting smoking, usually due to an increased appetite and slower metabolism (because of the absence of nicotine). This makes some smokers apprehensive about quitting, and even turns some smokers away from the idea altogether.
It's common—and natural—to worry about gaining weight when you quit smoking, but you shouldn't let it discourage you from trying to stop. While some ex-smokers end up gaining some weight, it's far from guaranteed to happen to you.
In fact, some research suggests that the majority of ex-smokers don't gain weight after they quit. One study, for instance, found that only about 32-42 percent of study participants who quit smoking gained any weight at all.
Even those that do struggle with weight gain, however, still have many opportunities to prevent it and to lose any extra pounds they put on. As long as you think ahead, you can put a plan and support system in place to help you maintain your current weight.
For example, using a nicotine replacement therapy can prevent you from gaining weight after you quit—at least until you stop using the medication. However, this gives you some extra time to develop healthy eating and exercise strategies as you gradually taper down your nicotine dosage.
You can also reduce your risk of weight gain by working with your doctor or a quit-smoking counselor. These professionals can help you manage your weight-related anxiety and develop healthy skills and habits for maintaining your current weight.
Even if you do gain a few extra pounds, remember that it doesn't have to be permanent. The good thing about weight is that you can always lose it eventually with the right diet and exercise changes.
However, even if you gain a little bit of weight and keep it, you'll still be much healthier living a smoke-free lifestyle than you were before you quit. Instead of focusing on the potential negative side effects, think instead about all the guaranteed health benefits you will get if you quit smoking for good.
Is it Worth Quitting if I Already Have COPD or Another Lung Disease?
Quitting smoking is always worth it, at any age and in any health condition. There is pretty much no situation you could be in that continuing to smoke would ever be a good idea.
Even if you have already been diagnosed with COPD or another lung condition, your lungs will still be significantly better off if you stop smoking. Frankly, COPD makes it incredibly important and especially urgent to quit, since continuing to smoke can worsen your symptoms, cause life-threatening exacerbations, and increase your risk of dying from the disease.
While it cannot heal the damage you've already done to your lungs, stopping smoking can reduce further lung tissue damage and allow you to keep the breathing function you still have for longer. In fact, smoking cessation is one of the only known treatments that can slow down the progression of COPD.
Research shows that there are many other tangible benefits of quitting for people with COPD, including fewer symptom flare-ups, fewer hospitalizations, and a reduced risk of death. Quitting smoking can also improve your quality of life by making it easier to manage your symptoms in general
The health benefits of living a smoke-free lifestyle are simply too great to give up on, especially if you suffer from a chronic lung condition like COPD. You shouldn't let anyone or anything—including your own reservations—discourage you from trying to quit.
Quit-smoking Programs and Resources
When you decide to try to stop smoking, you don't have to start from scratch and you don't have to do it alone. Quitting for good takes a lot effort and planning, but you'll always have access to a wide variety of quit-smoking programs, support groups, and other helpful resources at every step along the way.
After all, there's no reason to re-invent the wheel when you can utilize all kinds of effective tools and resources that have already been established to help smokers quit. Between quit-smoking counseling, phone hotlines, mobile apps, online support communities, and more, you can get the advice and support you need both before, during, and long after the day you quit smoking.
In fact, there are so many quit-smoking programs and resources out there you can use, it can be hard to narrow them down! That's why we've collected some of the best quit-smoking resources from every category and put them together in this easy-to-reference guide.
There are several main types of quit-smoking programs we will cover: quit-smoking counseling, quit-smoking hotlines, online communities and support groups, structured online quit-smoking programs, and both text- and app-based programs you can complete on your mobile phone.
Text and App-Based Mobile Quit-Smoking Programs
Mobile-based quit smoking programs are a great way to get information and motivation delivered to you on-the-go. Most of them involve either receiving daily text messages or accessing quit-smoking tools and advice via a mobile application.
Here are some app-based quit smoking programs you can try:
- The QuitGuide app from Smokefreegov: This is a free application (available for both android and iPhone) packed with seriously useful tools for quitting smoking. It allows you to track things like your mood, cravings, slip-ups over time, and journal about your experiences. You can also use the app to keep track of your goals, triggers, and progress staying smoke-free, and to get tips for motivating and distracting yourself whenever you have a craving.
- The QuitStart app from Smokefree.gov: This is another free application (available for both android and iPhone) that you can use to help you quit. It provides tips for staying smoke-free, tools for tracking your progress over time, and rewards you with badges for achieving certain milestones and goals.
- QuitNet: This is a community-based support app for ex-smokers and smokers who want to quit. The free version lets you participate in the social community, where you can share advice and encouragement with others like you anywhere you go. It also provides a range of paid services including personal counseling and medical advice.
Here are some text message-based quit smoking programs you can try:
- SmokefreeTXT from Smokefree.gov: This 6-week program helps you quit for good by giving you advice and encouragement via 3-5 text messages every day (Available in English and Spanish).
- Specially Tailored SmokefreeTXT programs: Smokefree.gov offers it's quit-smoking text support program in several different versions, each tailored for different needs. You can visit their website here to sign up for one of these programs, including: SmokefreeMOM for women who are pregnant, SmokefreeTeen for young adults, SmokefreeVET for veterans with VA benefits (available in English and Spanish), and DipfreeTXT for young adults who want to stop using smokeless tobacco.
- Smokefree Daily Challenge from Smokefree.gov: If you're not quite ready to quit yet, you can try these daily text-message challenges to start building skills that can help you stop smoking.
- Smokefree Practice Quit from Smokefree.gov: If you're not ready to quit forever yet, you can use this text message program to do a “practice quit” (abstaining from smoking for just 1-5 days at a time) to help you build up resilience and work on coping mechanisms.
- You can get on-demand help by texting a specific keyword to the SmokefreeTXT program number: 47847. Text CRAVE for help getting through a craving; text MOOD for help improving your emotional state; or text SLIP if you slip up and need support to help you stay smoke free.
Online Quit-Smoking Programs and Support Groups
There are a variety of structured quit-smoking programs and support groups you can access online. These programs are open to everyone, and all you need is a computer and internet access to participate from anywhere in the world.
Most of these programs cost money, but they are sometimes cheaper than in-person classes and counseling. You might also be able to get your health insurance to pay for your online class, or you can check to see if your workplace offers any health incentives that would cover the costs of your quit-smoking program.
Here are some online quit-smoking programs you can participate in:
- The Quit For Life Program from the American Cancer Society: This is a paid online program that gives you one-on-one support to help you quit smoking. It includes an email support system, an on-demand online chat service with quit-smoking counselors, and more. You can also use their website to track your progress and network with other smokers who are participating in the program.
- Freedom from Smoking Plus Program from The American Lung Association: This is a paid online course ($99.95) that you can complete on your computer, tablet, or smartphone over the course of six weeks. It consists of nine sessions that teach you how to quit smoking with evidence-based strategies and techniques. The program also hosts an online community you can use to socialize with other participants.
- LiveHelp from cancer.gov: You can visit the LiveHelp website to get on-demand support from specialists who are trained to offer advice on how to quit smoking. (service available Monday-Friday between 9am and 9pm Eastern Time)
Quit-Smoking Phone Hotlines
Quit-smoking phone hotlines connect you instantly to experts and counselors trained in providing support to smokers who want to quit. They can help you create a quit-smoking plan, give you great tips for staying quit, and help you find other quit-smoking resources to meet your needs.
Quitlines are also a great source for in-the-moment advice and support when you need a little help or motivation to stay smoke free. If you're feeling overwhelmed or need help riding out a craving, the volunteers on the other end of the quitline are always ready to help.
Here are some quit-smoking hotlines you can use to help you quit:
- Connect to the quitline for your state: 800-QUIT-NOW (800-784-8669)
- The National Cancer Institute's Hotline (English and Spanish): 877-44U-QUIT (877-448-7848) Available between 9am and 9pm eastern time
- The American Lung Association's Tobacco Quitline: 1-800-LUNGUSA (1-800-586-4872) Available Monday-Friday between 1am and 9pm, and on Saturday-Sunday from 9am to 5pm
Quit-smoking counseling is a great way to start your quit-smoking journey, whether you've already decided to quit or you're still struggling to make the commitment. In counseling, you'll have a trained guide to help you through the quitting process and provide you with advice and support to help you succeed.
Quit-smoking counselors can help you work through worries and other roadblocks that make it difficult to quit. They can also walk you through the process of making an effective quit-smoking plan and support you through the first steps.
Once you finally quit, your counselor can help you cope with difficulties like cravings, anxiety, and nicotine withdrawal in healthy ways. Even months after you quit, long-term counseling can help you stay on track and avoid common pitfalls and mistakes.
There are a few different types of quit-smoking counseling you can choose from:
- One-on-one therapy
- Group therapy
- Phone counseling (via quitlines or through a long-term provider)
- Online counseling (via online chat service or through a long-term provider)
Group therapy is a great way to get advice, support, and learn from other smokers and ex-smokers under the guidance of trained counselors. One-on-one therapy, on the other hand, allows you to get more personalized therapy in a much more private setting.
Phone counseling and online counseling give you access to quit-smoking therapy from the comfort of your own home. While these methods tend to be less effective than in-person counseling, they are often cheaper, more convenient, and they can still increase your chances for success.
If you want to give counseling a try, you can always talk to your doctor to learn more about counseling and other quit-smoking programs available in your area. You may also be able to find information about local quit-smoking options on the official website for your county, city, or state.
Here are some quit-smoking counseling resources to consider:
- The American Lung Association's Freedom from Smoking Clinics: These clinics offer structured, in-person group therapy courses that last for eight weeks. (Call 1-800-LUNGUSA to find a clinic near you)
- Nicotine Anonymous: Borrowing a similar format to alcoholics anonymous, nicotine anonymous hosts quit-smoking support group sessions for people all across the country. You can attend meetings in-person, online, and by phone.
- You might be able to get free or discounted quit-smoking counseling through your employer or your health insurance provider
Counseling for Other Psychiatric Problems
Many people smoke as a way to cope with other psychological issues, like anxiety, depression, and ADHD. Even smokers without a diagnosed mental disorder often depend on smoking to relieve stress, boost their mood, and cope with negative emotions.
Unfortunately, smoking is not a healthy coping mechanism, and it's important to find new, healthier strategies to get you through the day. This is especially important because withdrawal can cause your psychological problems to get worse temporarily once you quit.
If you use smoking to cope with negative moods and emotions, it's important to treat any underlying psychological issues before you try to quit. If you find a counselor who can help you both before and after you stop smoking, you'll be much more likely to succeed and you'll have better mental health.
Online Educational Resources
There are a variety of websites and guides you can access online that provide a wealth of information and practical advice to help you quit smoking. You can use them to learn more about smoking addiction, what it's like to quit smoking, and how to successfully stay smoke free.
Here are some links to some of the most useful