There are many ways to quit: cold turkey or gradually, with a group or by yourself. Talk to your health care provider about your decision to quit. He or she can help you choose the best way for you. Remember, what works for one person may not work for another. Don't be discouraged if the first method you try fails. Another method may be the one you need to kick the habit for good.
If smoking is merely a habit for you, something that you can take or leave, cold turkey may work best for you. But if you are very dependent on cigarettes, gradually weaning yourself from cigarettes may work best.
One method that helps you quit gradually is nicotine replacement. When you wear a nicotine patch or chew nicotine gum, some of the nicotine enters your blood. The patch and gum let you taper off from the physical addiction slowly. They blunt your craving for cigarettes and reduce withdrawal symptoms.
You do not wear the patch forever. Instead, you use a series of patches with decreasing nicotine doses. After a few weeks, you've been weaned totally from nicotine.
Nicotine replacement is especially good for people who are physically addicted to nicotine. These are people who smoke more than 20 cigarettes a day, who have their first cigarette within 30 minutes of waking up, and who have had strong withdrawal symptoms when they tried to quit before. Research shows that a smoker who uses a patch is twice as likely to quit successfully as someone who doesn't use a patch.
Patches aren't perfect. They raise blood sugar levels in some people with diabetes. And you must not smoke while wearing the patch.
If you think you would find it easier to quit with a group of people, think about joining a class. Your company, health plan, or a local hospital may sponsor such courses. If not, organizations such as the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, the American Lung Association, and the American Cancer Society may run free or low-cost classes in your town. (The American Heart Association and the American Lung Association also have self-help materials.) Check your phone book for the number of the local affiliates in your area, and look in the Yellow Pages under Smokers Information & Treatment Centers. Ask what the focus of the class is. Some classes target getting you ready to quit, and others try to help you stay off cigarettes.
Hypnosis helps some people stop smoking. It is most useful for helping you avoid the things that trigger you to smoke. If you are interested in hypnosis, choose a hypnotist with a clinical degree (for example, a physician or psychologist).
Another method is acupuncture. In acupuncture, fine needles are placed in various parts of your body. For some people, acupuncture stops the craving to smoke. If it's going to work for you, it probably will do so in seven treatments or fewer.
However you decide to quit, there are several ways to help yourself keep at it. Throw away your cigarettes, lighters, and ashtrays at work and at home to make it hard to give into the urge to smoke. At first, avoid situations in which you enjoy smoking. Give yourself the rewards you planned. When you are tempted to smoke, make a list of reasons for not smoking. For example, your breath and hair smell fresher, you are saving lots of money, you are setting an example for loved ones, you aren't coughing like you used to, or food tastes better.