The 5 Keys to Successfully Quitting and Staying Quit

Imagine that you were moving to Europe within a month. You would discover a new landscape, make new friends, and learn another language and culture. Quitting tobacco is similar to moving to a foreign country. It takes courage, involves some temporary discomfort, and most importantly planning to do it successfully.

The US Public Health Service has identified five things that successful quitters have in common. People that quit successfully:

1Set a quit date

2Use quit medications effectively

3Learn how to cope with urges to use tobacco

4Remove tobacco products from their surroundings

5Get support from family and friends

Think of this as your personal travel guide to the foreign land of tobacco-free living. Let’s explore these 5 key behaviors for quitting tobacco.


Set a quit date

If a friend asked, “When are you moving to Europe?” It would be odd to say, “Oh, sometime soon, but I don’t really know when.”

The same is true about setting a Quit Date.

If you are committed to picking a date, mark it on your calendar. Give yourself a few weeks to prepare for this big day and treat your quit date with the same level of importance as birthdays, marriages, and other life-changing events.

If you find yourself ready to make the move to tobacco-free living but “don’t really know when,” talk with former tobacco users about what they did.


Use quit medications effectively

Just as modern conveniences have made it easier to travel than in the past, modern medicine has developed quit medications that make it easier to overcome the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal. As recently as the 1980s, people who wanted to quit smoking had but one option: cold turkey.

The invention of nicotine replacement therapy — nicotine patches, gum, lozenges, etc. — has made it easier to manage nicotine withdrawal. Most recently, the prescription medications Bupropion SR (Zyban and Wellbutrin) and Varenicline (Chantix) were developed specifically to ease nicotine withdrawal.

Using a quit medication doubles your chances of success over those who try to quit cold turkey.


Learn to cope with urges

You’ve picked your Quit Date and a medication to make you more comfortable, but you’re not quite ready for the journey. Even though the quit medication will ease your physical cravings from nicotine withdrawal, you’re still likely to have urges.

The patterns and routines of most tobacco users develop over years. For example, if you smoked 20 cigarettes a day for 20 years, you have rehearsed the habit about 146,000 times! A patch or a pill will never take the place of the “after meal cigarette” or the “dip of snuff when out fishing.” These types of cravings require planning to manage and are personal for everyone.

There is no right way to fight cravings. The best strategies involve things you can do easily within your normal routing that get you past the craving and that are enjoyable to you. Experiment with different strategies until you find a coping strategy that’s best for your type of urges.


Remove tobacco from your environment

The process of moving involves the decision of what to take and what to leave behind. When it comes to tobacco, the decision should be easy.

Go through the cupboards, coat pockets, car, and anywhere else in your environment that you might find tobacco (or anything that reminds you of it) and throw it away. If you think you need to hang onto tobacco, ask yourself why.


Get Support

There’s a saying that “many hands make light work.” This is especially true with difficult tasks. It’s usually helpful when friends and family pitch in to help pack the moving van, give you a ride to the airport, or take care of the plants while you’re away.

The help of friends and family makes things easier, whether it’s packing your moving van, taking you to the airport, or supporting you as you quit tobacco.

The specific support you need is a personal decision. Think about of the type of support you will need, and then ask for it. Do you need a pat on the back? Or help with daily chores? Or someone to take the kids for a couple of hours? Or do you need everyone to leave you alone for a little while? It all helps you quit.

These five strategies will help you on your journey to a tobacco-free life and give you the best chance at a safe arrival. Bon Voyage and Happy Travels!