At the risk of a cliché, the new year makes a good a time as any to kick old habits.
Quitting smoking is one of those high on the resolution list, and arguably the decision that requires the most planning. If you're ready to quit, there are measures you can take to better your chance at success.
"There are several recommended first steps," Graeme Curry, Assistant Manager, Clinical at the NSW Quitline told The Huffington Post Australia. Curry recommends the following:
- Develop your own specific plan.
Everyone is different and different things work for different people.
Your plan might include times to phone Quitline, making an appointment with your doctor, beginning to use Nicotine Replacement Therapy, cutting down to quit, setting a quit date, thinking about the reasons you want to quit (for example, health, family, finances), working out how much money you will save (for example, $10 a day on cigarettes means a saving of $3650 a year when you quit smoking), and keeping the house and car smoke free.
- Phone Quitline (13 7848 or 13 QUIT). Talking with a quit smoking professional increases your chances of quitting and staying quit.
- Talk with your doctor about using NRT patches or champix or zyban/prexaton.
- Check out available oral NRT products (such as gum, lozenges, inhaler, mouth spray or strips).
- Plan to cut down on coffee and other caffeine drinks. Coffee and other caffeine drinks kick in more strongly when you cut down or quit smoking.
- Be kind to yourself.
- Ask Quitline to call you back and check in with your progress.
Once you're on your journey, its important to be prepared for how you might feel.
"Everyone’s experience of quitting is different. Some people struggle and find it very difficult, others find it easier than they expected. Many people find that having their own plan and the right kinds of support will help them quit and stay quit," Curry said.
"You may experience some withdrawal (sometimes called 'recovery') symptoms. They can include cravings/wanting to smoke, feeling hungry and wanting to eat more, difficulty concentrating, feeling tired or restless, depressed, irritable, frustrated or angry, or feeling anxious, nervous or tense, or difficulty sleeping."
You may also experience physical symptoms such as feeling light headed or dizzy, headaches, mouth ulcers, and a sore throat or coughing.
At times you feel tempted, Curry suggests trying to break the habit using the following tactics:
- Use sufficient oral NRT at times when you would usually have a cigarette or when you begin to feel cravings.
- Keep cigarettes in a less convenient location (for example, keep them in the boot of the car 24 hours a day).
- Experiment with change of routines around smoking (for example, wait 5 or 10 minutes after drinking coffee or alcohol before having a cigarette).
- Delay having a cigarette even for a few minutes.
- Distract yourself by doing something else.
If temptation gets the better of you it's important to understand that it is part of the process and that you have not failed.
"Don’t beat yourself up. Most people make many quit attempts before becoming a long term non-smoker," Curry said.
"Think about what you have learned. Every perceived 'failure' can be turned into a 'learning experience'. Add some new strategies to your quit plan, and remain positive -- work out how many cigarettes you haven’t smoked and how much money you have saved so far."
Regarding products as an aid, the following can help with cravings and other withdrawal symptoms and help you quit for good.
"All these evidence based products are best used for at least 3 months. Three products are available on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) with a script from your doctor," Curry said.
- Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) patches
- Varenicline (champix) tablets
- Bupropion (zyban or prexaton) tablets
"Oral NRT (for example, gum, lozenges, inhaler, mouth spray or strips) are not available on PBS but may be bought at various retailers including pharmacies and supermarkets."
NRT patches may also be bought over the counter but are cheaper if bought via PBS script.
If you quit nicotine on January 1, your recovery timeline looks like this:
January 2: Damaged nerve endings start to regrow.
January 3: Nicotine is cleared from your system.
January 4: Your heart rate normalises and your sense of taste and smell gets stronger.
January 7: Blood pressure stabilises.
January 14: Bloodflow to teeth and gums returns to normal.
March: Any smoker’s cough should have subsided.
April: Blood flow to your extremities starts to noticeably improve.
June: Your immune system functions more effectively and wounds heal better.
July: Tiny cilia in your lungs have regrown, making it easier for your body to keep lungs clean.
(sources: Australian Medical Association/Quit)