How to Quit Smoking for Good

Now is the time to quit. Whether you’ve tried before or this is your first attempt, these expert-backed tips will help you kick the habit once and for all.

Want some good news about quitting your smoking habit? The more treatments you try, the better your chances are, says Daniel F. Seidman, Ph.D., director of Smoking Cessation Services at Columbia University Medical Center and author of Smoke-Free in 30 Days. Smoking is both a physical and emotional addiction, which means you need to treat both aspects. Nearly 70 percent of U.S. adult smokers want to quit and millions try every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). So how do you make it stick?

Focus on the benefits

To be successful, smokers need to get over the idea that quitting is impossible. “More people have quit smoking than currently smoke,” says Seidman. “People have to believe their lives are going to be better without it—not just physically, but that good things will come out of not having a cigarette in their lives anymore.” The upside is big: more energy and confidence, increased savings and better health.

Double up on treatments

Many struggle with quitting on their own. Only 4 to 7 percent of people who attempt to stop smoking without medication or other assistance succeed, according to the American Cancer Society. So what increases your chances for success? Doubling up on therapy treatments. The CDC has found that a combination of medication and counseling is more effective for smoking cessation than either one alone. If counseling isn’t in your budget, check out free support services by phone at 1-800-QUIT NOW or online at Nicotine Anonymous.

Nicotine replacement products (e.g., gums, inhalers, nasal sprays, lozenges or patches) are also most effective when two types are used at the same time—such as the patch and gum or lozenges and an inhaler, says Seidman. This addresses both nicotine withdrawal and the behavior of having something tactile to replace a cigarette.

Calm your emotions

It’s not uncommon for smokers trying to quit to complain that they “don’t feel right.” Some smokers who experience emotional upset while quitting use the antidepressant bupropion SR (Zyban), says Seidman. It puts an emotional floor under their mood and can help manage the feelings of sadness, irritability and loss of concentration that can accompany smoking cessation.

There is also a drug that can be used only as a last resort – varenicline tartrate (Chantix). Research has linked it to serious side effects, including blacking out and violence, says Curt Furberg, M.D., Ph.D., professor of public health sciences at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, who has studied the drug closely. Despite the risks and limited benefits, it is still on the market – but with a warning label.

To stop smoking, it comes down to one thing – commitment. There are many programs, support groups and treatment options available. The key is to find the path that works for you.