Tobacco is a tough addiction to beat. But whether you’re a cigarette smoker, cigar smoker, tobacco chewer or a vape or electronic cigarette user, quitting tobacco is one of the most important things you’ll ever do, according to integrative medicine physician Irina Todorov, MD.
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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that smoking is responsible for about 1,300 deaths every day and 480,000 deaths per year in the United States. Moreover, the CDC also reports that on average, smokers die 10 years earlier than nonsmokers. Quitting smoking reduces mortality compared with continuing to smoke. Quitting earlier in life also results in greater reductions.
A Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) study concluded that among heavy smokers, quitting was associated with a significantly lower risk of heart disease within five years relative to current smokers. However, relative to people who never smoked, former smokers’ cardiovascular disease risk remained significantly elevated beyond five years after quitting.
Dr. Todorov offers helpful tips for quitting using the S.M.A.R.T. method:
S is for Strategy
Counseling and the use of various treatment options double the chances of beating nicotine addiction for good versus quitting cold turkey.
“Use a program tailored for your success because there is no magic pill to help you quit,” says Dr. Todorov. “Most tobacco users don’t plan to fail but fail to plan. Breaking the habit can be hard and many people need help doing it.”
If you are motivated to quit, talk to your doctor what programs are available in your area.
M is for Motivation
Motivation for quitting is personal — relieving a financial burden, improving health issues or wanting to be a role model for your kids.
“I like to use a technique called the Five Whys with my patients to help them find the real reason why they want to quit smoking,” says Dr. Todorov. “This is a common problem-solving technique used to find the root cause of why a problem exists.”
To use the Five Whys technique, identify which reasons matter the most to you to help you stop smoking. For example:
- Smoking is not good for me.
- My doctor is nagging me to quit at every visit.
- Smoking can kill me because I already have heart problems and diabetes.
- I saw my daughter vaping last week and I am scared for her health.
- I want my daughter to be healthy.
“Once you identify why, then you decide when you want to quit,” says Dr. Todorov. “Make your quit day special and plan a trip, volunteer at an event where smoking is not permitted or plan to be busy overall.”
A is for Awareness
Learn all you can about nicotine addiction and withdrawal, especially about your own personal triggers. This could include stress, boredom, specific situations like always having a cigarette with your coffee or being around friends who chain smoke. Identifying these triggers upfront will help you deal with challenges without relapsing.
“Nicotine addiction is real and it involves both physical and behavioral factors. When you understand both of those aspects, your chances of success are higher,” says Dr. Todorov.
R is for Reasons
To identify your top reasons for quitting, compare the pros and cons of tobacco use.
For example, pros could be anything from my risk of heart disease and cancer will decrease to saving money and finally taking that trip you always wanted.
“Common cons I have heard are I am afraid that I will fail to quit again, I will lose my friends who smoke and smoking helps me relax,” says Dr. Todorov.
T is for a Tobacco-free life
Set a quit date and then commit to living without tobacco.
“Typically, ex-smokers remember the good times when they used to smoke,” says Dr. Todorov. “Instead, look to the future and stop thinking of smoking as an option.”
Find your reason for quitting, surround yourself with people who are supportive of your decision, talk to your doctor about available programs in your area, set up a quit date and start your tobacco-free life journey.