New Year’s resolutions don’t have to start on the 1st January. Hasty resolutions are often the first ones ditched. If you’ve tried giving up smoking before, this or even next month might just be the time you become free of cigarettes. It’s easy to assume that because you’ve tried to give up once or even numerous times, that the next attempt won’t work either. Evidence says otherwise, and each quit attempt takes you closer to that golden goal.
As a dental hygienist, I often have discussions with my patients about the role that tobacco is playing in their oral health, particularly in controlling gum disease and failing dental implants. Many of these patients are so committed with their plaque control and diets but it’s another story altogether when it comes to quitting smoking. What’s more, many of them don’t feel confident about their ability to quit.
Don’t give up!
On average it takes three attempts to succeed at giving up and each attempt teaches us a little more about ourselves and how we can tailor our next quit attempt to be more successful. Every day without a cigarette is better than a day with cigarettes, so it is an achievement.
The bottom line is, many thousands of people have faced the same obstacles and fought time and time again to get through another quit attempt and eventually succeeded. Like all these people, you can do it too!
My top 10 tips that I have learnt from ex-smokers
- One puff of a cigarette can actually be enough to sabotage a quit attempt. Try not to be tempted to have just one little cigarette or even just one drag.
- Take it step by step – A balance of the right drugs (Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT), Zyban or Champix) combined with behavioural support from a trained health professional is the most effective method of giving up. Smokers who chose this route were four times more successful than those who went cold turkey.
- NRT can be obtained on prescription from a GP or over the counter in a pharmacy. It must be used for at least 8 to 12 weeks if it is to work.
- Every method requires will power but strong cravings can be dealt with. Nicotine gum, sprays, tabs and inhalators are the best products to use to help combat those cravings.
- Be wary of e-cigarettes and vapour cigarettes. They work for some people but not all; as yet they are not fully tested and therefore unlicensed. Some e-cigarettes or vapour cigs contain ammonia, which is known to increase the addictive potential of nicotine. Also, these devices issue irregular amounts of nicotine making the slow withdrawal more difficult. This does not apply to inhalators, which are regulated and fully licensed.
- Quitting with someone else can be really successful if both parties are as committed as each other. Giving up on your own may require you to canvass a lot of support, requesting no cigarettes, lighters or ashtrays in the house, and requesting no smoking at all in front of you or in rooms that you use. A frank discussion on house rules before you start might be needed and can really help in the long-term.
- Avoid ‘quit saboteurs.’ You may not believe it but I’ve heard so many stories of well-meaning friends who don’t want you to quit and will offer you a cigarette at any opportunity. So try to avoid these people as much as possible whilst your quitting, or have a frank discussion with them about not offering you cigarettes.
- Cut out the least important cigarettes first. Replace some cigarettes with a new activity; walking the dog, some press ups or squats. Become aware of cigarette triggers and create a plan of how to deal with the desire to light up when you come across a trigger. The most common one is alcohol. Christmas, holidays, bereavement and stress will pose as threats to a quit attempt. Plan coping strategies and how you will draw on strengths you have to get through these times.
- Set yourself a date where you want to have your last ever cigarette. Now perceive yourself and start referring to yourself as an ex-smoker. Throw out ashtrays, lighters and all things that remind you of smoking. Feel good about yourself; be proud of every day you go without a cigarette.
- Listen to success stories – if they can do it, so can you. Follow this link to read some real-life success stories! Smokefree | Success stories
About the author
Jo qualified as a dental hygienist in Leeds in 1988 and currently works in general practice in Crewe. She is Mum to 2 teenage girls Amy and Sophie. In her spare time she enjoys modern jive dancing, playing her saxophone and watching rugby league.
In 2014 Jo was awarded The Dentistry Show’s ‘ Most Outstanding Team Member’, was highly commended at The Hygienist and Therapy Awards and in 2015 was voted ‘Dental Hygienist of the Year’ at the Dental Awards ceremony.