Make Your Quit Plan
Your chances of successfully quitting tobacco are better when you have a plan.
There is no single right way to quit. If you’ve tried one approach in the past and it didn’t work, consider trying another. We’ll walk you through ways to build and use your personal quit plan.
Although counseling and medications can greatly improve the likelihood of a successful quit, many tobacco users prefer to quit cold turkey, by stopping completely, all at once. Some start by cutting down on the number of cigarettes they smoke or times they chew or vape each day. This way you can slowly reduce the amount of nicotine in your body and experience success each time. You might cut out cigarettes smoked with a cup of coffee, or you might decide to chew only at certain times of the day. If you’ve tried to quit before and didn’t make it, think about what worked and also what made you slip up—and try something different.
You can find popular quit plans online, such as BecomeAnEx, smokefree.gov’s QuitSTART app and the QuitGuide app from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Whatever plan you decide to follow, it should include:
A Quit Date That Works for You
Pick a specific day within the next month as your Quit Day. Some people choose a date with special meaning. This could be a birthday or anniversary—a gift to yourself or someone you care about. It could also be the date of the Great American Smokeout, which is the third Thursday in November each year. Others just pick a random date. Circle the date on your calendar. Make a strong, personal commitment to yourself to quit on that day. As you get close to your quit date, try cutting back a little every day on how much you smoke or use other tobacco products. You can also use a patch at the same time to make withdrawal symptoms easier to handle. Learn more about free patches from 802Quits.
Ideas for Coping with Cravings & Tough Situations
There will be lots of times when the going gets tough. It will be hard to resist the urge to smoke, chew or vape if—for example—your best friend offers you a cigarette or keeps using tobacco in front of you. You’re going to need to practice and prepare yourself. For everyday cravings, stock up on oral substitutes like sugarless gum or hard candy, celery, carrot sticks or nuts or even simple things like flavored toothpicks. Keep some handy in all of the places you’re likely to have a craving. Snacks aren’t the only distraction you can use. Other coping strategies include taking a walk, calling a friend or checking in with your quit group online or in-person. You can also order free quit tools to have on hand for when cravings strike.
Consider Free Patches, Gum & Lozenges or other Medications to Help You Quit
When you smoke, chew or vape, a large amount of nicotine enters your body rapidly and travels to your brain. Whether you quit on your own or with help from an 802Quits Coach, medications can increase your chances of quitting. Nicotine replacement therapy, like patches, gum and lozenges, are much safer than cigarettes, and one in three Vermonters use them to quit. Patches, gum and lozenges are available FREE through 802Quits and are shipped to your home. Additional medications that also work well are available through your doctor.
Not everyone who decides to quit using tobacco will want or need to use medication. Visit Free Patches, Gum & Lozenges for more information on the types of quit medications available to help you stop using tobacco.
Calling Upon Your Support System
You have a network of friends, coworkers and/or family members. Even one or two people can make a world of difference as your support system. This could be a friend or family member who quit and is willing to help you. Make a list of three people you can rely on for support while at work, at home and in social situations. When you feel a craving or get stressed out, give one of them a call or send a text. Ask family and friends who still smoke not to smoke around you or leave cigarettes or other tobacco products out where you can see them. If you need more help to get started or to stay quit, 802Quits offers help by phone, in-person and online.
The first two weeks are the hardest. Being prepared to get through by using your plan, assistance from your doctor, additional support from an 802Quits phone or in-person Quit Coach and your support network will be key to your success. Every quit experience feels different; it will be harder for some people than others. If you’ve tried one approach in the past and it didn’t work, consider trying another. Every try builds on what you’ve learned and gets you closer to success.
How will you react on your quit date? Will you jump out of bed, eager to start your new tobacco-free life? Or will you hide under the covers hoping that the idea of quitting was just a dream? Either way, take pride in knowing that when you wake up on your Quit Day, you are now officially tobacco-free.
On your Quit Day, you’ll want to do a quick check to make sure all of your tobacco is gone. Then, begin your day by going over your reasons for quitting. Another good idea is to put together a “stress relief bag.” In it, you can put hard candy, mints, drinking straws or coffee stirrers, a stress ball or something else to keep your hands busy, a picture of a loved one or pet or a note from a child or from yourself to keep you going whenever you get those cravings.
Think about the places you normally smoke, chew or vape. If you can avoid them once you quit, it’ll help keep you from getting tempted.
The most important thing to do is to carry out the plans you made for this day, the next day and for as long as you need until the urge to use tobacco is easy to manage. You know the times and situations that will make you want to use tobacco, but starting now you can put your plan into place to get through those times. While feeling better—easier breathing and having more energy—will occur in a matter of days, it can take up to six months to feel tobacco-free. In fact, being tobacco-free at six months is a milestone to staying quit.
Action strategies are things you can do that can help you cope with cravings. There is no way to know ahead of time which will work for you, so it’s best to have lots of choices. You may find that some work better than others in certain situations. The only way to know for sure is to try them out.
There are three simple rules to follow when picking action strategies:
- It should be easy to do. The easier it is, the more likely you’ll do it.
- It should be something that’s pleasant. If it’s unpleasant, chances are you won’t want to do it!
- The action you choose should stop or at least reduce your urge. If it doesn’t reduce your craving for a cigarette or e-cigarette, chewing tobacco, snuff or vape, you need to find something else that will.
Examples of action strategies to try:
- Practice the 4Ds. Take a DEEP breath or two. DRINK a glass of water. DO something else. DELAY for 10 minutes.
- Connect with other quitters who know what you’re going through.
- Distract yourself until the craving passes. Most cravings last only 3-5 minutes. What do you enjoy for that period of time? Thinking about the money you are saving and what you can buy? Taking a walk? Watching a favorite YouTube video? See below for more ideas.
If you can get through that withdrawal craving by distracting yourself, you’re one step closer to reaching your goal. When you think about quitting as one 5-minute achievement at a time, it can feel a little easier to accomplish.
- Delete your old text messages or update your phone’s address book.
- Delete old e-mails from your computer or phone.
- Change your shirt or shoes. This small act can help you reset and feel better.
- Carry a ping pong ball and a rubber band. It sounds silly, but trying to wrap that rubber band around the ping pong ball isn’t as easy as it sounds, and it keeps you busy until a craving passes.
- Walk around the floor or building if you’re at work—think of it as a non-smoking break.
- Take the car to a car wash or vacuum the interior.
- Brush and floss your teeth. It will help get your mind off the craving and you’ll have fresh breath too!
- Think of at least 5 songs with people’s names in them.
- Take a sunflower seed snack break—working through those shells can be a challenge and a healthy way to spend 5 minutes.
- Peel an orange even if you don’t feel like eating it. It takes 5 minutes just to get all that white stuff off.
- When a craving hits, go to the restroom, wash your hands and check yourself in the mirror. By the time you’re ready for a cigarette break, the craving is actually gone.
- Play with distraction putty or a worry stone to keep your hands busy while you work through a craving.
- Take a quick walk and count your steps along the way and see if you can do a few more each day.
- Clean up around the house or tackle a closet. Bonus: no cigarettes and a fresh, spotless home.
- Play solitaire or another game if you’re at a computer, but not if your workplace doesn’t allow it!
- Practice the 4Ds…Breathe DEEPLY. DRINK a glass of water. DO something else. DELAY for 10 minutes.
To come up with your own list of distractions, think about the times of the day when you crave a cigarette or e-cigarette, chewing tobacco, snuff or vape the most and match up a tip. For example, if you always light up in the car, turn on the radio instead and sing along with the song. Most songs are three to five minutes. Once you’re done, your craving should be gone.
Quitting tobacco is like learning a new skill—like playing basketball or driving a car. The most important thing to do is practice—because every time you try to quit, you learn something new. That’s why every try counts. Make sure that you give yourself credit for all the work you are doing to quit. Don’t forget, if you need a little more help to stay quit, 802Quits offers help by phone, in-person and online.
Sometimes, even though the goal is to quit completely, an ex-tobacco user can slip. All a slip means is that you need a little more practice handling some particular situation. The key is to get right back on track and not let the slip get in your way. It’s natural to feel down or have some negative thoughts about a slip. Be prepared for this, and don’t let negative feelings cause you to return to tobacco.
Remember: A slip is just a slip. It doesn’t mean you’re a smoker again. Staying tobacco-free can often be difficult. Follow these steps to help you remain quit. If you do have a relapse, remember, many people slip! Think of how far you’ve come on this journey to a tobacco-free life that will give you more freedom to enjoy other things. Just get “back on track.”
- Never forget your reasons for quitting.
- Don’t take even “just one puff” of another cigarette or “just one chew” of chewing tobacco.
- Don’t rationalize and think you can have just one.
- Plan for risky situations (boredom, drinking alcohol, stress) and decide what you will do instead of using tobacco.
- Reward yourself for not using tobacco. Use the money you save from not buying cigarettes or other products on something meaningful to you. It can even be as big as a used car, since one pack of cigarettes a day can cost over $3,000 per year.
- Be proud of trying to stop using tobacco and share your story with others.
- Begin to think of yourself as a non-smoker, tobacco-free.