Smoking is the single largest preventable cause of disease and premature death worldwide. Numerous studies have linked smoking to increased risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer, lung disease, and even erectile dysfunction. According to the World Health Organization, smoking is responsible for the death of one in ten adults worldwide (about 5 million deaths each year).

Considering the risks it is surprising that so many are still lighting up. Yet, kicking the habit is easier said than done. Nicotine is highly addictive and gives smokers a type of buzz that makes them feel good and want more cigarettes. Many smokers try to quit several times before they succeed.

The good news is that as soon as you stop smoking, your lungs, heart, and blood vessels start to heal and your risk of disease declines with time. You will notice that your food smells and tastes better, your clothing will no longer reek of smoke and others will notice that your breath is better. Plus think of the money you will save.

The first step toward success is to make up your mind that you want to quit. While family and society may be giving you a push, you have to want to quit, and be committed in order to succeed.

Here are tips to help you along:

  • Pick a date to quit so that you can mentally prepare yourself
  • Gradually cut down on the number of cigarettes you smoke as you approach your quitting date
  • Change your routine. For example, if you woke up and had a cigarette with your coffee, break the association by going for a walk first and then have your coffee with breakfast
  • Put away ash trays, lighters and other reminders of smoking
  • Explore smoking cessation aids – nicotine is highly addictive and the withdrawal symptoms from stopping abruptly can be tough (headaches, irritability, insomnia, and depression)
    • Gum and patches allow you to gradually wean off nicotine while reducing withdrawal effects. Both are effective, particularly when used with a support program
    • Laser or acupuncture may help reduce cravings and curb withdrawal, but there is less research supporting efficacy
    • Hypnotic therapy may help address the behavioural aspects of smoking
  • Consider supplements
    • Theanine (an amino acid in green tea) is helpful for reducing stress and overcoming addiction
    • Essential fatty acids are important for brain function and may help to reduce withdrawal symptoms
    • B-vitamins and magnesium support the body during stress
  • Avoid being around people that smoke – temptation can kill the best intentions
  • Remind yourself of the health benefits of being smoke-free (greater energy, easier breathing, and reduced risk of many diseases). Post positive messages on your mirror, computer screen or fridge.
  • If you feel fidgety or are missing the oral satisfaction that you got from smoking try chewing sugarless gum or nibbling on sunflower seeds
  • Choose healthy snacks such as nuts, seeds, vegetables and fruit
  • If you feel anxious, go for a walk, have a warm bath, meditate, or do some light stretching exercises. Regular exercise can help reduce stress and anxiety and also help prevent weight gain
  • Reward yourself! Use the money that you save by quitting towards trips, movies, clothes or doing something special for yourself.

Quitting smoking is not easy but with strong determination and support you can succeed in kicking the habit. Focus on the health rewards, choose your support aids and make the commitment toward better health, energy and vitality.