Celebrating the New Year ushers in the timeless tradition of setting resolutions for the months ahead - and one of the most common New Year’s resolutions for countless adults is to quit smoking. However, breaking this addictive habit is challenging, to say the least - especially if there isn’t a plan in place to help ensure success.

If you are ready to kick the habit this year, then today’s article is for you. We will cover the importance of smoking cessation for short and long-term health benefits, including helpful strategies for quitting and finally becoming smoke-free for good.

Understanding the Benefits of Quitting Smoking

Although cigarette smoking has declined from 20.9% (nearly 21 of every 100 adults) in 2005 to 11.5% (almost 12 of every 100 adults) in 20211,2, it is still the leading cause of preventable disease and death among adults.

For those who are addicted to cigarettes, the thought of life without is daunting, even scary at times. Therefore, it’s important to remember why a smoke-free life is essential to everyday health and longevity. However, before we cover the many health benefits of quitting smoking, let’s quickly recap why the habit is toxic and destructive to the body.

Tobacco contains nicotine, a highly addictive drug that makes it difficult for smokers to kick the habit. Tobacco products also contain many poisonous and harmful substances that harm nearly every organ of the body, cause many diseases, and reduce the health of smokers in general.

There is no doubt that the health benefits of quitting smoking outweigh any excuses to maintain the habit. While quitting earlier in life yields greater health benefits, quitting smoking is beneficial at any age. Even people who have smoked for many years or have smoked heavily will benefit from smoking cessation.4 To demonstrate, here is how the body begins a series of positive changes that continue for years after smoking that last cigarette.

  • • Improves health status and enhances quality of life.
  • • Reduces the risk of premature death and can add as much as ten years to life expectancy.
  • • Reduces the risk for many adverse health effects, including poor reproductive health outcomes, cardiovascular diseases, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and cancer.
  • • Benefits people already diagnosed with coronary heart disease or COPD.
  • • Benefits the health of pregnant women and their fetuses and babies.
  • • Reduces the financial burden that smoking places on people who smoke, healthcare systems, and society.

As you can see, quitting smoking yields so many positive personal results. However, it is also the single best way to protect family members, coworkers, friends, and others from the health risks associated with breathing secondhand smoke. If this is your year to become smoke-free for good, let’s explore some strategies and tips for quitting that can help.

Preparing to Quit: Setting a Quit Date and Plan

The first step to achieving a goal is deciding to do it - and the next step is making a plan to succeed. After all, in the words of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, “A goal without a plan is just a wish.” Therefore, step one is to set a quit date. Like any habit, it’s important to remember your motivation (i.e., better health and wellness) to overcome any mental hurdles that may prevent you from sticking to the quit date.

After setting the date, it’s time to create a quit smoking plan - such as managing cravings and withdrawal symptoms, overcoming habit triggers, and cultivating a support system - to help with the challenges that often accompany smoking cessation.

Strategies to Overcome Cravings and Withdrawal

One of the biggest challenges when quitting an addictive substance is figuring out how to manage the cravings and withdrawals. However, considering this as part of a quit smoking plan can increase your chances of success, so incorporate strategies for handling and managing the physical, mental, or emotional challenges of smoking withdrawal that can occur, whether they do or not.

Following are some tips to consider including in your quit smoking plan to help manage smoking cravings and nicotine withdrawal.

  • • Seek support for your decision by sharing with friends, family, and colleagues. Having a support system can provide encouragement and understanding during difficult times.
  • • Consider consulting with a healthcare professional or joining a smoking cessation program. Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) or prescription medications can help manage withdrawal symptoms.
  • • Identify triggers by recognizing situations, emotions, or activities that trigger your cravings. Once identified, work on finding alternative behaviors or distractions.
  • • Keep occupied with activities that keep your hands and mind busy. Engaging in hobbies, exercise, or other interests can divert your attention from cravings.
  • • Learn and practice relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, or yoga. These can help manage stress, a common trigger for smoking.
  • • Adopt a healthier lifestyle with regular exercise and a balanced diet. Physical activity can help reduce cravings and improve your overall well-being.
  • • Drink plenty of water throughout the day. Staying hydrated can help flush nicotine and other toxins from your system and alleviate withdrawal symptoms.
  • • Get rid of cigarettes, lighters, and ashtrays from your home, car, and workplace. Creating a smoke-free environment reduces the temptation to smoke.
  • • Celebrate small victories and milestones by treating yourself to something pleasurable as a reward for reaching specific goals in your smoke-free journey.
  • • Consider Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) to address the psychological aspects of smoking addiction. This type of therapy can help you identify and change negative thought patterns and behaviors associated with smoking.
  • • Stay positive and focus on the benefits of quitting rather than the challenges. Remind yourself of the health improvements, financial savings, and the positive impact on your loved ones.
  • • Forgive yourself if setbacks occur. Slip-ups happen, so use them as a learning opportunity and adjust your plan accordingly.

The Role of Supplements in Smoking Cessation

Incorporating supplements into smoking cessation plans can be beneficial, especially during the quitting phase when discomfort can be acute. Following are a few homeopathic smoking cessation supplements available at Martin’s Wellness Pharmacy that can help mitigate possible uncomfortable shifts in physiology as the body adjusts to being tobacco-free.

  • • Lobelia inflata: Native Americans in the New England region of the U.S. used Lobelia inflata, a tall plant with tiny violet flowers, for medicinal and ceremonial purposes for centuries. Studies indicate that Lobeline may help with nicotine cravings when the urge strikes.5
  • • Nux vomica: Nux vomica is the common name for a homeopathic medication that comes from the Strychnos nux-vomica tree. Often, quitting smoking can increase irritability and a desire to eat, and Nux vomica may offer relief for these symptoms.
  • • Ignatia amara: Ignatia comes from the seeds of the St. Ignatius bean tree, common in the Philippines and other parts of Southeast Asia. Ignatia amara can help relieve symptoms of nervousness or hypersensitivity to everyday stress.

Additionally, kicking off your smoking cessation journey with an herbal detox to help eliminate stored nicotine and other toxins from the system quickly may be beneficial, as the cleaner the internal system is, the milder the cravings will be. The Mega Cleanse by Body Dynamics at Martin’s Wellness Pharmacy is an excellent all-around cleanser for addressing all the channels of elimination: kidneys, liver, lymphatic system, and colon.

Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT)

Many choose to include Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) as part of their quit smoking plan. NRT is a common and practical approach to help individuals quit smoking by providing a controlled dose of nicotine without the harmful toxins found in tobacco smoke. Therefore, NRT aims to reduce withdrawal symptoms and cravings associated with nicotine dependence.

Nicotine Replacement Therapy is recommended as a step-down approach, i.e., gradually reducing the strength or frequency of use to wean the individual off nicotine, and the three most common NRT options include patches, gums, and lozenges.

  • • Nicotine patches are adhesive patches applied to the skin. They release a steady, controlled amount of nicotine into the bloodstream throughout the day to help manage withdrawal symptoms by maintaining a steady nicotine level, which can reduce cravings and irritability.
  • • Nicotine gum is a chewable gum containing nicotine. The nicotine is absorbed through the lining of the mouth when chewed and then held between the cheek and gum. Nicotine gum helps alleviate cravings and withdrawal symptoms by providing a quick, short-term source of nicotine as needed throughout the day.
  • • Nicotine lozenges are hard, candy-like tablets that slowly release nicotine while dissolving in the mouth. Similar to gum, lozenges provide a controlled release of nicotine, helping to manage cravings and withdrawal symptoms.

Natural Supplements and Herbs

There are also natural smoking cessation aids available that may offer support during the quit-smoking process, like St. John’s Wort and Valerian Root. The effectiveness of these herbal supplements can vary from person to person, and they should be incorporated under the advice of a healthcare professional, as they can interact with certain medications.

St. John's Wort is an herbal supplement commonly used for mood-related issues, such as depression and anxiety. It contains compounds that may influence neurotransmitters in the brain, including serotonin, which plays a role in mood regulation. Therefore, St. John's Wort may assist in reducing symptoms of irritability and low mood that can be associated with nicotine withdrawal.

Valerian root is known for its calming and relaxing properties and is often used to promote better sleep and reduce anxiety. During the smoking cessation process, valerian root may help manage withdrawal symptoms of stress and anxiety.

Lifestyle Changes to Support Quitting Smoking

Successfully quitting smoking is highly dependent on incorporating lifestyle changes that support a cessation plan. After all, kicking the habit itself is a lifestyle change. Although the various tips we’ve discussed so far, including smoking cessation supplements, herbal remedies, and nicotine replacement therapy, are excellent for addressing cravings and withdrawal symptoms while breaking the habit, lifestyle changes are critical to maintaining a smoke-free future.

Let’s address breaking the habit first. Beyond the physical nicotine addiction, smoking also involves behavioral and psychological components. Therefore, breaking the habit entails identifying and altering the routines, triggers, and rituals associated with smoking. However, new habits must be formed once these components are changed to help sustain a smoke-free cycle. For example, if smoking a cigarette after eating was a habit, then replace it with chewing gum or taking a walk after meals.

Another integral component of a comprehensive quit-smoking plan is committing to a healthy diet and regular exercise, which will improve overall well-being and help combat any potential weight gain while supporting the body's recovery process.

Finally, every smoking cessation journey should have a quit-smoking support system in place to provide emotional support, accountability, and problem-solving. Eliminating cigarettes can be emotionally challenging, so having a supportive network that offers encouragement, understanding, and motivation is invaluable. Plus, sharing your goals with others makes you more accountable throughout the journey.

Dealing with Relapse: Staying on Track

Many are not successful at quitting smoking the first time around. If a slip occurs during the process of quitting smoking, don’t give up! It's simply a part of the smoking cessation journey, so try to maintain a positive and proactive mindset and forgive yourself. Instead of viewing it as a failure, consider it a learning opportunity and a chance to strengthen your commitment to quitting.

Following is a 4-step process to help handle smoking relapse and move forward with resolve.

  • • Analyze: Identify the circumstances leading to the slip, including triggers, situations, or emotions contributing to the lapse. Use this information to develop strategies to handle similar situations in the future.
  • • Reaffirm: Reflect on the reasons you decided to quit in the first place. Reconnect with your motivations for a healthier lifestyle and remind yourself of the benefits of quitting.
  • • Adjust: If specific strategies or coping mechanisms were ineffective, consider adjusting your quit smoking plan. Explore new techniques or seek additional support from healthcare professionals, support groups, or friends.
  • • Renew: Reaffirm your commitment to quitting by writing down your reasons and keeping them visible as a constant reminder.

Quitting is Possible

No matter how hard it seems, quitting smoking is possible. If cutting out cigarettes for good was your New Year’s resolution, congratulations! The first step is actually wanting to break the habit and live a smoke-free future, so we encourage you to set the date if you haven’t already.

As your quit smoking journey unfolds, remember that smoking cessation is a process, and everyone's journey is unique. Be patient with yourself and seek support when needed. If you're struggling, don't hesitate to consult a Wellness Professional at Martin’s Wellness Pharmacy for guidance and assistance throughout the journey.