Since 1977, the American Cancer Society has scheduled the Great American Smokeout, a challenge to Americans to quit smoking for one day, on Nov. 18. The hope is that one day could lead to two, which could lead to a week, then to a month, then ...
Instead of preaching or wagging our fingers about why smokers should quit, we'll offer gentle suggestions for how to do it. The following 20 tips - one for each of the cigarettes in a pack - come from the surgeon general, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Cancer Society and former smokers.
1. Set a quit date and share it with EVERYONE. Tell them you'll need support.
2. Take up a new hobby, especially one that will keep your hands busy. Some people swear by knitting or crocheting. Explore your artistic side by taking up painting or photography. Try crossword puzzles.
3. Take up a physical activity. Fumbling with a smoke is tough when you're riding a bike or dribbling a basketball up the court. Try swimming, tennis or jogging for the first time, or reintroduce yourself to your favorite sport.
4. Find healthful foods that satisfy the need to satisfy that oral fixation. Sugarless gum, fresh fruit or vegetable sticks are good choices.
5. Change your routine. Take a different route to work. Drink tea instead of coffee. Eat breakfast in a different place - bed, perhaps, for a real treat.
6. Wash all of your clothes to remove the smell of smoke. Clean carpets and curtains to give the house a fresh start, too.
7. Breathe deeply. Your lungs have missed all that air. Besides, the American Cancer Society recommends a deep, cleansing breath as one of the best ways to help a craving pass.
8. Drink a lot of water and other fluids. Your mouth may feel drier than normal after you quit.
9. Write down why you want to quit. Maybe you want to gain a sense of control of your life or to have better health or to set a better example for your children. Read those reasons every day, as often as necessary.
10. Eat several small meals, which helps maintain blood-sugar levels and prevent the urge to smoke.
11. Get individual, group or phone counseling. The more counseling you have, the better your chances of quitting.
12. Patronize only smoke-free restaurants and shops. You'll be part of movement that promotes a healthier lifestyle.
13. Throw away not just your cigarettes but your matches, lighters and ashtrays.
14. Don't pull the trigger. The CDC notes that all smokers have triggers - certain times and places that make them want to smoke. Figure out what they are and, for the first few weeks, avoid them.
15. Be prepared for the urge. The need for a puff is going to hit. Have a plan of attack before you quit.
16. Pat yourself on the back. When your body is screaming for a cig, remind yourself how much healthier you'll be for not smoking. Better yet, find someone to give you a hug and tell you you're doing the right thing.
17. Save the money you spend on cigarettes and buy something special. Save for a year, and treat yourself to a vacation.
18. Enjoy that newfound clean taste in your mouth. Brush your teeth often and use mouthwash.
19. Think of how much healthier your children, friends and neighbors will be because they aren't breathing in your secondhand smoke. Your sacrifice is downright humanitarian.
20. Think instant gratification. The CDC reports that your body begins to heal within 20 minutes after your last cigarette. The poison gas and nicotine start to leave your body, and your pulse rate goes back to normal.
(c) 2004, St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service.