Six strategies to help you quit smoking
From sanitizing wipes to seatbelts to life jackets, Canadians take numerous precautions to ensure we keep ourselves and each other healthy and safe. Yet, so many Canadians continue to smoke when research shows that smoking remains the number one cause of preventable death in Canada.
“Cigarettes are designed to directly affect the brain,” says Dr. John Oyston, Anaesthesiologist at The Scarborough Hospital. “When the chemicals reach the brain, dopamine is released, which makes people feel happy and calm. Once you get used to that feeling, it’s very hard to give up.”
Dr. Oyston adds that cigarettes are more addictive than drugs such as cocaine and heroin, and the most effective way to avoid the addiction is to avoid smoking that first cigarette altogether.
As an anaesthesiologist, Dr. Oyston has a ringside seat to the harm smoking causes the body. After bearing witness to the damaging effects, he took action and launched the Quit Quarter Campaign, which encourages tobacco control and promotes smoking cessation by minting and distributing a coin stamped with a broken cigarette design.
For those who do smoke, but have decided to quit, Lori Irvine, Organization and Employee Development Coordinator at The Scarborough Hospital, provides some strategies to becoming smoke-free.
- Keep your mouth busy – chew gum or snack on healthy foods such as grapes, plain popcorn, or pistachios nuts. This will keep both your hands and mouth busy for the duration of your craving, which will generally last about seven minutes.
- Spend time in places where you can’t smoke – the good news is that most places are now smoke-free. Smokers generally have to go outdoors to smoke, so winter is a great time to try and quit because going outside is less tempting in cold winter weather.
- Reward yourself – smoking is expensive. With the money you save from buying cigarettes, treat yourself to a small reward such as a new piece of clothing or save toward a larger reward such as a vacation.
- Set a goal for your success – write down what you want to accomplish and share your goal with loved ones. Being accountable to yourself and others will help to sustain your success.
- Follow up with your goal – Look back at the day or week and track when you were successful and when you smoked. Were there consistent times in your schedule when you smoked, such as during your break or after a meal? If the answer is yes, try to break those routines by replacing smoking with another activity like a short walk. Also being aware of your triggers can help you to overcome your craving.
- Ask for support – ask a loved one or your family doctor for help, or call a smokers’ helpline for advice and support. There are many resources available to help you butt-out for good.
Quitting smoking is difficult, and often people try several times before they are successful.
“For some people it happens quickly and for others it can take some time,” says Lori. “Everyone is unique, so develop a plan that works within your lifestyle. If you can’t quit cold turkey then try cutting back at first. Don’t set yourself up for failure, and remember to give yourself the opportunity to be human.”