Because of the responses to my last post on quitting smoking, I decided to post more information about my personal smoke cessation here, in addition to emailing responses. I hope this information helps people who are trying to quit. I am also trying to respond to each email I receive with any specific questions, along the way. I know how difficult it can be to quit, and understand the need for support.
If you are a smoker and do not want to quit, then I do not want to try and convince you. Based on the studies I have seen, the evidence of the dangers of second hand smoke are inconclusive, at best. Of course, it is difficult to separate the data from other factor, such as: higher smoker population in industrial cities and the reduction in regulation and regulation enforcement that limits the amount of toxins in the air. Cigarette smoking is bad for your health. Everyone knows that and it isn’t my or anyone else’s job to try and stop you from hurting yourself, as long as you are capable of making competent decisions and you don’t hurt anyone else. Here is the follow-up details on my quitting smoking.
Nicotine is the key to smoking addiction. Cigarette companies have increased nicotine content over the years, as well as additives that increase the nicotine potency, when taken in combination. The more nicotine, the more the cigarette craving. So the first, and most important, part of my quitting was to quit nicotine.
Nicotine withdrawal is very unpleasant, horrible if removed quickly. It can cause nasty headaches and irritability, as well as some other very bad feelings. To avoid or lessen these bad feelings, I reduced nicotine levels very slowly. I still smoked as many cigarettes as I wanted during these times, only within the specific level of nicotine. These are the levels I used – I recommend a week on each level to allow your body to adjust to the new level of nicotine. Buy enough cigarettes at that level for the week, and then make sure to smoke all the cigarettes at a level before moving to the next level.
Marlboro Reds: 1.1 mg nicotine
Marlboro Lights: 0.8 mg
Quest level 1: 0.6 mg
Quest level 2: 0.3 mg
Quest level 3: 0.05 mg almost no nicotine.
The brands are not important, only the nicotine levels. In the United States, the nicotine levels are listed on the pack, or the info is available online. Once again, it was important to stay on each nicotine level. One week on each allows the body to adjust to the new levels. Before I moved to the next level, I made sure I smoked all the cigarettes I had at the prior level. I searched my car, old jackets and coats, behind the couch – in the couch, under the bed, in the cat litter, in the freezer, in the tape deck – everywhere! Trust me, if you do not find it at this point, you will find it later.
Once I got to the level of no nicotine cigarettes, I did not smoke as much. After only a few days of being nicotine free, I suddenly realized I hadn’t had a cigarette in hours – without noticing!
So I decided to make a strong attempt to quit right then, and it was relatively easy. I just stopped, and distracted myself whenever I had the urge to smoke.
The cigarette cravings were reduced significantly. When I did crave cigarettes, I distracted myself for a minute and it went away. There were the usual strong reminders, but each time I forced it out of my head by doing something else, like exercise or doing quick math problems in my head, or quickly counting the number of ex-girlfriends. Well, ok – that last one might make you want to smoke – but the idea is to occupy your mind for a minute until the craving stops. If you are constantly around people who smoke, try to keep away from them or distract yourself with conversation. Tell them you are quitting smoking. Most will try and help, and you will find that you are more likely to quit if you have your reputation on the line.
One last thing. If you do slip, make sure to only smoke nicotine free cigarettes. Do not accept a cigarette with nicotine. Keep a pack of nicotine free cigarettes stashed away nearby, like home or car or deep in your jacket pocket – just in case. I kept half a carton of nicotine free cigarettes nearby, and it was only last month – 11 months after quitting – that I threw them away – untouched.
I believe this method works better than any other for quitting smoking, based on the science. Of course, no method works perfectly, but I have more confidence in this method than any other. Quitting cold turkey, all at once, causes severe withdrawal which leads to slips. Nicotine gum and patches just add addictions. Support groups can be helpful, however. We are all in this together.
Now, if you’ll excuse me – I should put some of my ashtrays up for auction on Ebay.