You CAN quit smoking

Most tobacco smokers say they would rather quit. Most have already tried to quit smoking before but have not yet been able to quit and stay quit. One of the effects of repeated unsuccessful quit attempts is that the smoker can lose confidence that they can succeed in quitting. So the purpose of this article is to explain why now, more than ever, it is possible to quit.

When considering the factors that influence the likelihood that an individual smoker can succeed in quitting smoking, it's sometimes helpful to divide them into intrinsic and extrinsic factors. Extrinsic factors are the factors that occur in the smoker’s environment that may effect their smoking. Two of the major ones are (a) presence of other people smoking (b) price of cigarettes. Throughout most of the industrialized world, the environment in which smokers live is becoming more helpful to the attempt to quit and less conducive to smoking. Policies preventing people from smoking in public places are becoming much more common, and across many countries the proportion of people who smoke is in decline. This means that for the smoker trying to quit, there are fewer “triggers” or smoking cues in their environment. Whereas in the past when one went out for a meal one could light up at the table, and could have someone right next to you puffing away, nowadays that is very uncommon. So the temptations are becoming fewer. Similarly, and particularly in tough economic times, the high price of cigarettes makes the decision not to smoke all that easier. When a pack of cigarettes cost $1.50 it seemed like too good value per unit of satisfaction, when compared to other things you could spend your money on. Now that its as high as $7.50 per pack, it frankly seems even more crazy to be spending $50 per week or more on something that is going to harm your health so much. So all of those types of external factors actually increase your chances of successfully quitting.

Nowadays we also have better tools to help you deal with the intrinsic factors….with addiction to tobacco being the biggest barrier to quitting. Years ago you could get a pamphlet from your doctor and maybe some 2mg nicotine gum to help you quit. Today there are at least 7 different smoking cessation medicines, and new evidence showing that some of them can be combined to improve your chances a bit more. I sometimes see patients who tell me they tried nicotine gum years before and "it didn’t work". Very often when I ask for more details they tell me they didn’t like the taste, and so only used a few pieces and then stopped using it and went back to smoking. Nowadays, as well as having more smoking cessation medicines we have improved versions of the original formulations. So for example, nicotine gum is now available in a variety of flavors that smokers find much more acceptable to use, and medicines like bupropion are now available in formulations that release the drug more evenly across the day to reduce side effects. So the message here is that there are now more and better medicines out there to help you beat your addiction.

The same applies to behavioral help to quit smoking. In addition to advice from your doctor, nowadays many smokers have access to free telephone counseling (for example, in the United States everyone has access to the national quitline at:
1-800-QUIT-NOW as well as to some very helpful internet sites, such as:

There are other helpful internet sites dedicated to helping smokers quit, and of course I hope that this blog might help smokers quit as well.

So if you are a smoker who has tried to quit and not quite made it yet, never stop giving up. If at first you don’t succeed, keep trying until you find the way that works for you. Best of luck, and please add your comments to this blog to let others hear your story and what worked for you.
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About the Author

MA, MAppSci, PhD

Dr. Jonathan Foulds is an expert in the field of tobacco addiction.