At the start of a New Year, people are making resolutions for various aspects of their life, be it finances or weight loss.
But for many, the resolution is to break a suffocating addiction: cigarettes.
“I think tobacco cessation in general is all part of that idea of New Year’s resolutions,” said Terrina Thomas, director of community health and preventive services for Sentara Healthcare. “To quit smoking, it’s a lifestyle change so we do see a lot of people who want to make that change around the first of the year.”
Thomas said even though it is well-known that cigarettes can have debilitating impacts on your health, people still pick up the addiction one way or another. But thanks to continuing research, more people are making the decision to quit, especially as a resolution for a new year.
But quitting cigarettes, or even e-cigarettes, can be a significant challenge for some. In the product there are additives and chemicals that can cause life-long health issues and for many, that’s part of the reason to quit.
To do so, people need to make a plan, Thomas said.
“It’s not easy to quit because it’s a habit you’ve built over time,” she said. “So you have to be specific and mindful and know that it might take a few tries.”
Thomas suggested those looking to quit smoking should first look at their daily life. She said a person should go through two or three days as they regularly would and note what triggers their smoking.
For some people it could be that they smoke while being social or while driving and for others it could be out of stress or they smoke with food. Once a person realizes they are smoking regularly during certain activities, then they analyze what they’re feeling during that time as well.
Thomas said figuring out when those habitual triggers occur is an important part of making a plan to quit.
“The second part of it is making a specific and determined time to quit,” she said. “You tell people about it…you tell them ‘I’m going to try this and it’ll be hard for me and I’ll need your support.’”
She said for people who want to quit, the biggest deterrent can be the cravings. Inevitably, they will happen and when they occur people should have a good defense plan in place.
One of the most important aspects to fight off cravings is a sense of mindfulness.
“The fact is, cravings are going to happen,” she said. “It’s a normal reaction…but the cool thing is a craving only lasts about three or five minutes, so if the person having the withdrawal reminds themselves that they just have to get through a few minutes, then it makes it easier.”
Thomas said to expect the cravings will come back and at first they could be as close together as every 10 minutes. However, the longer a person can go without succumbing, the less frequent they will eventually become.
Of course there are also additional methods that help the process as well. Thomas said products like the nicotine patch or the gum are helpful to some but not others. Every person’s body is different, so people have different reactions to this method.
If those don’t work, an individual can also go to their doctor for prescription medications that help.
There are other methods too that Thomas says she hears a lot of, such as hypnosis and acupuncture.
“I’m not going to discount anything that’s out there that helps people stop using tobacco,” she said. “But in most cases, that seems like a quick fix. For some people that might be true, but recovering from addiction typically is a process, just like losing weight.”
Thomas said in the new year, those who want to quit their smoking habit should continue to learn more about the process from their doctors and remind themselves that even though addictions can be difficult to break, it’s not impossible with the right support and information.