Send Your Habit Up In Smoke


Ann Rushing smoked for 30 years, then quit for 30 years and says she'll never go back.

She is one of 6 percent of people who quit smoking on their own, without therapy, nicotine gum, patches, or other products, even though counselors don't recommend attempting the feat alone.

Rushing didn't know any quit-smoking tips then so she just stopped cold turkey. The Payson housewife had to move fast she was dying. Rushing said she used to get bronchitis twice a year, which her doctor attributed to her smoking up to three packs of cigarettes a day.

"I just wouldn't even think about quitting though, until one time I got bronchitis so bad they thought I was going to die," she said.

"When I got better, I told myself I'd never smoke another cigarette, and I haven't. It's got to come from within though. If you don't want to quit smoking, you won't."

The experts agree. Dale Gehring, a certified smoking cessation counselor, works for Arizona Smoker's Helpline, and said without internal focus, a client does not have a chance. He stressed, however, that external help is also extremely important.

"People who try to quit with no help only have a 6- to 8-percent quit rate," he said. "But around 25 percent quit smoking after they've received counseling.

"Support from family, friends, a therapy group or a counselor increase your success odds. Even the instructions on gums and patches will tell you that," Gehring added.

One successful technique is called behavior modification, which focuses on trigger behavior.

"Triggers are what make someone reach for their cigarettes," Gehring said. "If they always smoke after the end of every meal, we help them realize that they've conditioned their bodies to associate a smoke with food, and that the association can be broken.

"After they see that connection, we try to get them to do something else instead of smoke to form new habits, like exercising, or having a snack," he added.

It also helps if the potential-quitter has a plan, Gehring said.

"We know from research that having a plan and a quit date increases success odds. Not everyone is the same though, so we develop individualized plans."

There are some general guidelines, however, that help most people despite their particular trigger behavior and smoking history, Gehring said. He offered some of the following tips.

The day before you quit

Write down a list of specific reasons why you want to kick the habit on an index card and take it with you everywhere you go.

On a piece of paper, draw a line down the middle. In one column, write the specific activities, times, places and feelings that trigger you to smoke. In the other column, write down at least three other things you can do to avoid smoking.

Make a plan of all the things you could do instead of smoking, such as riding a bike, fixing up the house, cooking, visiting a friend or brushing your teeth.

The day you quit

Throw away all your cigarettes and matches. Hide your ashtrays.

Have the dentist remove your tobacco stains. Notice how clean your mouth feels, and promise to keep it that way.

Determine how much money you spend on cigarettes per week. Then make a list of the things you'd like to buy for yourself and others. Put aside the amount you would spend on cigarettes, and buy a gift every time you want to buy cigarettes.

Keep very busy. Go to the movies, exercise or start a project.

Buy yourself a treat to celebrate your decision.

Immediately after quitting

Make a clean, fresh, nonsmoking area at home or work. Buy flowers and notice how much better they smell in the smoke-free environment.

Spend your free time in nonsmoking areas like the library, museum or theater.

Drink a lot of water and avoid drinks you associate with tobacco.

If you miss having something in your mouth, try toothpicks, sugarless gum or a straw. For your hands, fiddle with a pencil, paper clip or marble.

Instead of smoking after meals, brush your teeth, wash the dishes or go for a walk.

In the beginning . . .

Your cravings will be the strongest in the first week. They are typically 30-90 seconds long and may come in rapid-fire succession. As the days pass, the cravings will occur less often.

Most of them will begin 6 to 12 hours after you quit and will be intense for a few days. Some mild occasional cravings may last for six months, said smoking cessation counselor Rebecca Ruiz-McGill, from Tucson.

Ruiz-McGill said it is important that quitters not be hard on themselves.

"The cravings are real," she said. "They are not made up. Nicotine stimulates the neurons in your brain, but it can also relax them, and people love both affects.

"They don't have to smoke very much at first to get those effects, but then the brain builds up a tolerance to the pleasing sensations, and the smoker needs more and more nicotine," she added.

Ruiz-McGill said nicotine gums and patches can be affective, especially when used together.

Patches put nicotine in the bloodstream within about four hours of a craving, but that is not quick enough for some people, she said. If they chew nicotine gum as soon as they get the craving, it can help them hold out until the patch provides a stronger kick.

Even with the best physical aids, human support is necessary, she said. Most towns have support groups, and one is offered in Payson.


Payson's next Tobacco Free Environment meeting is June 12, 7 p.m. at Rim Gardens on Aero Drive. There is no charge to participate in the session.


Rushing said support groups sound like a good idea, but she is glad she does not need them.

"I'm quite proud myself to have quit for so long," she said. "Now I can't stand being in somebody's house when they smoke. I hate the smell, but it took me a year of quitting before that happened."

The battle of the bulge

At first, whenever Rushing smelled a cigarette, she wanted one badly and had to resort to her only quitting device, besides willpower: lemon drops.

She said she felt better with something in her mouth.

"I put on a little weight, and so did my husband, but it was worth it and we lost it later anyway," she said.

Weight gain is a major concern of people who want to quit smoking. With proper planning, however, it is not a problem for most, Gehring said.

He suggests that the quitter have a regular, well-balanced diet with the right amounts of protein, carbohydrates and nutrients at every meal.

It is also helpful to exercise, drink water before eating and chew sugarless gum when you want sweet foods.

Gehring said that having one cigarette will have a negative effect on a quitter's brain chemistry, but that the person should not beat himself up for it.

"Anyone can get hooked, and anyone can quit," he said. "It's just a matter of having the readiness, and the right plan."

For more information on quitting, call the Arizona Smokers' Helpline at (800) 556-6222.

For information on Tobacco Free Environment, call (800) 810-7363.

Source: Coping hints at

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