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Calendar with a burnt cigarette pinned to a day that says Time to Quit.

Ready to Quit?

Develop a Quit Plan

Preparation is key to successfully quit smoking. Give yourself the best chance to quit and create a quit plan. Quit plans combine strategies to keep you focused and motivated, help you to overcome challenges, and can significantly improve your chances of quitting smoking for good. These steps will help you create your own quit plan:

Pick a Quit Date

Pick a quit date and write it on your calendar or somewhere where you will see it every day. This will remind you of your decision to become smoke free. Remember, there is no "perfect" time to quit, but it's wise to avoid a time of high stress. Give yourself 1 to 3 weeks to get ready. This allows time to get used to the idea of quitting and line up family and friends for additional support.

Reasons for Quitting

Think about your reasons for quitting. Maybe you want to be healthier or save money. Or you may be doing it to keep your loved ones save. Whatever the reasons, write them in a place where you can see it every day. When you feel the urge to smoke review the list so you can easily be reminded of why you are quitting. This can be very inspirational and will keep you motivated to stay smoke free.

Make Preparations

Removing smoking reminders can keep you on track as you quit. Get rid of any reminders in your home, car, and workplace before your quit date. These can include cigarettes, ashtrays, lighters, and matches. It also helps to clean out your car, wash your clothes so they don’t smell like smoke, and place craving fighting items such as nicotine gum in places where you would normally keep cigarettes.

Finally, let friends and family know you are quitting ahead of your quit date. Quitting smoking is easier with the support of people in your life. Explain how they can help. For instance, ask them to not smoke around your or take you places where there will be smokers, ask them to be patient with you as you quit, and to keep you busy so you are not thinking about smoking. Additionally, talk to your doctor or a smoking specialist about quitting. They can help motivate you to quit smoking.

What to Expect

Triggers

When you smoke you often pair it with things that you do. Certain activities, a time of day, and feelings are linked to your smoking. When you come across these things throughout the day they may "trigger" an urge to smoke. Identifying your triggers will help you stay in control. You should try to completely avoid triggers immediately after quitting and develop ways to deal with them over time.

How to Fight Cravings

When you quit smoking your body has to adjust no longer having nicotine in its system and goes through withdrawal. You may feel anxious, depressed, tired, and even angry. Many quit smoking medications are available over the counter to offset this process, but remember they can’t do the entire job for you. Withdrawal symptoms, including cravings, typically last 5 to 10 minutes and will fade every day you remain smoke free. It might be uncomfortable, but try to wait it out or do something to distract yourself like:

  • Exercise
  • Chew on a piece of gum or hard candy
  • Take deep breaths
  • Have a glass of water
  • Call a friend for support
  • Play a game
  • Go to a movie
  • Listen to music
  • Have a healthy snack
  • Take a shower

There are also times when you are in a particular situation that the urge to smoke is at its worst. Here are some tips for managing six very common situations:

After a Meal: Get up from the table immediately after eating and do something enjoyable to distract yourself.

Avoid Coffee: To avoid coffee-related cravings, try changing your routine to having it later in the day or replace it with hot tea or soda.

Reduce Alcohol: Like with coffee, smokers enjoy pairing cigarettes with alcohol. Try to scale down your alcohol consumption or even completely stop drinking after you quit until the cravings go away.

Reduce Stress: After you quit smoking try to reduce the stress in your life. Try yoga, meditation, or other ways to cope with stressful situations.

In the Car: For many smokers, riding in the car triggers the urge to smoke. Try removing your car lighter and fill the astray with hard candy or nicotine gum. Also, don’t allow any of your passengers to smoke.

Avoid Smokers: This can be difficult, but try to avoid areas where smoker congregate. If it’s a social situation move to another room. If it’s a group of co-workers smoking outside avoid them altogether until they are done. And most importantly, if your friends are going outside for a smoke don’t go with them.
 
Understanding Slip-Ups
Don’t beat yourself up if you slip-up and smoke one or two cigarettes. Consider the slip just one mistake. But it’s important not to use a slip-up as an excuse to go back to smoking. Most ex-smokers try stopping many times before they finally succeed. Quitting can be difficult and it takes your full commitment to be successful.

Slip-ups usually occur within the first three months after quitting. If you happen to make a mistake consider this:

  • Just because you had a small setback doesn’t make you a smoker again.
  • Try not to be too hard on yourself. Just because you slip-up doesn’t mean you can’t quit.
  • If you slip-up be sure to get right back on track. Don’t give up.
  • Identify the trigger that led you to slip-up and figure out a way address it the next time it happens.
  • Consider all the time you have gone without smoking and be happy about it. Learn from your experience, figure out what has helped you the most, and use that to improve your coping skills.

Learn About Medications

Today, smokers don't have to tough it out alone. New medications, some over-the-counter and some prescription, can double your chances of quitting smoking for good. They help to reduce cigarette cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Be sure to check with your insurance carrier to see if stop smoking medications are covered. Remember, all prescription medications should be used under the supervision of your doctor or health care provider.

Nicotine Replacement Therapy

The most common quit smoking medications are nicotine replacement therapy (NRT). NRT helps to reduce withdrawal symptoms by giving you a small amount of nicotine which satisfies your cravings and lessens your urge to smoke.

  • Nicotine Patches:
    • Availability for Purchase: Over-The-Counter
    • Description: Placed on your body like a bandage and release nicotine into your body through your skin.
  • Nicotine Gum:
    • Availability for Purchase: Over-The-Counter
    • Description: Releases nicotine into your mouth. A user chews until they feel a tingling feeling and then places it against their cheek.
  • Nicotine Lozenges:
    • Availability for Purchase: Over-The-Counter
    • Description: Placed in the mouth, but not chewed. It slowly dissolves into the mouth releasing nicotine.
  • Nicotine Inhaler:
    • Availability for Purchase: Prescription
    • Description: A cartridge attached to a mouthpiece. It releases nicotine into a user’s lungs when inhaled.
  • Nicotine Nasal Spray:
    • Availability for Purchase: Prescription
    • Description: Nicotine is inhaled into the user’s nose from a pump bottle and absorbed through the nasal lining.

Other Smoking Rx

If you are unable to take NRT or it is not effective, other quit smoking medications are available with a prescription. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about a medication plan.

  • Chantix®:
    • Availability for Purchase: Prescription
    • Description: Chantix® (varenicline) is non-nicotine prescription medicine to help adults quit smoking. Chantix® has the highest quit rates among the FDA approved stop smoking medications.
  • Zyban®:
    • Availability for Purchase: Prescription
    • Description: Zyban® (bupropion) is non-nicotine prescription medicine to help adults quit smoking. Zyban® can be used safely with NRT.

Resources for Smokers

There are many helpful resources available to smokers trying to quit. Many people find personal understanding from support groups and hotlines useful, while others prefer smoking interventions that provide tips and motivation for each unique user.

Mobile Interventions

  • Text Message Programs
    • SmokefreeTXT: Receive free quit smoking encouragement, advice, and tips 24/7 via your mobile phone. Learn more at smokefree.gov
    • SmokefreeMOM: Mobile text messaging program that provides 24/7 tips, advice, and encouragement to help pregnant women quit smoking. Learn more at smokefree.gov/smokefreemom
    • Smartphone Apps

Telephone Quitlines

  • South Carolina Tobacco Quitline: 800-Quit-Now (800-784-8669)
    A free counseling service that helps SC smokers and tobacco users quit smoking. Services include one-on-one coaching, development of a personalized quit plan, free nicotine patches (while supplies last).
  • National Cancer Institute: 877-44U-Quit (877-448-7848)
    Trained counselors are available to provide quitting advice, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. EST.

Chat Online With A Counselor

  • National Cancer Institute’s LiveHelp
    Specialists are available to answer your questions about quitting smoking, cancer, and clinical trials Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. EST.
    Chat now

Local Classes & Support

Classes are available throughout the community. Please see below listings to find something that fits your needs and schedule.

  • MUSC Tobacco Treatment Program: 843-792-9101 Individual counseling available
  • Trident Health System: 843-797-3463
  • Ralph Johnson VA Medical Center: contact Cheryl Huff at 843-577-5011 ext.5601. Walk-in groups every Tuesday at 12:30 p.m. in room A522D
  • City of Charleston*: contact Jan Park at 843-958-6412
    *For City of Charleston employees only

Medications & NRT

Stop smoking medications can help ease nicotine withdrawal. Double your chances of quitting for good by using stop-smoking medications. Ask your doctor or pharmacist about medications to help.

  • Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) patches, gum, and lozenges, can be purchased over the counter
  • NRT inhalers and sprays are available with a prescription
  • Chantix® and Zyban® are non-nicotine medication that are available by prescription only. Ask your doctor.
  • Stop smoking medications are safe.

Videos & Media Campaigns

Helpful Links

Become An Ex: A free quit smoking program based on personal experiences from ex-smokers as well as the latest scientific research from the experts at Mayo Clinic.

Quit For Life: A phone-based coaching and web-based learning support service by the American Cancer Society to help smokers quit.

Smokefree.gov: Smokefree.gov provides free, accurate, evidence-based information and professional assistance to help support the immediate and long-term needs of people trying to quit smoking.

Smokefree Teen: Information designed to help teens understand that decisions they make – especially the decision to quit smoking.

The Great American Smokeout: This annual smoke-free day sponsored by the American Cancer Society encourages smokers to go the distance and finally give up smoking.

Tobacco Free Life: Tobacco-Free Life was created by anti-smoking advocates in collaboration with tobacco control experts and smoking cessation professionals, with feedback from ex-smokers. It provides smoking cessation tools such as guides to quit smoking, a quit blog, and other useful quit smoking resources.

Studies

MUSC participates in a large number of smoking research studies. New trials are added on a routine basis and offer another option to individuals who are trying to quit smoking.

How to Join: Call 843-792-8300 to speak to a research professional about study opportunities available at MUSC. 

SCresearch.org: The South Carolina Research Studies Directory designed specifically to help people locate research opportunities.

Learn About ENDs & Vaping

What are They?

ENDs, often called e-cigarettes, are battery powered products designed to deliver nicotine. They heat and vaporize a solution containing nicotine, flavor, and other chemicals that is then turned into an aerosol for inhaling.

Types

The availability and variety of ENDs have soared since they hit the U.S. market in 2007. Users can now choose from disposable and rechargeable e-cigarettes to ENDs that hold large volumes of refillable liquid solution (e-liquid) called e-hookahs or "tank systems." None emit water vapor, rather an aerosol containing nicotine, hazardous ultrafine particles known to cause cancer, and other toxins.

ENDs have many names in addition to e-cigarettes such as e-hookahs, hookah pens, vape/vapor pens, or mods. They are also marketed in a variety of shapes, sizes, flavors, and colors.

ENDs & Regulation

In 2016, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) finalized a rule extending regulatory authority to cover all tobacco products, including vaporizers, e-cigarettes, and other ENDS. The FDA now regulates the manufacture, import, packaging, labeling, advertising, promotion, sale, and distribution of ENDS.

ENDs & Public Health

ENDs have not been fully studied. Additionally, there is concern that using ENDs may lead youth to try other tobacco products, including conventional cigarettes. Currently, consumers are unaware of the potential risks of ENDs, the amount of nicotine and other potential harmful chemicals that are inhaled during use, and if there are any benefits associated with using ENDs. Some people use ENDs as a way to try to quit smoking, however, there hasn’t been scientific evidence that prove they actually help people to quit.