Lights Out: How 5 smokers quit for good

By S. Jhoanna Robledo Wade

It’s no news that smoking is the number one preventable cause of heart disease. And everyone knows quitting is crucial. You even know what to do. Thing is, it’s hard. Really hard. And it’s all too easy to give up. That’s why we asked former smokers to share how they quit for good—so you might, too. Good luck!

  • “Break the day into small increments,” suggests Susan G., from Washington, DC. “It feels more manageable and helps build momentum.” So instead of focusing on how you have to go cigarette-free the entire day, focus on getting through the next three hours, or even hour by hour. At the end of the day, give yourself a little reward.
  • “I smoked a pack a day for 10 years. Then I quit cold turkey the day the pregnancy test came up positive,” says Oakland, California, resident Leah H., who says she was too sick to miss it. “That was 16 years ago.” No one’s suggesting you get pregnant for the sole purpose of quitting (please!). The takeaway here is this: Sometimes focusing on how the other people in your life will benefit—along with you, of course—can provide that extra motivation.
  • Do an inventory of your life and decide if smoking will allow you to continue the things you enjoy, says L. P., a teacher from Berkeley, California, who’d been an on-and-off smoker for years. She enjoyed hiking and spending time outdoors with family, and when smoking left her breathless, she says, “It needed to go.”
  • “Bury yourself in facts about how smoking can kill you,” says Peter S., a sound engineer who quit 10 years ago with the help of a month-long smoking cessation program in San Francisco. The class provided the risks in an unadorned, straightforward fashion, and every time he felt like reaching for a smoke, he ran down the list. “It was a scared-straight tactic.” (One fact that felled him was this message from a doctor: “By the time we detect lung cancer, it’s usually too late.”)
  • “I didn't use patches or gum. Instead, I just swam or biked when I felt the urge to smoke,” says journalist M. Shapiro, who found it most challenging attending parties where others were smoking. “But I just decided to quit and stuck to it.”

For more help kicking cigarettes out of your life, visit the American Lung Association, BecomeAnEx.org, or QuitNet.org

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