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Deciding to quit

If you’ve made the decision to quit, there’s a lot you can do to boost your chances of staying smoke-free. As well as getting advice and support to stay motivated, there’s the option of nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) or medication to help tame the urge to smoke. It’s also important to have an action plan so you’re prepared to handle any nicotine cravings or other nicotine withdrawal symptoms as well as helping you cope with ‘trigger’ situations that might tempt you to smoke.

Where do I start?

Set a quit date and make an action plan. Before you make your plan it’s a good idea to:

  • Call the Quitline. A trained adviser can give you advice on quitting, information on quit smoking courses and send you a free Quit Pack for the cost of a local call from anywhere in Australia (except from mobiles). A Quit Pack includes a Quit book with helpful tips and strategies you can keep with you. You can also sign on with the Quit Coach, an online program to help you quit and stay smoke-free. For more information on how to access these resources, see the Further Information section below.
  • Ask your doctor or pharmacist about using medication or nicotine replacement therapy to help you battle nicotine cravings.
  • Write down all the reasons you want to quit. Reading them or reminding yourself of your motives for quitting will help you resist urges to smoke when you’re tempted.

What should go in my quitting plan?

When you’ve made the decision to quit, sit down and make a quit smoking action plan that is specific to you. You can either do this on your own after speaking to a counsellor on the Quitline or a healthcare professional, or you can come up with a plan together with your healthcare professional. Whatever method you use, make sure to include these four key items:

1. Strategies for dealing with cravings

Decide what strategies you’ll use for coping with cravings for cigarettes and other withdrawal symptoms such as feeling edgy and irritable, having difficulty concentrating and sometimes having difficulty sleeping.

Your strategies can include:

  • Reminding yourself that urges to light up will pass. Do something else to distract yourself until the urge passes — drink water, chew gum, call or text a friend, use a relaxation technique or just take a few deep breaths
  • Focusing on the reasons you want to quit. Reminding yourself of your motives for quitting will help you resist urges to smoke when you’re tempted
  • Looking at the bright side of withdrawal symptoms. They’re a healthy sign that your body is learning to live without nicotine.
  • Nicotine replacement therapy. NRT can help with nicotine cravings and research shows it can increase your chances of quitting. It’s also less addictive than smoking and doesn't cause cancer. NRT is available as chewing gum, patches, tablets, lozenges, nasal spray or inhalers, or on prescription from your doctor
  • Medication. There are two non-nicotine prescription drugs that may help to reduce some withdrawal symptoms. However they’re not suitable for everyone. Talk to your doctor to find out more

2. List your ‘trigger’ situations

List all the possible trigger situations where you’d normally smoke a cigarette and decide how you’ll cope. Although there might be other situations that you find can trigger you to smoke, here are a few common triggers and some suggested strategies to deal with them:

  • Feeling stressed. A quick walk around the block, taking a few deep breaths, using a relaxation technique or doing some stretches are some of the ways you can relieve stress without resorting to cigarettes
  • Drinking alcohol. Until the urges to smoke have faded, it might be best to drink something else instead, and to avoid places where people drink — and smoke
  • Going out with friends. Go out to smoke-free places like the movies or a restaurant
  • Finishing a meal. Brush your teeth as soon as you’ve finished.

3. Build support networks

Tell your family and friends that you’re quitting and get their support. Declare your home smoke free — ask them to be understanding and to not smoke while in your home. You may also want to let them know you may be irritable and have mood swings during this period — but they should be sure not to offer you a cigarette to help you stay strong in your resolve to quit.

Start a regular exercise habit

This will help you manage stress, improve your mood and help you minimise any weight gain.

What if you’re worried about gaining weight?

Some people do gain weight when they quit — often because they replace smoking with snacking on sweets and other high-kilojoule foods. You might also feel hungrier once you’ve quit. Ways to avoid gaining weight include:

  • Doing more exercise — as a bonus it’ll get easier to exercise when you quit
  • Eating a healthy diet with at least five serves of vegetables and two serves of fruit each day
  • Keeping sweets, biscuits and packaged snack foods out of the house
  • Having a supply of portable ‘fillers’ to plug the gap left by smoking —such as fresh fruit and raw vegetables, a bottle of water or sugar-free chewing gum. Keep them with you at work or when you’re on the move — there’s less temptation to raid a vending machine.

Further Information

Quitline www.13quit.org.au

Quit Coach www.quitcoach.org.au

Quit Victoria. What comes in a Quit pack www.quit.org.au/

No More Butts - A Head Start For Your Quitting Journey (PDF, 524Kb)

Sources

Better Health Channel. Smoking — quitting tips. [online] Melbourne, VIC: State Government of Victoria. c2010 [last updated Jan 2009, accessed 30 Aug 2010] Available from: http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Quit_smoking_tips

Cancer Research UK. Giving up. [online] London, UK: Cancer Research UK. [last updated 25 Sept 2009, accessed 30 Aug 2010] Available from: http://info.cancerresearchuk.org/healthyliving/smokingandtobacco/givingup/index.htm

Mayo Clinic. Action guide to dealing with triggers. [online] Mayo Foundation for Medical Research and Education. c1998–2010 [accessed 30 Aug 2010] Available from: http://www.mayoclinic.com/images/pdfs/qs14_smokingtriggers.pdf (PDF 166kB)

National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre. Tobacco. [online] Kensington, NSW: University of NSW Faculty of Medicine. c2005 [accessed 30 Aug 2010] Available from: http://www.med.unsw.edu.au/NDARCWeb.nsf/resources/NDARCFact_Drugs8/$file/TOBACCO 2.pdf (PDF 50kB)

Pharmacy Self Care. Staying a non-smoker. Deakin, ACT: Pharmaceutical Society of Australia. 2009.

Quit Tasmania. Supporting someone to quit. [online] New Town, TAS: Quit Tasmania. c2009 [accessed 30 Aug 2010] Available from: http://www.quittas.org.au/files/resources/supporting_someone_to_quit.pdf (PDF 50kB)

Quit Victoria. Coping with cravings. [online] Carlton South, VIC: Quit Victoria. c2010 [accessed 30 Aug 2010] Available from: http:// www.quit.org.au/?ContentID=6861

Quitline. What will happen to my body? [online] Eveleigh, NSW: Cancer Institute NSW. c2007 [accessed 30 Aug 2010] Available from: http://www.13quit.org.au

Zhu SH Wong S Tang H et al. High quit ratio among Asian immigrants in California: Implications for population tobacco cessation. Nicotine and Tobacco Research. 2007; 9(Suppl 3): S505-S514.

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Disclaimer
This information has been developed and reviewed for Bupa by health professionals. To the best of their knowledge it is current and based on reputable sources of medical research. It should be used as a guide only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional medical or other health professional advice.

Bupa Australia Pty Ltd makes no warranties or representations regarding the completeness or accuracy of the information. Bupa Australia is not liable for any loss or damage you suffer arising out of the use of or reliance on the information. Except that which cannot be excluded by law. We recommend that you consult your doctor or other qualified health professional if you have questions or concerns about your health. For more details on how we produce our health content, visit the About our health information page.