Most of us know that smoking can increase our risk for heart disease, stroke, and many types of cancers. In fact, smoking is the number one preventable cause of death in the United States, which is more than drug overdoses, car accidents, and firearm incidents combined .
Smoking is also harmful to your smile and can lead to deeply stained teeth, gum disease, and oral cancer. If you’ve considered quitting tobacco before, there’s never been a better time to do so! How can you get started?
Get Motivated and Prepare
Having motivation to quit is a great way to get started. Do you want to save money, be healthier, look younger, or be around for your family in the future?
Once you have your reasons for quitting (these will help you later when dealing with your cravings!), talk to your doctor. They may recommend nicotine replacement therapy, which can safely double your chances of successfully quitting .
Have a support network in place as well. Support could include people who know you’re planning to quit and are ready to be an encouraging support for your during this time, to apps that encourage and remind you about your reasons to quit!
Identify Potential Triggers
Your triggers are things that make you feel like smoking or things that you associate with smoking. Identify your triggers—these could be people you smoke with, certain times throughout the day when you smoke, or feelings that make you want to smoke.
To help name your triggers, keep a log of every time you feel like you want a cigarette, and note the time of day, the activity you’re doing, or the people you’re with, as well as the intensity of the caving.
Noting your triggers will be helpful when it comes time to quit so you can better navigate your cravings and know what situations it will be helpful to avoid in the beginning .
Be Ready to Deal With Your Cravings
Cravings will inevitably happen as your body withdrawals from nicotine. Former smokers can have cravings even months after quitting, so it’s smart to be prepared to deal with your cravings before setting your quit date.
What are some ways you can deal with your nicotine cravings?
- Avoid or remove yourself from triggering situations. If you’re in a situation that’s making you really want to smoke, consider leaving or at least taking a short walk to help get your mind off of smoking. If you can, do your best to avoid triggering situations, at least for the first few weeks!
- Find something to put in your mouth. During a bad craving, reach for sugarless gum, mints, or even sunflower seeds to help you get through it. Just be sure that whatever you choose is safe for your smile (for example, chewing on ice or pencils is a no!).
- Drink a glass of water. Water has been shown to help reduce the symptoms of withdrawal from nicotine and may even help lessen cravings .
- Stay active and busy. Start an exercise regimen, go outside, go somewhere where you can’t smoke, or otherwise distract yourself to help you get through the craving!
Don’t Give Up!
Many people have to try quitting tobacco numerous times to finally quit, but don’t give up—you can do this! Remind yourself why you quit in the first place and, if you have to, begin again and set another quit date. Your family, your body, and your smile will thank you!