Create a quit-smoking plan to help you quit smoking for good. A quit-smoking plan gives you the tools to cope with hurdles you may face as you quit smoking. By Mayo Clinic Staff

If you're like many smokers and other tobacco users, you know you should quit — you just aren't sure how to do it. Creating a quit-smoking plan may improve your chances of stopping for good. Having a quit-smoking plan helps you cope with the physical and emotional issues that often arise when you stop smoking, such as nicotine withdrawal and strong urges to smoke.

Action guide to dealing with triggers (PDF file requiring Adobe Reader)

Sure, you may be able to list plenty of reasons to stop smoking. You may be worried about the health problems related to smoking, the social stigma, the expense or the pressure from loved ones. But only you can decide when you're ready to stop smoking. You may spend a lot of time thinking about quitting smoking before you're ready to actually do it. If you're thinking about quitting, go ahead and pick a specific day to quit — your quit day — and then plan for it.

Pick a specific day within the next month to quit smoking. Don't set your quit day too far in the future, or you may find it hard to follow through. But don't do it before you have a quit-smoking plan in place, either. Having a day in mind can help you prepare for what to expect and to line up helpful support. Pick a random day as your quit day or pick a day that holds special meaning for you, such as a birthday, a holiday or a day of the week that's generally less stressful for you.

What if you decide to quit smoking on the spur of the moment? Follow the quit day advice and go for it.

There's no easy way to quit smoking. But planning for it can help you overcome the hurdles you're likely to face. Here are steps you can take as you prepare for your quit day:

  • Mark the day. Make a big notation of your quit day on your calendar. It's an important day in your life, so treat it like one.
  • Talk to your health care provider. If you haven't talked to your doctor or health care provider yet about quitting smoking, do so now. Ask about stop-smoking counseling and medications. Using either counseling or medication improves your odds of success. And combining them is even more effective. If you'll be using the prescription medication bupropion (Zyban) or varenicline (Chantix), you must start the medication a week or two before your quit day to give it time to begin working.
  • Tell people. Let family, friends and co-workers know about your quit day. Make them your allies. They can provide a lot of moral support. Tell them how they can be most supportive of your effort to quit smoking.
  • Clean house. Rid your home, car, office and other places of your smoking and tobacco supplies. Don't keep any cigarettes on hand "just in case" — you might not be able to resist the temptation. Also, consider getting your teeth professionally cleaned as motivation to stay quit.
  • Stock up. Have on hand items that can substitute for the cigarette you're used to having in your mouth, such as sugarless gum, hard candy, cinnamon sticks and crunchy vegetables.
  • Join up. The more support you have, the more likely you are to stop smoking successfully. Find local quit-smoking support groups. Many hospitals and clinics offer classes or groups. You can join online quit-smoking groups or programs. You can even get cell phone apps, text messages or alerts to help you quit.
  • Reflect. If you've tried to quit smoking before but took it up again, think about what challenges you faced and why you started again. What worked and what didn't? Think about what you can do differently this time. For example, make a list of your triggers and how you will deal with them. Keeping a journal about your quit-smoking efforts may help you monitor feelings and situations that ignite your smoking urges.

Getting through your quit day can be emotionally and physically challenging, especially if strong tobacco cravings strike. Try these tips to help manage your quit day:

  • Don't smoke, not even "just one."
  • Begin using nicotine replacement therapy if you've chosen that method.
  • Remind yourself of your reasons to stop smoking.
  • Drink plenty of water or juice.
  • Keep physically active.
  • Avoid situations and people that trigger your urge to smoke.
  • Attend a support group, counseling session or stop-smoking class.
  • Practice stress management and relaxation techniques.
  • Keep your hands busy by typing, writing, squeezing a ball or knitting.

With a quit-smoking plan to guide you, line up your resources now so that you can lean on them when you quit smoking. The more resources you have in place upfront — support groups, nicotine replacement, medications, counseling — the more likely you are to quit and stay quit.

Apr. 19, 2011