Giving up cigarettes is very hard for most smokers – even when they want to quit. According to a U.S. government study, 68% of adult smokers want to quit, and while more than half make an attempt, only 7.4% successfully quit. However, the 1.3 million smokers who quit every year prove that quitting is possible. What is the most effective way to quit smoking? A study published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine found that quitting abruptly, or “cold turkey” may actually be the best way to quit smoking and was found to be 25% more effective than cutting back gradually. Still, not all methods work equally for all people. If you can’t do it alone, luckily there are several options to support you in your battle with cigarette addiction.
Drink water: Nicotine is the highly addictive chemical in cigarettes that triggers the release of “feel-good” chemicals in the brain making it so hard to quit smoking. Flush nicotine and other chemicals out of your body by drinking plenty of water (at least 6-8 glasses per day). The period of time that nicotine remains in your system depends on how often you smoke, your age, and general health. Upon quitting, Nicotine withdrawal symptoms usually reach their peak after two to three days, and diminish within one to three months. Quitters who make it to four weeks smoke-free are five times more likely to stay smoke-free for good.
Oral substitutes: Even with nicotine gone from the body, smokers can miss the physical addiction of holding a cigarette in their mouth or hands. Swap out cigarettes for chewing gum, cinnamon sticks, hard candy, sunflower seeds, or a (flavored) toothpick when you get the urge to smoke.
Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT): Nicotine-based patches, gum, lozenges, nasal sprays and inhalers can help reduce withdrawal feelings and improve the likelihood of a smoker quitting – by nearly double. These treatment options supply low doses of nicotine into the system, offering a safer alternative to cigarettes.
Hypnotherapy: A study found that smokers may be more likely to quit smoking through the use of hypnotherapy (hypnosis as a therapeutic technique) than patients using other smoking cessation methods. During hypnosis for smoking cessation, a patient will go through a series of steps involving relaxation and the mind prompting the patient to no longer want to smoke.
Prescription drugs: Prescription drugs, especially when used with nicotine replacement therapy, can help some smokers quit. Each drug works differently with your body to help you quit smoking but may cause side effects. Talk to your doctor about whether one of these medications is right for you.
- Varenicline (also called Chantix®)
- Bupropion also may be called by the brand names Zyban®, Wellbutrin®, or Aplenzin®
Read a book: Allen Carr’s self-help book “The Easy Way to Stop Smoking” was first published in 1985 and has sold over 15 million copies worldwide. This method challenges the smoker to re-think the way they think about cigarettes and addiction. The goal is for readers to quit smoking by the end of the book – and if it doesn’t work the first time, it should be read again. There are also Allen Carr’s Easyway seminars for those not interested in the book approach.
Join a program: Smokefree.gov is an initiative from the National Cancer Institute that offers various resources to help you quit smoking. Check out their tools and tips to help you quit or call 800-QUIT-NOW (800-784-8669) to speak to an expert who can offer support.
Exercise: Studies show that even short periods of physical activity, especially aerobic exercise, helps reduce the urge to smoke. Also, deep breathing exercises can help with relaxation and replace the satisfaction of inhaling deeply on a cigarette. Make time for daily exercise that works with your schedule.
Does Medicare cover smoking cessation?
Your health insurance may offer coverage for certain smoking and tobacco cessation methods. Out-of-pocket costs will vary depending on your policy. Medicare Part B (Medical Insurance) covers up to eight face-to-face counseling visits with a qualified doctor or other Medicare-approved practitioner that accepts assignment in a 12-month period. Over-the-counter treatments for smoking cessation, such as nicotine patches or gum, are not covered. However, some stand-alone Medicare Prescription Drug Plans (Part D) offered by a Medicare-approved private insurance company may help cover the costs of certain smoking cessation medications. Talk to your doctor and provider about your smoking cessation options and find out what Medicare will pay for.