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How to quit smoking: 5 tips to help you resist tobacco cravings

smiling woman in cafe ready to quit smoking breaks a cigarette in half

Smoking harms nearly every organ in the body and is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. Smokeless tobacco causes cancer of the mouth and can lead to nicotine addiction. If you use tobacco, you know you should quit. In fact, most adults who smoke cigarettes want to quit. And most adults who smoked cigarettes in the past have successfully quit. If you’ve tried quitting but started smoking or chewing tobacco again, a solid plan can improve your chances of quitting for good.


The health benefits of quitting tobacco

Whether you chew tobacco or smoke cigarettes, it’s never too late to stop using tobacco. As soon as you give up cigarettes, food will taste better and you’ll regain your sense of smell. Your breath will smell better, your teeth will stop yellowing, and moderate physical activity (like climbing stairs) will be less likely to leave you out of breath.

Quitting tobacco also lowers your risk of developing cancer, heart disease, and diabetes and reduces your chances of getting gum disease, tooth loss, and other diseases. More important, quitting tobacco can add as much as 10 years to your life, compared to if you continued to smoke.


Plan to quit tobacco for good

Your doctor or health care provider can refer you to local resources and help you create a quit plan that is right for you.

1. List your reasons for quitting tobacco. Making a list of why you want to quit can help you stay motivated. Whether you want to improve your health, lower your risk of cancer and other diseases, or just feel better, quitting tobacco is a big step toward a healthier you.

2. Calculate how much money you can save. If you smoke a pack of cigarettes every day, quitting can save you thousands of dollars each year, depending on where you live. Find out how much money you’ll save by quitting smoking.

3. Enroll in a tobacco cessation program. Most health insurance plans in the U.S. cover tobacco cessation. Check your health plan documents to verify specific coverage details.

For resources to help you quite tobacco, contact the National Cancer Institute Smoking Quitline at 1–877–44U–QUIT (1–877–448–7848).


Enroll in a tobacco cessation program for APWU Health Plan members

APWU Health Plan offers tobacco cessation programs to help members quit smoking, with no out-of-pocket expenses in most cases. Programs include over-the-counter and prescription tobacco cessation medications, plus:

  • Phone counseling sessions or
  • Group therapy sessions or
  • Educational sessions with a doctor

High Option tobacco cessation program

Consumer Driven Option tobacco cessation program


5 ways to resist tobacco cravings

When you’re trying to quit, the urge to use tobacco is powerful. Each time you resist a craving, you’re one step closer to kicking the tobacco habit for good. Here some tips to help you resist tobacco cravings:


1. Ask your doctor about nicotine replacement therapy

Short-acting therapies that help you overcome intense cravings are generally safe to use in combination with long-acting medications:

  • Prescription nasal sprays and inhaler
  • Over-the-counter patches, gums, and lozenges
  • Prescription medications

While some people use e-cigarettes as a way to smoking traditional cigarettes, scientists are studying the long-term safety of these devices.


2. Identify your tobacco triggers and habits

The urge to use tobacco is likely to be strongest in situations where you smoked or chewed tobacco in the past—for example, after a meal or during work breaks. Knowing your smoking patterns can help you figure out when you may need more support. Also, be sure to throw out any cigarettes and lighters stashed away around your home or in your car.


3. Distract yourself from tobacco cravings

Chewing sugarless gum can help you get through stressful situations without using tobacco. Or try snacking on something crunchy (and healthy), like baby carrots, celery sticks, nuts, or sunflower seeds. To keep your hands busy, use a squeeze ball or fidget spinner.

Physical activity is also a great way to distract yourself from tobacco cravings. Take a ten-minute walk outside or run up and down the stairs in your house or at work. If exercise isn’t your thing, try practicing relaxation techniques. Yoga, deep-breathing exercises, muscle relaxation, and visualization can reduce the intensity of tobacco cravings.


4. Build a tobacco cessation support network

Let your family, friends, and co-workers know you’re trying to quit (and ask them to be patient with any changes in your mood). Plan activities with friends and family that get your mind off smoking, and ask friends and co-workers not to smoke around you or offer you a cigarette.

For support in quitting, including free quit coaching, a free quit plan, free educational materials, and referrals to local resources, call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669).


5. Remind yourself why you wanted to quit tobacco in the first place

Remember, quitting tobacco will lower your risk of cancer and other diseases, improve your health, and make you feel better. It takes time and effort, but most adults who used to smoke cigarettes eventually quit the habit.