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How to Quit Smoking


Wise people have had lots of trouble with nicotine.  Mark Twain said, “Giving up smoking is the easiest thing I’ve ever done in my life.  I ought to know.  I’ve done it a hundred times.”

Sigmund Freud died of a cancerous jaw caused by smoking cigars.  He was clearly aware of how his smoking caused and aggravated his condition, but he was unable to control his habit.  After most of his jaw had been removed at the end of his life, despite excruciating pain in each swallow, he propped open his jaw to allow him to keep on smoking 20 cigars a day right on up to his death.

Here are some of the most helpful tips for success at pitching the smokes.  With slight adjustments, this will work well for those who dip or chew tobacco as well.

  1. Don’t give up two bad habits at once.  If you abuse other substances like caffeine, drugs or alcohol, or if you have pain-killing escapist habits with activities like gambling, work, TV, or computers, these other habits should be monitored and moderated while you’re giving up nicotine, but you should schedule your recovery from these habits later, one at a time.  Just be careful not to increase another bad habit at the same time as you are decreasing the nicotine.
  2. Give yourself three strong positive reinforcers.  Do these for prevention, or when you want to smoke.  These are even more effective if you do all three at once!
  3. Use positive visual imagery. See yourself healthy, with white teeth, and doing things like hiking or playing ball with peers or (grand)children, which now you can’t breathe well enough to do.  Imagine how you’re now better than ever at lovemaking.
  4. Meditate on verbal affirmations. Write out and then regularly consider and speak aloud positive statements of self-talk, like these:  “I am a good person, so I’m good to my body.  I take care of my health so I can enjoy life.  I enjoy the freedom of saying no to this habit.  My family is so proud of me now.  I am also proud, that my body is obedient, and ready for life.  I look more attractive, especially when I smile.”  Add your own affirmations, and keep them with you to read regularly until you have them burned into your mind.
  5. Treat your body to natural highs. To replace cigarettes, take slow, deep breaths.  Nicorette gum or nicotine patches from the doctor can help in the early days or weeks.  Enlist your family as cheerleaders when you show them your daily progress in everything you’re doing differently, from a scorecard you keep on the refrigerator or closet door.  Listen to relaxing music (if you can afford them, get an I-pod, or a subscription to Sirius/XM).  Do systematic muscle relaxation (with one muscle group at a time, tense them up for five seconds or so, and then feel the pleasure as you let the tension out).  Ramp up the frequency and quality of activities like exercise and lovemaking, while deliberately enjoying the delightful endorphins (brain chemicals) they produce
  6. ake smoking as unpleasant as you can.  The ultimate disgusting experience that will teach you not to smoke has been called the “rapid smoking treatment.”  (This technique is not advised for patients with cardio-pulmonary conditions.)  This technique calls for you to sit down in a small closed room.  Then smoke your last cigarettes much faster than normal, inhaling fairly deeply every six or eight seconds.  Continue this until you absolutely can’t stand the smoke, and then right away break out and throw all the rest of your cigarettes away.  Whenever you think of a cigarette after that, think back on this experience to discourage your body’s cravings.
  7. Engineer changes in your social and smoking environments.  Get cigarettes out of your house and car.  Plan ways to spend the money you will save.  Put smoking friends and relatives to the loyalty test:  ask them to agree for the first three months not to smoke around you, invite you to smoke, or in any way undermine your confidence in what you’re doing.  Give them a copy of this article, and encourage them to quit with you.  Ask your non-smoking family and friends to be more available and encouraging to you, especially at first.  Tell everyone to pray and hope that you’ll be easier to live with instead of harder from day one, because that is often indeed the case.  If you don’t anticipate much support, get with a pastor or a counselor, and give them a copy of this article to guide your discussion.
  8. Consider hypnosis. It’s hard to get motivated to do unpleasant things.  The painful imaginations are more vivid, the affirmations and self-criticisms sink in deeper, the likelihood of doing the physically or socially unpleasant things is greater, and everything is just more effective if combined with hypnosis.  This is especially true for the 5 or 10 percent of the population that is especially suggestible for hypnosis.  (You’re likely one of these if you tend to get lost in movies and daydreams, and aren’t sure where you are for a moment sometimes when they end).
  9. Celebrate your mile markers.  It helps to plan special event rewards (movies, TV shows, meals, outings, purchases) at certain points in time, say 24 hours, 100 hours, 1 week, 2 weeks, and at 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 9, and 12 months.  At one point of your choice, let your loved ones throw you quite the (smoke-free) party, one you’ve all planned before you quit as an incentive for you to stay with it.  After all, your new freedom, health, budget, lifespan, and yes physical attractiveness is a lot for all of you to celebrate!

Arguably the most research-based, successful program for smoking cessation was started at the University of Kentucky, and is available inexpensively at both UK and UofL:  Ask for the Cooper/Clayton program.  Throughout your recovery, studies say it helps to take one day at a time, praying each morning for the strength to stay off of tobacco, and thanking God each evening for another day of freedom.

Dr. Paul Schmidt (www.mynewlife.com) is a psychologist life coach with offices in Shelbyville, Middletown, and Lexington.

About Paul Schmidt

Dr. Paul Schmidt, PhD is a psychologist life coach with offices in Louisville and Lexington, KY, 502 633 2860.