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In over 4 decades of medical practice, the pain and suffering I have seen caused by cigarette smoking has been both sad and devastating. We don’t want this to happen to you. Let’s stop before it is too late.

How? Honestly quitting smoking is no fun – it’s difficult and often uncomfortable. I can say this from experience. I myself was a smoker in high school, college, and medical school and quit smoking when I began my residency in OB/GYN and haven’t looked back.

You’ll feel like a new person once you succeed. First, find a reason apart from yourself to stop, you children or grandchildren, for instance. Secondary smoke can make addicts of them and weaken their health at an early age. Also as a parent or grandparent you want, I am sure, to be around for them and not be a burden to them in later years.

If you are smoking to deal with the stress of work, think about the fatigue and shortness of breath your smoking causes. This ultimately is associated with poor work performance.
Should you quit “cold turkey”? Bad idea. Over 95% of those who try fail after several days. Studies show that nicotine gum, lozenges, and/or patches can help. There is also a prescription pill (Chantix) that has good statistical success with smoking cessation with a 12 week course while still smoking, but decreasing the smoking amount weekly. A lot of insurance companies cover the drug and behavioral programs as well.

You should feel like a hero for working to overcome a difficult problem. If you smoke in the house, clean it thoroughly by washing clothes with an odor-masking fabric softener, and have carpets and drapes cleaned to get rid of the lingering smell-this may sound surprising but the faint smell of smoke can set off cravings leading to failure.
The most important thing that you can do is get physician and finding a way to relax. The best way I know is physical exercise to gradually get back in shape. You’ll like what you see in the mirror when you do. This will help fight the weight gain that can come with quitting.

But be wary of smoking triggers. By far coffee is the most common trigger, followed by alcohol. If you are used to waking with a cup of coffee and a cigarette or having a smoke with friends on the weekend – try nicotine gum instead. Don’t smoke and take a nicotine substitute – this can be dangerous. Fight hunger pangs with more fruits and vegetables. Studies have shown that cigarette smoking depletes trace nutrients and eating things like blueberries, leafy green vegetables and tomatoes helps restore them and can ease the discomfort of smoking withdrawal.
Now the fun part: take the money that you will save each week and do something for just you. You will be stunned to see that you saved anywhere from $15 to $30 a week.

Finally you may not succeed the first time…The national average is four to six times. That’s O.K. because you are stronger each time. If this happens don’t feel like a failure. Failure is only when you don’t pick yourself up and try again. This is a long struggle – feel though that you are on a mission and failure is not an option. You will succeed with sacrifice and perseverance. When you do succeed, you, your family and your friends will look at you more positively and with a sense of pride for a job well done. I will not end by saying “good luck” because luck is not involved.

Julien Meyer, M.D.