Tips and advice for quitting tobacco

Common questions and quit smoking aids

Welia Health’s Certified Tobacco Cessation Specialist answered the most common questions he gets when helping people quit their tobacco habit- whether it is smoking, vaping, or chewing.

Why is quitting so hard?

Nicotine is the main addictive drug in tobacco that makes quitting so hard, and cigarettes or e-cigarettes are designed to rapidly deliver nicotine to your brain. Once inside your brain, nicotine triggers the release of chemicals that make you feel good. So as the nicotine stimulates parts of your brain over and over, your brain gets used to having the nicotine around. Over time, nicotine changes how your brain works and makes it seem like you need nicotine just to feel okay. When you quit smoking, your brain gets irritable, and as a result, you might feel anxious or upset or have a hard time concentrating or sleeping, have strong urges to smoke or chew, or just generally feel uncomfortable. These feelings are called withdrawal. After a few weeks, while your brain gets used to not having the nicotine around, these feelings will be lessened, and you will tend to feel better.

There are ads everywhere about quitting tobacco using hypnosis. Does it really work?

Sometimes, yes and sometimes, no. While hypnosis can be effective in helping people deal with pain, stress, and anxiety, cognitive behavioral counseling is thought to be the first and best way to quit tobacco. Hypnosis should be used in conjunction with a comprehensive program instead of a stand-alone option. Hypnosis isn’t right for everyone, though, as not everyone may not be able to enter a full state of hypnosis to make it effective. Some therapists believe that the more likely you are to be hypnotized, the more likely it is that you’ll benefit from hypnosis.

What’s the big deal with nicotine gum?

The most common branded nicotine gum, Nicorette® Gum, works by providing nicotine to your body to decrease the withdrawal symptoms experienced when smoking is stopped. It is classified as a smoking cessation medication aid that substitutes the oral activity associated with smoking/vaping to help reduce the urge to smoke. It is one of several methods to deliver nicotine to your brain that is much safer than cigarettes or chewing tobacco. Most people are unaware that the cancer-causing chemical in cigarettes or chewing tobacco is actually not nicotine but rather chemicals included in cigarettes or chewing tobacco.

Are there other quit-smoking aids or over-the-counter (OTC) methods to help quit?

Many nicotine replacement tools, commonly called NRTs, are available OTC. NRTs can effectively reduce the severity of withdrawal symptoms and cravings, so choose what’s right for you! Nicotine withdrawal symptoms begin within a few hours of quitting, peak within a few days, and generally last about four weeks. If you can get past the first week without smoking, you have a greater chance of success! Below are the benefits of using NRTs:

  • Gum
    • Relief of oral cravings
    • Flexible dosing to manage withdrawal symptoms
  • Lozenges
    • More discreet than gum
    • Flexible dosing to help manage withdrawal symptoms
    • Gives relief of oral cravings
  • Patches
    • Use once per day
    • Convenient and discreet

As with any medication, there may be side effects. Speak with your primary care provider or the certified tobacco cessation therapist.

Can my doctor prescribe medication to help me quit?

Several prescriptions are available, the most common include Chantix (varenicline), Zyban and Wellbutrin (bupropion). Prescription costs should be explored with your insurance company. Your primary care provider or pharmacist should discuss potential side effects and precautions.

Hands down, what are your best tips?

  1. Try nicotine replacement – nicotine patches, gum, or lozenges.
  2. Avoid triggers – coffee, after eating, socially drinking, etc.
  3. You might want to avoid social scenes, parties and bars for a while.
  4. Have your car cleaned and detailed.
  5. Delay –tell yourself to wait just 10 minutes more before lighting that cigarette.
  6. Chew on it — give your mouth something to do – try sugarless gum or hard candy or munch on raw carrots, nuts, or sunflower seeds.
  7. Get physical – go for a walk or bike ride. Even a short walk can distract you from tobacco cravings.
  8. Try relaxation techniques. Tobacco may have been your way to deal with stress. Try learning a new technique like deep breathing, muscle relaxation, yoga, massage, visualization, or listening to calming music.
  9. Call for reinforcements–connect with a friend or family member, or seek counseling. Check the resources page for support, which is available 24/7.
  10. Go online for support– online stop-smoking group, subscribe to a quitter’s blog and post encouraging thoughts for someone else who might be dealing with tobacco cravings.
  11. Remind yourself of the benefits of quitting – getting healthier, feeling better, saving money, and sparing your loved ones from secondhand smoke.

Ready to quit or want more information?

Tobacco cessation services are offered in Mora, Hinckley and Pine City. Call 320.225.3356 with questions or to get started!