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Smoking Cessation

If you're a smoker and want to know how to quit, this section is for you.

If you're a non-smoker and want to help friends or relatives who smoke, it's for you too! You can use this information to change the world by influencing the perceptions, ideas and even the behaviour of other people.

Don't forget to come and share your questions and ideas with the rest of us!

How to get rid of Miss Nicotine in five easy steps:

1. Find your motivation!

If you're going to quit smoking for good (or free yourself from any other addiction), you need cast-iron motivation. In other words, you need YOUR OWN personal reasons to quit. If they're sincere and personal, these reasons will help carry you through the hard times (friends who smoke, withdrawal symptoms, stress, boredom, temptations during social activities, etc.).

The more you're convinced that a tobacco-free life will bring nothing but benefits, the greater your motivation will be. And greater your motivation, the more you'll want to change your life.

So how do you find YOUR reasons for quitting cigarettes?

First of all, think of all the negative things that cigarettes have already brought to your life, and will continue to bring:

  • The disgusting smell that lingers in your clothes and on your skin and hair, not to mention bad breath and stained teeth (even gum, brushing and cleaning isn't enough to disguise the strong smell of cigarettes);
  • All the money that's gone up in smoke, wasted on little paper rolls stuffed with shredded leaves;
  • Your slavery to the paper rolls and the companies that make them (or the smugglers who keep you addicted by selling cigarettes illegally at ridiculously low prices);
  • Premature ageing of your skin and body - you'll have more wrinkles than other people your age, and they'll appear at a younger age;
  • The diseases to which you're exposed because of all the smoke you inhale;
  • An inability to taste food properly;
  • The fact of having less energy and becoming out of breath after the slightest exercise (just imagine what it'll be like when you're older);
  • The fact of endangering other people's lives with your second-hand smoke;
  • The fact of developing a behaviour that's increasingly rejected by society: in Québec, approximately 85% of high school students and 80% of adults are non-smokers.

Is this really what you want?

If you need some shocking images to help make up your mind, click on the following links: Health Canada, Stop-tabac.ch, Smoker body.

Seriously, cigarettes bring nothing but problems. Still not convinced? Have a look at the information in the Stress and tobacco and Weight and tobacco sections. Stress and tobacco and Weight and tobacco.

Second, You need to address your own doubts and fears by asking questions such as:

  • If you quit smoking, would you be rejected by your friends who smoke? If your answer is "no", then why would you smoke?
  • If your answer is "yes", is this something real friends would do to you? Is it really worth maintaining contact with these people?
  • Is there really something in life that you couldn't do without a cigarette?
  • Why wouldn't you be able to live your life (the good things as well as the bad) without cigarettes as a crutch?

You're no worse than the 85% of kids your age who don't smoke! Think of all the things you could do with that extra energy, not to mention the additional money you'd have in your pocket!

What? You're STILL not convinced? Click here to read about addiction and check the web site SMAT. SMAT (Short Messages Against Tobacco) is a text message service to help you quit smoking.

And remember that you're not alone: more than half of all young smokers want to quit, but in many cases they simply haven't the courage to talk about it. Why not be the first to raise the subject? Maybe you and your friends could work together on this - after all, there's strength in unity. Choose freedom! It's time to stop allowing your life to be dictated by little rolls of paper and the companies that make them.

2. Choose your release date

If you're serious about quitting, you can't just leave it to chance. Ask the people around you: most of those who've been successful began by setting a date.

Why do you need to set a specific date?

Because it shows that quitting is important to you. It proves you're determined to achieve your goal of freeing yourself from tobacco. It's a commitment to yourself to do everything you can.

Quitting cigarettes is like going on a trip: if you don't set a departure date, you'll probably still be sitting at home this time next year, with a whole slew of excuses for why you didn't leave.

What date should you choose?

Don't let your emotions drive you. For example, don't say: "I'm fed up, I'm going to quit tomorrow". If you do that, you probably won't succeed because you won't be prepared to face the difficulties. And if that happens, you're likely to be even more discouraged and have even less confidence in your ability to try again.

The best thing is to set a date when you're fully motivated and have no lingering doubts about quitting. You need to be fully prepared for your "trip". See the next step for information on how to prepare, and how to decide where you're going.

If you're a girl, choose a date after your period (when withdrawal symptoms are less severe).

3.Prepare your game plan

So you're really motivated and you know exactly what you want: to get rid of Miss Nicotine on a specific date. If you want to do something important in your life, you need to be prepared. Preparation can be summarized as follows, in 7 basic points :

1) Always remember YOUR OWN reasons for quitting. Write them down in your diary, on the refrigerator or on your computer, or record them on your MP3.

2) Ask yourself a series of questions so that you're aware of why you smoke:

  • At what times during the day and in what kinds of situations do I smoke?
  • What am I feeling at times like this (e.g. boredom, stress, sadness, joy, anger)?
  • When I wake up in the morning, how long is it before I light my first cigarette?
  • How many cigarettes do I smoke in a day?

3) Identify elements that are consistent with your tastes and your personality that will really help you through situations where you're at risk from cigarettes. For example, what can you do to stop yourself from smoking with your friends? And from now until you quit, on the date you've set for yourself, what could you do in the mornings to delay that first cigarette?

If you've been smoking for a while, it means you're addicted to tobacco to some extent (take the test to assess your level of addiction. You can't break an addiction overnight. If you're going to quit on the date you've chosen, you'll need to "deprogram" yourself first. It's here that some tricks of the trade will be useful.

The basic strategy for the tricks of the trade used by many former smokers as they prepare to quit can be summarized in three words: delay, avoid, and replace.

DELAY

A craving lasts for less than five minutes. Whenever you have a craving, do something else that you enjoy instead. It really works: your cravings will become less frequent. This is how you deprogram yourself.

Avoid

  • The idea is to change how you think and what you do, so you can avoid situations in which you want to smoke.
  • Refuse when someone offers you a cigarette.
  • Do things with non-smokers or with other smokers who also want to quit. Self-help works!
  • Make the decision not to smoke in your home.
  • Delay your first cigarette of the day by one hour, and smoke a few less each day.
  • Don't keep your pack of cigarettes with you. That way, you'll think twice before lighting up.
  • Make an effort to think positively instead of mulling over negative thoughts.

Replace

  • You've trained your brain and body to depend on cigarettes to make you feel good, so it's important to do things you enjoy and break your tobacco-related habits.
  • Replace cigarettes by physical activities that you already enjoy or would like to try - for example, snowboarding, in-line skating, hockey, swimming, basketball, badminton, soccer, cycling, volleyball, climbing, dancing, boxing, karate, running, and so on.
  • Replace cigarette breaks with something you enjoy.
  • Find other activities that you enjoy and that provide opportunities to laugh - for example, improvisation, theatre, movies, reading, singing, or even barking at your dog. Take up a craft, buy yourself a camera, play a musical instrument, or get a video game.
  • Keep your hands busy! Play with an elastic band, paper clip, pencil or anti-stress ball. Pet your dog or cat. Sketch or draw. If you're used to smoking while you talk on the telephone, hold the receiver with your cigarette hand.
  • If you need something in your mouth, chew gum, eat carrot or celery sticks and drink a lot of water. You can also brush your teeth several times a day (cigarettes taste bad after that).
  • Put together your own "survival kit" containing some of the elements mentioned above and keep it handy at all times.

Other suggestions…

  • If you can find excuses to smoke, you can also find excuses not to smoke. That's positive thinking.
  • Make sure you have someone you can talk to or text whenever you get a craving. If there's nobody available, have a quick look at your favourite videoclips or play a game on your computer, cell phone or personal stereo.
  • Get plenty of sleep, stretch while yawning or breathing deeply, and learn some relaxation techniques.
  • Reward yourself frequently with the money you save by not buying cigarettes.

4) Use your tricks of the trade whenever you're in a situation where you may want to smoke. If they don't work, it's probably because you still have some lingering doubts or fears ("I'm afraid of getting fat", "My friends won't want me anymore", and so on). Find out what's stopping you.

5) On the date you've set for yourself - quit smoking!

6) Keep using your tricks of the trade after you quit.

7) Reward yourself every day, and even several times a day. Do things you really enjoy. You deserve it!

4. Don't say "I'm going crazy, just one puff ..."

Once you've quit, regardless of the situation, don't fall into the trap of thinking you can allow yourself "just one puff". That's what happens to most of the people who start smoking again. It only takes a second for cigarettes to take over your life again. Tobacco is a very tough enemy to beat! Before you know it, you'll be back to your old habits, and you'll have to start all over again.

If you run into problems when you quit smoking, remember this:

  • A craving only lasts three to five minutes. If you light up, it'll come back anyway - and even more quickly.
  • Struggling to reach your goal isn't a sign of weakness or lack of willpower.
  • Immediately do something you enjoy - something that's good for you and your health. Use the tricks of the trade from Step 3.
  • If you're successful - reward yourself! Gradually, you'll have fewer cravings, and they'll become much weaker. And your self-confidence and pride will soar!

Repeat this to yourself: "Whatever happens today, I won't smoke"!

Careful! Maybe you're thinking: "I won't have a cigarette, but perhaps I can have a cigar or cigarillo instead. It doesn't matter."

You'd be wrong! The Cigars, cigarillos, nargilas, snus and other smokables or chewables, usually contain nicotine. In other words, they're all one-way tickets to addiction!

5. If you trip and fall, just get up again!

If, in spite of all your efforts, you take a puff or even smoke a whole cigarette, look on it as a misstep. Don't wallow in self-pity, and don't judge yourself (e.g. "I knew I didn't have the willpower to do this"). It's like falling off a bike: you don't stop riding just because of a fall. You get back on, and tell yourself that next time you'll be better able to avoid whatever it was that tripped you up.

A "relapse" is when you let cigarettes decide for you. It's when you stay on the ground and don't get up again. Something like this might happen. But with everything you now know, you'll be able to get back on your feet more quickly.

So go ahead and good luck! If you're willing to share your experience, you can help a lot of other young smokers to take back control over their lives as well. Not only that, but by getting involved in the actions we propose here, you can help us to overcome the manipulations of the tobacco companies and their addictive products.

A Girl's Story

"I left him because he smoked": Sandrine, aged 15

Sandrine, you really did that? You left your boyfriend because he smoked?

Yes.

Are you proud of what you did?

I think the fact that he smoked also hid a lot of other faults that I just couldn't tolerate in the end.

Before we get into the details, can you tell us a bit more about how you first fell for him?

I was at a party at my friend Amelia's house, and Felix and his gang arrived. We didn't really know them - they'd heard about the party through some of our other friends. Amelia's parents weren't there, and she didn't want the house to be messed up so she asked everyone to go outside to smoke. The gang Felix was with spent the whole evening outside!

How did you meet him?

I liked the look of him and went out to join his gang on the balcony. They were chain-smoking and had a lively conversation going. The party was really out there, on the balcony, not in the house! I went to Felix and asked him if I could have a cigarette.

Was it your first?

No. When we were younger, Amelia and I had tried smoking, but I didn't like it and stopped right away. This time, though, at the party, I was looking for a way of connecting with Felix, and the only thing I could think of was to ask him for a cigarette. So we smoked a few together and had a long conversation. That's how we started going out together.

Did you tell him later that you were a non-smoker?

After the party, I became a smoker. All Felix's friends smoked, and every time I was with him, there was always an opportunity to smoke. It didn't take me long to get addicted!

Were you afraid he'd think you weren't cool if you told him you didn't smoke?

From the very first time I started smoking with him, I no longer really thought of myself as a non-smoker. And no, I didn't tell him right away that I didn't smoke before I met him. I never really stopped to think about it, but you may be right, perhaps I was afraid of what he'd think. In any case, that wasn't the reason I kept smoking. I did it because I liked it.

Did your parents make you stop smoking?

Yes, my parents are confirmed non-smokers. My grandmother (my dad's mother) died of cancer; she'd been a smoker all her life and it started out as lung cancer and then spread everywhere. My dad had been raised in a smoking home, and cigarette smoke disgusted him. Our home was always smoke-free. When my parents smelled cigarettes on me, they were very disappointed. I tried to lie my way out of it, saying it was because my friends smoked, but they didn't believe me. They told me to quit, or I'd be punished.

Did you quit?

Not right away, no. I cheated at first - I wore perfume, brushed my teeth a lot, things like that. In the end I realized I didn't enjoy smoking as much as I thought I did. It made me feel bad. I was often out of breath, I was sweating more, and I didn't feel like doing anything.

Did you suddenly realize all this?

Yes ... but it's true that I also became fed up of all the things I had to do to keep smoking. It was exhausting, trying to come up with ideas that would let me smoke in secret and not smell of cigarettes afterwards! In the end I told Felix I was going to quit. He told me he wanted to quit as well. I was thrilled, because it was something we could do together.

Only he didn't quit?

No, he didn't. But I did. I quit cold turkey.

How did you manage it?

I'd heard it was helpful to replace cigarettes with something else. So I bought sunflower seeds and ate them all the time. There was such a lot of salt on the shells, and it took such a lot of effort to eat them, that it took up all my energy! It meant always having something to do, something in my mouth. It helped me, but not Felix. Eventually I realized he'd stopped eating the sunflower seeds and started smoking again.

Did you feel betrayed?

No, not betrayed. Let's just say I was disappointed in him. He told me he couldn't hold out, even though he really wanted to. So I tried to help him, but he just didn't quit. In the end I left him.

What was the hardest for you, stopping smoking or stopping loving Felix?

That's a good question! When you don't smoke, being with smokers isn't very pleasant. So I didn't really miss him!

INTERVIEW WITH AMELIA, SANDRINE'S FRIEND

Amelia, were you surprised that Sandrine left Felix because he smoked?

No, not at all. But I was very surprised when Sandrine started smoking! We'd already tried it together, and hated it. I was floored to see her change so much. But I have to admit that Felix is really good looking, and Sandrine was very keen on him when she started smoking. She probably wanted to impress him, and fell into her own trap. But when he said he'd quit at the same time as her, and then didn't follow through, I knew the fire would soon go out, so to speak! Also, Sandrine's parents are really strict about smoking, and I don't think Felix would have been welcome in their home. It would have been really complicated. I think she did the right thing when she left him; she showed respect for herself.

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