Quit smoking now, not tomorrow

Do it now, not tomorrow, because the longer you put it off, Sparky, the harder it’ll be. There are loads of ways to quit, but there are no magic bullets, says medical researcher Dr Michael Fiore. Here are five real-world bullets that can help you end the madness.

1. Don’t set yourself up for failure

It may be okay for sandwiches the day after Christmas, but cold turkey probably won’t get you anywhere when it comes to kicking your butts, says Fiore. Neither will hypnosis, acupuncture or aiming lasers at acupuncture points. “Those are probably the three worst ways to quit.”

2. Lay off the booze, too

Don’t clear out just cigs, lighters and ashtrays. Toss as much booze as you’re willing to part with, too. “Half the people who quit end up returning to their old habits with the first trace of alcohol in their bloodstream,” says Fiore. The only solid solution is to eliminate alcohol for the first couple of months after quitting. The other predictor of a relapse is living with a smoker, so if you can convince your wife or roomie to quit while you’re at it, you’ll both have a better chance.

3. Delay the game

When you get a craving you can’t seem to shake, promise yourself you won’t give in for 60 minutes. Almost every time, the urge will pass by the time the hour’s up. If you have to, spend the hour drinking water, walking around, doing deepbreathing exercises or chewing something. “Try to chew something that won’t add a lot of extra kilojoules to your diet, since it’s common to gain a few kilograms when you quit,” says Fiore. Try carrots.

4. Sweat

Whatever method you use to quit, combine it with exercise. A study by the American College of Chest Physicians shows that smokers who combine exercise with nicotine gum or patches are more likely to quit than those who don’t exercise.

5. Go pharmacological

Prescription drugs to help you quit have improved in recent months. Last year, Pfizer’s Chantix (known as Champix in Europe) was approved for use in the US. This new pill packs a onetwo punch: it mimics the effects of nicotine while simultaneously blocking the reinforcing effects of the nicotine you take in from cigarettes. The drug is not yet available in South Africa, but it should be by next year, if you’re still struggling to kick the habit.