You know smoking is bad for your health. You’re tired of stepping outside for a nicotine fix, and you’d much rather be buying shoes than cigarettes. Yet, no matter how hard you try, you just can’t kick the habit.
Guess what: you’re not alone. True, the number of adult smokers in the U.S. continues to decline (the rate is now approximately 14% compared to 24% in 1997, according to a survey released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). But it’s also a fact that a majority of those who attempt to quit aren’t successful on their first try … or their second … or even their third attempt.
“Most people try to quit smoking 4 to 5 times before they’re successful,” says Connie Clark, a tobacco treatment specialist at University of Virginia Cancer Center. “Nicotine is one of the most addictive substances out there, behind only cocaine and heroine. It is a tough habit to break. We need to be vigilant to ensure smoking rates continue to go down.”
Smoking remains the most preventable cause of death, so as rates go down, so does the number of lives lost to smoking-related illnesses like heart disease, stroke and lung cancer. In her new role at UVA, Clark is determined to help save lives, providing smokers with the tools they need to stop lighting up and begin living their lives unburdened by the desire for a cigarette.
Tips to Quit
The first step, according to Clark, is to pick a quit date. “It doesn’t have to be tomorrow,” she says. “Set a date and take small steps; come up with strategies to help you get there.” For example, Clark suggests cutting one cigarette per day until your quit date or changing your routines little by little, so that when your quit day arrives, you’ll be ready.
No one cessation strategy works for everyone, so Clark says it’s important to try different approaches. Some of the most common include nicotine replacement therapies, such as gums or patches, or prescription medications that help curb cravings. Most people will find it’s necessary to address the behavioral aspects of smoking in addition to the chemical dependence, however. This means altering habits, which can be aided by hypnosis or acupuncture.
“It’s really trial and error,” says Clark. “I wish there was a product that worked for everyone, but it really depends on the person. It helps to get to know the person, to spend time with them and understand what will work best for them as a human being.”
Patients at UVA Cancer Center who are struggling to stop smoking now have Clark in their corner. She will meet with individuals one-on-one to establish a plan and will follow up with them after their quit date to ensure they have the support they need to be successful.
For those who are not patients at UVA Cancer Center, Clark recommends the following resources in our community:
- Quit Now Virginia — a free online resources providing personalized cessation coaching, a helpline, replacement therapies and more.
- Quit Smoking Charlottesville and Louisa — in-person support groups held once a week in Charlottesville and Louisa that provide cessation support and education on quit strategies.
Ready to quit? Check out the resources above or talk to your doctor about taking the first step to a smoke-free lifestyle. We know you can do it! As Clark says: “There is no such thing as failure if you have desire.”