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How to quit smoking in 20-ish easy years

Posted on May. 31, 2019 ( comments)
The author enjoying the great outdoors, smoke-free.

For World No Tobacco Day, we're sharing a personal account of quitting tobacco.

Growing up, I was adamantly against smoking. Although my parents were non-smokers — a relative rarity in the 1970s — many of my relatives smoked, including my paternal grandfather, who I was very close to.

My grandfather’s eventual death from smoking-related cancer when I was 12 only increased my strong dislike of cigarettes, so much so that I never even tried a cigarette when many of my friends were taking up the habit in middle school and high school.

Flash forward to when I was 21, a recent college graduate sharing a house with five other people, most of whom smoked with varying degrees of regularity. My curiosity got the best of me and I had my first cigarette.

After that I smoked occasionally until I moved to the Washington, DC, area a few years later with my boyfriend (a smoker) and started working at a small company that was an early adopter of the open office concept.

For the first two or three months I didn’t have a computer and didn’t always have a lot of work to do. Smoking was a socially acceptable reason to get up and leave the office for 10-15 minutes.

And so my life as a regular smoker began.

My boyfriend and I quit smoking in 1998 — we used patches for a week or two and went cold turkey after that. I stayed smoke-free for several years before taking up the habit again.

I met my eventual ex-husband in 2003. He was also a smoker and our social circle included many smokers.

In 2007 I quit again for a few months, until separation and divorce put an end to my non-smoking status. The next 10 years brought new relationships (with smokers), new stresses and a two-hour round-trip commute. There was always a reason it wasn’t a good time to quit.

Fast forward to 2017. After a couple of decades of pretty regular smoking, I was finally faced with hard evidence of the effects it was having on my health: consistently high blood pressure readings.

I knew the time had come to quit. And I knew I couldn’t do it on my own.

If you smoke, or smoked, you know the real challenge to quitting smoking isn’t beating the physical addiction to nicotine; it’s overcoming the strong connections your brain creates between routine habits and cigarettes. Driving a car? Time for a cigarette. Just finished eating? Time for a cigarette. Having a stressful day at work or home? Time for one cigarette right after another.

I would need help managing those cravings if I were to have any hope of success.

My quit-smoking aid of choice was Chantix®, the brand name of the drug varenicline, a nicotine-free, prescription-only medication. Chantix attaches to the nicotine receptors in the brain so actual nicotine can’t, and is supposed to reduce or eliminate your desire to smoke.

Chantix has had its share of controversy over potential side effects, and studies are mixed on its long-term effectiveness. It certainly may not be the right quit-smoking aid for everyone. But for me, Chantix was very effective.

I started the 13-week medication cycle in November 2017 (one week to step up to the full dose and then 12 weeks of daily pills). I set a quit date a few weeks into the process and smoked my last cigarette on November 16.

I haven’t smoked since.

I’m not going to talk about the health risks of smoking. Every smoker I ever met already knows what those are (if you don’t for some reason, the American Cancer Society has a handy article for you).

If you are thinking about quitting, I do encourage you to talk to a doctor about what quit-smoking aids might help you become a non-smoker too.


More about quitting smoking

Find a primary care doctor


About The Author

maura hallam Maura Hallam
Maura is our manager of content services. She writes extensively about health and wellness topics, from fitness and nutrition to medical insurance. You can reach her at [email protected].
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