In writing this article I provide both good news and bad news to our readers. The bad news is that i’ve been a smoker for the better part of 18 years which i’ll discuss in more detail later. The good news is that as of January 15th, I am once again a non-smoker and going through this experience has provided my personal insight to write this article and to discuss how to stop smoking cigarettes.
I started my awful habit when I was 17 years old. What a bad time to start. I can’t believe how much money I spent which could have translated into BIG TIME retirement savings at such a tender age. Statistics show that about 9 out of 10 tobacco users start before they’re 18 years old. I was 1 year away from potentially never becoming a smoker. So why did I start? I’m not too sure but i’ll attribute it to a few different things. First, a lot of my pals were smokers. Like many teens I tried it out, then tried again and again. I got a “buzz” from cigarettes. Nicotine is responsible for physical and mood-altering effects in your brain that are temporarily pleasing which in turn reinforce your continued use of tobacco. Before I knew it I was unknowingly addicted. Around this time the Ontario government, in an attempt to reduce tobacco related criminal activity (bootlegging) removed almost all of the sales tax rates on cigarettes – they went from $6-$7 per pack to $3 per pack. An affordable buzz. Other reasons I think I smoked was that like many teens I was very moody and smoking brought me up, at least temporarily. Lastly, my Mom was a smoker. Put all of these factors together and I became a smoker. I always knew I should stop smoking cigarettes but always had one reason excuse or another to not do so.
Over the years i’ve made a number of attempts to stop smoking cigarettes. I’ve never been a “heavy smoker” which is defined by the World Health Orgaization is a person who smokes more than 20 cigarettes a day. In the mid 2000’s I managed to quit for about 18 months but sadly started smoking again. After meeting Mrs. SPF in 2005 i’ve made 3 attempts to quit. One time was a no go, another I quit for a few weeks but situational triggers caused me to lapse and one other time I quit for over 6 months. So what sorts of things cause me to start smoking after making the not-so-fun effort to stop smoking? Some triggers that come to mind include:
- Cottage weekends with the boys. Of the eight guys who attend our cottage weekends 2 never smoked, 2 quit years ago, 2 of us off and on and 2 smoke. The guys who quit are actually able to smoke only at the cottage (and sometimes weddings). I try to tell myself I can do the same, but I can’t. I know this now.
- Stressful events. Job interviews and when Mrs. SPF headed to northern Ontario to work for 10 months, leaving me to tend the house and our 4 pets come to mind. Long distance driving on highway 401 too.
- Situations where I have fond memories of smoking. The cottage as mentioned, weddings, the music festival we help run each year, hanging out with certain friends who smoke and the odd occasion I go out to a pub.
Toward the end of last year I brought up making another attempt to stop smoking cigarettes with Mrs. SPF. She was all for it as she dislikes my habit (but recognizes it is an addiction). I always seem to average 8-12 per day. I decided I would select Mrs. SPF’s birthday in January as my “quit day” as picking a day that has some relevance is a good motivator to quit. So what were my reasons to quit smoking now?
Reasons to stop smoking cigarettes
Aside from the tobacco industry you’d be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t think smoking causes diseases and ailments that can cause cancer and other life threatening medical conditions. This alone should be reason enough to stop smoking. I was also tired of coughing and hacking up phlegm. Sounds gross and it is gross.
First off, I don’t smoke inside. I used to years and years ago, but stopped after I got tired of my clothes reeking of stale smoke. Once Mrs. SPF and I moved in together this continued – Mrs. SPF has never smoked and I wouldn’t expose her to 2nd hand smoke inside. Even outside I did my darnedest to keep down wind of Mrs. SPF when i’d light up. The thing is (was – it is hard to speak of this stuff as in the past) the smell i’d drag back into the house on my jacket, on my hands and even in my hair – the 3rd hand smoke bothered Mrs. SPF as well. I would use hand sanitzer to hide the smell. All that being said, I was dragging yucky stuff into the house and if we plan to have little ones down the road this had to stop.
Being a slave to smoking sucks. I’m still a slave even after 24 days being smoke free. Tobacco is extremely addictive – i’ve heard analogies of it being as addictive as heroin. Knowing, and experiencing, the urge to smoke after certain daily and life events … knowing I had a smoking routine I found extremely difficult to break bugs me. Having a drug control me had to stop.
As mentioned, when I started smoking almost two decades ago the cost had been cut to $3.00 a pack, down from from $6.00. Today a pack of 25 death sticks costs about $10.00. Considering I would smoke 8-12 cigarettes daily I estimate I would smoke 3 packs a week. At $30 a week I was spending $1,560 every year! Now, smokes haven’t been $10 for 17 years (less they 2 or 3 I didn’t smoke) but I figure i’ve spent somewhere around $20,000 – $22,000, perhaps more, over this period. This number shocks me, but what shocks me even more is that if i’d invested this money … whoa. For argument sake, if i’d saved $1,200 annually when I was 17, by now i’d have $48,121.97 if the rate of return was 8%. If I kept that money invested, and didn’t add anything to it, by my retirement age goal of 58 I would have $301,157.27. These numbers are a kick in the gut. Kids: don’t smoke – retire early instead.
My Tips on How to Stop Smoking Cigarettes
- Determine and write down your reasons for quitting. Don’t just think about the reasons, write them down so you can review them as you prepare to quit.
- Find a support person. Preferably pick a non-smoker. Mrs. SPF is my support person. She has been with me when i’ve tried to quit before, so she knows what to expect (although she said I was much less moody this time!). Your support person will listen to you complain and opine but will give you support and encouragement to keep it up!
- Set a Quit Date. Try to make it an important date you will remember. I used Mrs. SPF’s birthday as a guideline and picked the following Monday.
- Try to cut back gradually. Some people swear by the cold turkey method but I found changing my habits such as smoking frequency and the routine of smoking (e.g. after a meal, first thing in the morning).
- On your quit day make sure you have gotten rid of all cigarettes, ashtrays, lighters – everything that reminds you of smoking.
- Try to stay away from triggers – whatever they may be. Manage your stress. It is also important to remember why quitting is so difficult. For starters, nicotine depletion leads to stress. Whenever smokers go without smoking for a longer than normal, the amount of nicotine in the blood drops. This can leads to withdrawal symptoms and, therefore, stress. You can manage your stress by limiting your caffeine intake, getting plenty of sleep every night, exercising daily, and starting a new hobby. You should also choose a less stressful time to quit. For example, if you are attending school and are in the middle of final exams, waiting until after you have completed them might make quitting easier.
- Drink lots of water. I’m not sure it is scientifically proven you will wash toxins from your body but drinking water will make you feel full and divert you from thinking about cigarettes.
- Control weight gain by eating raw vegetables. I prefer organic baby carrots.
- Avoid booze and caffeine as consuming these types of drinks, at least for me where alcohol was involved, accompanied smoking.
- When you have the urge to smoke take 3 deep breaths and try to wait 2 minutes, the urge will pass.
- Try to exercise regularly and get more sleep.
- Consider various smoking cessation products such as
- the “patch”, nicotine gum, lozenges or an inhaler. These never worked for me (though I never tried the inhaler). I wanted to quit nicotine not remain reliant on it. I also found these would give me a wallop of nicotine whereas I never smoked cigarettes as strong as these products are.
- If you are not yet ready to kick the habit, but want to take it down a notch, try switching to a smokeless, tobacco-free alternative.
- Consider various smoking cessation drugs. Ask your doctor:
- about a prescription medicine called bupropion. It’s an antidepressant that can make it easier to quit. It used to be called Zyban but it has been discontinued but you can still get the generic brand. This is what I use. There are side effects so be informed.
- about a prescription medicine called varenicline tartrate. It can take away some of your craving to smoke, and make smoking less enjoyable. I’ve heard it to has side effects so be informed.
- If you slip up, don’t give up. Try again, and again – keep trying until you’ve quit for good. I’ve tried numerous times but I refuse to give up on my goal to quit smoking.
Quitting smoking is one of the hardest things i’ve ever attempted. I’m not sure if there will be a bigger challenge in my life aside from being a great Dad someday. However, I need to quit smoking now. Saving money will help. Have you ever quit smoking? Do you have any additional tips or strategies on how to stop smoking cigarettes?