About 36.5 million Americans still smoke cigarettes, and tobacco use remains the single largest preventable cause of disease and premature death in the world.
While cigarette smoking rates have dropped by 20% in the past 50 years, people still use other forms of smoking tobacco like cigars, pipes, and hookah, which can be just as dangerous.
Quitting smoking has immediate and long-term benefits at any age. Older adults may have been smoking for so long that they think there is no benefit to stopping now. However, the health benefits are almost immediate after you quit. Benefits specific to older adults include: decreased risk of bone fractures, a higher capacity to exercise, and a lower chance of developing some form of dementia. Here are some steps to quit once and for all:
Make the decision
This whole process starts with you making the decision to quit. This decision must be yours and not someone else’s. Others may want you to quit, but you must make the commitment. Think about why you want to quit. Are you worried that you could develop a smoking-related disease? Do you know someone who has had smoking-related health problems? Are you prepared to make a serious attempt at quitting?
Set a date
Picking a “Quit Day” is a very important step in this process. Pick a date within the next month as your quit day so that it’s not too far out, but you still have time to plan. Maybe your quit day will have special meaning like an anniversary or a birthday. The Great American Smokeout, is an annual event on the third Thursday of November that the American Cancer Society uses to encourage smokers to set a quit day. Whatever date you choose, mark it on your calendar and tell your friends and family to stay accountable.
Make a plan
There are many ways to quit, and some work better than others. Nicotine replacement therapy, prescription drugs, and other methods are available. Talk to your doctor to get medical advice and support. Here are some tips to make planning a little easier:
- Join a smoking cessation group.
- Write down all the reasons you want to quit and keep the list with you, refer to it when you are feeling tempted to light up.
- Mark your quit date on your calendar.
- Tell friends and family about your quit day.
- Get rid of all cigarettes and ash trays in your home, car, and at work.
- Practice saying, “No thanks, I don’t smoke.”
- Ask family and friends not to smoke around you.
- Think about your past attempts to quit and figure out what worked and what didn’t.
Quitting smoking isn’t easy, but by making the decision to quit, setting a date, and making plan, you can significantly improve your likelihood of success.