What to do before trying to kick the habit of tobacco products and vaping

An expert with the American Lung Association said there are lots of reasons for people to want to quit smoking, chewing or vaping; but those who are successful drill down into their motivation for why they want to change.

“What are your motivators and what are your barriers?” asked Jennifer Folkenroth, the association’s national senior director, Tobacco Programs.

Those who want to quit, she said, must explore and discover what’s been holding them back.

Ask yourself, she advised, “What has stood between you and a successful quit attempt, or leading a tobacco-free lifestyle?”

Once you have those answers, plan ahead.

“I think a lot of self-discovery and exploration is what is going to keep you on track when the times get tough,” Folkenroth said.

Some people decide to quit nicotine to save money, to set a good example for children or for better health. Rewards can come quickly.

Those who are most successful when trying to quit don’t go it alone, and they make a plan.

“There is a huge psychological challenge associated with preparing ahead for a quit attempt,” Folkenroth said.

People who use nicotine to manage stress, distress or negative emotions need to identify strategies and outlets to help relieve that stress another way — then practice it before embarking on the journey to quit.

Folkenroth advised asking friends who don’t use tobacco what they do: maybe it is exercise, getting good rest, deep breathing or doing hobbies that help you disconnect.

“One, of course, is laughter,” Folkenroth said. “Doing things that release dopamine — the same chemical in your brain that nicotine in fact releases — that is relaxing and makes us feel good.”

Before a quit attempt, have a plan in place that has been proven to be safe and effective in helping others quit.

Many insurance companies will help cover the cost of smoking cessation medicines approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

“Don’t do it alone,” Folkenroth said. “That one-two combo, medication plus a counseling program, will give an individual the highest chances of success.”

1-800-QUIT-NOW can help recommend services near you.

There’s also help at the American Lung Association helpline, which you can reach at 1-800-LUNG-USA.

“We’ll be able to review with you — all of your different options, as well as spend a little time with you talking about what those options look like,” Folkenroth said.

Don’t get discouraged.

“Every single smoker can quit. Keep trying. Do not give up. If you have a slipup, a puff, a chew, don’t get off the wagon, get right back on track and remind yourself what you’re looking forward to when you’re tobacco-free,” Folkenroth said.

“Quitting isn’t easy, but more than 50 million ex-smokers in the United States are proof that it’s possible.”

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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