Quit smoking for good:
5 science-backed tips from an expert
A Nicorette scientist shares practical steps for a smoke-free lifestyle
Lung cancer is the second most common cancer worldwide, accounting for more than 2 million new cases and 1.8 million deaths in 2020. For Clare Chapman, Kenvue regional lead for smoking cessation and a pharmaceutical scientist by training, developing effective ways to help people quit smoking has been a focus of her 20+ years in the industry.
In recognition of World Lung Cancer Day, Chapman is breaking down her top five tips to kick the habit for good.
1. Set a quit date
Accountability, meet willpower. Whether you’re quitting cold turkey or not, kicking the habit starts and ends with a will to stop smoking. Setting a quit date allows you to both mentally prepare and share the news with your loved ones.
“If you’ve told someone that you’re going to quit, they can help you,” Chapman says. “It makes you accountable not only to yourself but to them.”
2. Keep a smoking diary
Behind every smoker is a reason why they smoke.
“Keeping a pre-quit smoking diary can allow you to look for patterns to help you think about why you smoke and when you smoke,” Chapman says.
Identifying your “why” and “when” can tell you what makes you crave nicotine in the first place and gives you an opportunity to remove yourself from situations that may increase temptation.
3. Try Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT)
When the cravings are too much to bear alone, Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) can aid in kicking the habit. NRT is when you use products — like Nicorette® patches, gums and mouth sprays — that contain very low amounts of nicotine until you’ve fully weaned yourself off of the drug. These products create a gradual, deliberate process to control cravings.
“The main reason [to use NRT], is to control your cravings so you don’t suffer from withdrawal symptoms,” Chapman says. “One is the craving, but the others include irritability, low mood, restlessness, poor concentration, increased appetite and anxiety.”
Over time, your reliance on nicotine is lessened, giving more power to your willpower.
4. Manage your stress levels
To manage our stress, we must first understand it. Let’s say you have a big meeting coming up at work and the stress is unavoidable. When you experience this, you smoke, making you feel better temporarily.
When under stress and anxiety our brains don’t produce as much dopamine, the chemical in the brain’s reward system that helps us feel pleasure. This neurotransmitter is also involved in reinforcement, which is why once we have something that makes us feel good, we might come back for another one (or two, or three). Nicotine can produce dopamine in your brain, catapulting you into a negative feedback loop. When you feel stressed, you lack dopamine; when you smoke, it’s replenished.
“The more you smoke, the more your brain switches off its production of dopamine,” Chapman explains. “That means that with time, you need to continue to smoke more to try and get the same effect.”
When you quit smoking and self-medicating with nicotine as your relief, your brain can start reproducing healthy dopamine levels on its own.
5. Seek behavioral support
When in doubt, ask for help! Smoking cessation counselors are trained to provide support via clinics, 1:1 sessions, group sessions and/or phone consultations. These counselors may recommend NRT, Combination Therapy (using a combination of NRTs simultaneously) or an alternative route.
“The more support you have, the greater chances you have of quitting,” Chapman adds, noting that those who complete their first week of non-smoking using NRT and behavioral support are increasingly more likely to quit for good versus those who quit with willpower alone.
No counselors in your area? Use technology to your advantage: Various phone apps are easily accessible to help track and record usage, many of which with behavioral support built in.