Smoking is both a physical addiction to nicotine and a learned psychological behavior, so the best way to quit is to attack it from both sides, says Sarah Shelton of the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis.
“Quitting smoking is a process of eliminating the physiological dependence on nicotine and re-learning how not to smoke,” says Shelton, manager of research and evaluation at the Brown School’s Center for Public Health Systems Science.
“If you use nicotine replacement therapy and also take advantage of counseling to help, you are more likely to be successful in quitting,” she says.
That counseling, Shelton says, may be right at your fingertips.
“There are multiple tools available that can help someone re-learn their life without cigarettes,” Shelton says. “The most recent innovations are smoke-free text programs.”
The website smokefree.gov, for example, has a program called SmokefreeTXT that will offer reminders and encouragement via text messaging. Websites such as becomeanex.org offer step-by-step programs that identify smoking triggers and offer lifestyle change tips. Both sites also have Facebook and Twitter accounts that are constantly providing smoking prevention messages.
“Community support goes a long way to help someone quit smoking,” Shelton says. “But nowadays the ‘community’ is on all of our desktops, laptops and in our smart phones.”
Shelton says there’s no wrong way to quit smoking, but consulting with a personal physician is key to determine the best option based on the individual’s circumstances.
“What’s most effective is different for every person; that’s why having so many support mechanisms in myriad ways is helpful,” she says.
“Many people who quit successfully made multiple attempts before they finally quit for good. That’s important to keep in mind and not get discouraged if you slip.”