Strategies to help you kick the smoking habit

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By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey

PHOENIX -- It can put more money in your pocket, more breath in your lungs and add years to your life. And while it is not easy, there are some strategies that can help you take control and stop smoking.

“Smoking on a regular, daily basis is expensive," says Dr. David Boyd at Cancer Treatment Centers of America.  And it's not just the cost of the cigarettes themselves.

“You know it wears away at someone's finances," says Boyd. "But overall, for what the true cost is to their health and potentially shortening their life, it is just not worth it.”

In fact, the CDC says  each pack accounts for $10.47 in direct medical costs and lost productivity.

So it's no wonder that for many people, a top New Year's resolution is to quit smoking. But Boyd says to succeed, you need a strategy. "Stopping smoking is one of the hardest things someone can really attempt," he says. "Nicotine is one of the most addictive substances on the planet.”

Only 13 percent of those who try to go cold turkey are successful, he explains. “So it increases to about 50 percent success rate when we start incorporating either patches or gums.”

Nicotine-blocking therapy like that used in the drug Chantix can also help. But, Boyd says you can up the odds to 75 percent for free. So there are  20 cigarettes in a pack, so  someone can start today,  by taking two cigarettes out of that pack and smoking the rest of the pack as they ordinarily would. And they continue that practice of 18 cigarettes then for this week.” The following week, take four out of each pack you smoke; and so on, until you are down to zero.

Boyd says for the first few weeks, keep buying a pack as usual, because it will help you keep track of how many you take out. You set those removed aside, to dole out at the end.

And at that point, start stashing away the money you would have spent. Then you can reward yourself.

“Put it in a sock or something, and when they have finished their smoking cessation regimen they have that big ball of money and can go and get something nice. As expensive as cigarettes are, I have had several patients buy themselves a new TV," Boyd says.

And finally he says, if you do stumble, try again. But remember, no matter what method you use, it will only work if you want it. “Nothing will work unless you decide you are at that point that you are ready to quit.”

Using Boyd’s suggestion, you could be smoke-free in less than three months.

A few more rules to help you succeed are:

1. Break associations- no smoking socially, isolate yourself.
2. Go outside- if its cool or rainy, tough luck, you are trying to discourage the habit
3. Get over the oral and tactile habit with a drinking straw.  Smokers become used to holding a cigarette in the lips or holding one between 2 fingers.  A pack of drinking straws can help buffer the habit. Leave a few in the car, near the couch, wherever you used to smoke.
4. Give yourself a prize after. Quitting is a big deal!