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Living Tobacco Free

Living Tobacco Free

A Guide to Understanding Tobacco...

  • The Road Ahead
  • Nicotine Dependence
  • Getting STARTed
  • Medicines That Help Withdrawal
  • What To Expect When You Stop
  • The Benefits Of Being Tobacco Free

The Road Ahead

Why Is Quitting So Hard?

Many ex-smokers say quitting was the hardest thing they ever did. Do you feel hooked? You’re probably addicted to nicotine. Nicotine is in all tobacco products. It makes you feel calm and satisfied. At the same time, you feel more alert and focused. The more you smoke the more nicotine you need to feel good. Soon, you don’t feel “normal” without nicotine.

It Takes Time To Break Free From Nicotine Addiction

It may take more than one try to quit for good. So don’t give up too soon. You will feel good again. Quitting is also hard because smoking is a big part of your life. You enjoy holding cigarettes and puffing on them. You may smoke when you are stressed, bored, or angry. After months and years of lighting up, smoking becomes part of your daily routine. You may light up without even thinking about it.

Smoking goes with other things, too. You may light up when you feel a certain way or do certain things. For example:

  • Drinking coffee, wine, or beer
  • Talking on the phone
  • Driving
  • Being with other smokers

You may even feel uncomfortable not smoking at times or in places where you usually have a cigarette. These times and places are called “triggers.” That’s because they trigger, or turn on, cigarette cravings. Breaking these habits is the hardest part of quitting for some smokers. Quitting isn’t easy. Just reading this booklet won’t do it. It may take several tries. But you learn something each time you try. It takes will power and strength to beat your addiction to nicotine. Remember that millions of people have quit smoking for good. You can be one of them!

Did You Know?

  • Tobacco use remains the leading preventable cause of death in the United States, causing more than 440,000 deaths each year and resulting in an annual cost of more than $75 billion in direct medical costs.
  • Nationally, smoking results in more than 5.6 million years of potential life lost each year.
  • Approximately 80% of adult smokers started smoking before the age of 18. Every day, nearly 4,000 young people under the age of 18 try their first cigarette.
  • More than 6.4 million children living today will die prematurely because of a decision they will make as adolescents—the decision to smoke cigarettes.
  • There are more than 4,000 chemicals in cigarette smoke. Some of them are also in wood varnish, the insect poison DDT, arsenic, nail polish remover, and rat poison. The ashes, tar, gases, and other poisons in cigarettes harm your body over time. They damage your heart and lungs. They also make it harder for you to taste and smell things, and fight infections.


First Hand News About Second Hand Smoke

Even a little second-hand smoke is dangerous. Second-hand smoke can cause cancer in nonsmokers. It can also cause breathing problems and heart disease. People who breathe second-hand smoke get colds and flu more easily. And they often die younger than those who don’t breathe it. Pregnant women who breathe second-hand smoke have many risks:

  • They may lose their babies.
  • Their babies may be born small.
  • Their babies are more likely to die of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).
  • Their children may be cranky, restless, and get sick more often.
  • Their children are more likely to have learning problems.

Children who breathe second-hand smoke have troubles too. They are much more likely to have breathing problems such as asthma. They also get more ear and lung infections.

The Road Ahead

The journey to becoming tobacco free begins with the first step. Perhaps, the most im-portant thing that you can do at this point is to assess just how much you depend on nicotine and better understanding the things that trigger tobacco use in your life. We’ll examine each of them in the next section.

Nicotine Dependence

Just How Much Do You Depend On Nicotine?

Knowing how addicted you are to nicotine can help you quit. It can help you decide if you need extra help, such as medicine or support from a program. Take this test to find out how hooked you are. Check the box for every “yes” answer:

  • ____ Do you usually smoke your first cigarette within a half hour after you wake up?
  • ____ Do you find it hard not to smoke where smoking isn’t allowed? (At the library, movie theater, or doctor’s office?)
  • ____ Do you smoke 10 or more cigarettes a day?
  • ____ Do you smoke 25 or more cigarettes a day?
  • ____ Do you smoke more during the morning than during the rest of the day?
  • ____ Do you smoke even when you’re sick?

How many boxes did you check? ____

The more boxes you checked, the more addicted you are. You’ll have to work hard to quit, even if you checked only one box or no boxes at all. You may be very addicted to nicotine if you checked more than three boxes. Medicine can help you quit. Remember, no matter how hooked you are, you can stop smoking! The key is staying strong and sticking with it.

Modified from Fagerstrom KO, Schneider NG. Measuring nicotine dependence: A review of the Fagerstrom Tolerance Questionnaire. Journal of Behavioral Medicine 1989; 12 (2): 159-182.

Keeping Track

Think about when you smoke and why you smoke. Do this for the next few weeks. Keep a record of every cigarette you smoke. Copy the Craving Journal on page 15. You will probably need one copy for every day.

You will find that you light up a lot without thinking about it. And you may be tempted to skip writing down some of the cigarettes you smoke. But keeping this journal is very helpful if you do it right.

You’ll learn about your smoking triggers. And you’ll learn which cigarettes are your favorites. These facts will help you prepare to fight your urge to smoke.

Know Your Triggers

Certain things trigger, or turn on, your need for a cigarette. They can be moods, feelings, places, or things you do. Think about what might tempt you to smoke. Put a check next to things that tempt you to smoke:

  • ____ Feeling stressed
  • ____ Feeling down
  • ____ Talking on the phone
  • ____ Drinking liquor, like wine or beer
  • ____ Watching TV
  • ____ Driving your car
  • ____ Finishing a meal
  • ____ Playing cards
  • ____ Taking a work break
  • ____ Being with other smokers
  • ____ Drinking coffee
  • ____ Seeing someone else smoke
  • ____ Cooling off after a fight
  • ____ Feeling lonely
  • ____ After having sex
  • ____ Other triggers: ____________________

Here’s How To Get STARTed

Just thinking about quitting may make you anxious. But your chances will be better if you get ready first. Quitting works best when you’re prepared. Before you quit, START by taking these five important steps:

Set a quit date.
Tell family, friends, and co-workers
Anticipate and plan for the challenges you’ll face while quitting.
Remove cigarettes and other tobacco products from your home, car, and work.
Talk to your doctor about getting help to quit.

Getting STARTed

Set A Quit Date

  • Pick a date within the next two weeks to quit.
  • Be sure to give yourself enough time to get ready. But don’t wait so long that you lose your drive to quit.
  • Think about choosing a special day:
    • Your birthday or wedding anniversary
    • New Year’s Day
    • Independence Day (July 4)
    • World No Tobacco Day (May 31)
    • The Great American Smokeout (the third Thursday of each November)
  • If you smoke at work, quit on the weekend or during a day off. That way you’ll al-ready be cigarette-free when you return.

Tell People Of Your Plan To Quit

Quitting smoking is easier with the support of others. Tell your family, friends, and co-workers that you plan to quit. Tell them how they can help you.

Some people like to have friends ask how things are going. Others find it nosy. Tell the people you care about exactly how they can help. Here are some ideas:

  • Ask everyone to understand your change in mood. Remind them that this won’t last long. (The worst will be over within two weeks.) Tell them this: “The longer I go without cigarettes, the sooner I’ll be my old self.”
  • Does someone close to you smoke? Ask them to quit with you, or at least not to smoke around you.
  • Do you take any medicines? Tell your doctor and pharmacist you are quitting. Nicotine changes how some drugs work. You may need to change your prescriptions after you quit.
  • Get support from other people. You can try talking with others one-on-one or in a group. You can also get support on the phone. You can even try an Internet chat room. This kind of support helps smokers quit. The more support you get, the better. But even a little can help.

Anticipate The Challenges Ahead

Expecting challenges is an important part of getting ready to quit. Most people who go back to smoking do it within three months. Your first three months may be hard.  You may be more tempted when you are stressed or feeling down. It’s hard to be ready for these times before they happen. But it helps to know when you need a cigarette most.

  • Look over your Craving Journal. See when you may be tempted to smoke. Plan for how to deal with the urge before it hits. You should also expect feelings of withdrawal. Withdrawal is the discomfort of giving up nicotine. It is your body’s way of telling you it’s learning to be smoke-free. These feelings will go away in time. Keep reading for tips on handling urges and withdrawal.
  • Withdrawal: How You May Feel When You Quit

Common feelings of smoking withdrawal include:

  • Feeling depressed
  • Not being able to sleep
  • Getting cranky, frustrated, or mad
  • Feeling anxious, nervous, or restless
  • Having trouble thinking clearly
  • Feeling hungry or gaining weight

Not everyone has feelings of withdrawal. You may have one or many of these problems. And they may last different amounts of time.

Remove All Tobacco Products

Getting rid of things that remind you of smoking will also help you get ready to quit. Try these ideas:

  • Make things clean and fresh at work, in your car, and at home. Clean your drapes and clothes. Shampoo your car. Buy yourself flowers. You will enjoy their scent as your sense of smell returns.
  • Throw away all your cigarettes and matches. Give or throw away your lighters and ashtrays. Remember the ashtray and lighter in your car!
  • Have your dentist clean your teeth to get rid of smoking stains. See how great they look. Try to keep them that way.
  • Some smokers save one pack of cigarettes. They do it “just in case.” Or they want to prove they have the willpower not to smoke. Don’t!  Saving one pack just makes it easier to start smoking again.
  • Don’t use other forms of tobacco instead of cigarettes.  Light or low-tar cigarettes are just as harmful as regular cigarettes. Smokeless tobacco, cigars, pipes, and herbal cigarettes also harm your health. For example, bidi cigarettes are just as bad as regular cigarettes. Clove cigarettes are even worse. They have more tar, nicotine, and deadly gases. All tobacco products have harmful chemicals and poisons.

Talk To Your Doctor

Quitting “cold turkey” isn’t your only choice. Talk to your doctor about other ways to quit. Most doctors can answer your questions and give advice. They can suggest medicine to help with withdrawal. You can buy some of these medicines on your own. For others, you need a prescription. Your doctor, dentist, or pharmacist can also point you to places to find support or toll-free quit lines. If you cannot see your doctor, you can get some medicines without a prescription that can help you quit smoking. Go to your local pharmacy or grocery store for over the counter medicines like the nicotine patch, nicotine gum, or nicotine lozenge. Read the instructions to see if the medicine is right for you. If you’re not sure, ask a pharmacist.

Medicines That Help Withdrawal

Withdrawal: How You May Feel When You Quit

Common feelings of smoking withdrawal include:

  • Feeling depressed
  • Not being able to sleep
  • Getting cranky, frustrated, or mad
  • Feeling anxious, nervous, or restless
  • Having trouble thinking clearly
  • Feeling hungry or gaining weight

Not everyone has feelings of withdrawal. You may have one or many of these problems. And they may last different amounts of time.

Medicines That Help With Withdrawal

There are medicines that can help with feelings of withdrawal:

  • Bupropion SR pills
  • Nicotine gum
  • Nicotine inhaler
  • Nicotine lozenge
  • Nicotine nasal spray
  • Nicotine patch

Using these medicines can double your chances of quitting for good. Ask your doctor for advice. But remember: Medicine alone can’t do all the work. It can help with cravings and withdrawal, but quitting will still be hard at times.

An Important Note About Medication...

When it comes to medication, be sure to check with your healthcare provider before taking it. In addition, if you are an individual with special health concerns and/or you are on other medications, it is even more important to work closely with your healthcare team.

If you are pregnant, nursing, or considering pregnancy, be sure to check with your healthcare provider before beginning any type of treatment.

Finally, it is important to understand that medications change rapidly. The names of medicines in this publication may change without notice. If you have questions be sure to talk with your healthcare provider or visit

More Information About The Different Medicines

Nicotine gum, patches, inhalers, sprays, and lozenges are called nicotine replacement therapy (NRT). That’s because they take the place of nicotine from cigarettes. NRT can help with withdrawal and lessen your urge to smoke. You need a prescription to buy the inhaler and nasal spray. But you can buy nicotine gum, nicotine patches, and nicotine lozenges on your own.

Other Medicines

Bupropion SR is a medicine that has no nicotine. You need a prescription to get these pills. They seem to help with withdrawal and lessen the urge to smoke. Some people have side effects when using Bupropion SR pills. The side effects include dry mouth and not being able to sleep.

Thinking About Using NRT?

Bottom line: Read the instructions that come with the medicine. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist if you have any questions.

  • Ask your doctor, dentist, or pharmacist if nicotine gum, the patch, or some other kind of NRT is right for you. These medicines can cause side effects in some people. Some people should not use NRT without a doctor’s help. Pregnant women are a good example.
  • Be patient. Using NRT correctly can take some getting used to. Follow the instructions and give it some time.
  • Don’t mix tobacco and NRT. Having one or two cigarettes while you use the gum, patch, nasal spray, inhaler, or lozenge is not dangerous, but your goal is to quit smoking for good. Use NRT only when you are ready to stop smoking. If you do slip up and smoke a cigarette or two, don’t give up on NRT. Keep trying.
  • Start out using enough medicine. Use the full amount of NRT in the instructions. Don’t skip or forget to use your NRT after you first stop smoking.
  • Slowly use less and less medicine. But don’t stop completely until you’re ready. You can set up a schedule with your doctor or pharmacist.
  • Keep some of the medicine with you after you stop using it. This way you’ll be ready for an emergency.
  • Wait a half hour after using the gum, lozenge, or inhaler before you eat or drink anything acidic. Acidic foods and drinks can keep nicotine gums and inhalers from working. Acidic foods and drinks include tomato sauce, tomatoes, oranges, lemons, grapefruit, coffee, soda, orange juice, and grapefruit juice.

Source: NRT Product User's Guides. GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare, Pittsburgh, PA, 2002.

Today Is The Day!

Here’s What To Do

Remind your family and friends that today is your quit date. Ask them to support you during the first few days and weeks. They can help you through the rough spots. Here are several tips to help you get through this very important day.

  1. 1. Keep Busy
    • Keep very busy. Go to a movie. Exercise. Take long walks. Go bike riding.
    • Spend as much free time as you can where smoking isn’t allowed. Some good places are malls, libraries, museums, theaters, department stores, and places of worship.
    • Do you miss having a cigarette in your hand? Hold something else. Try a pencil, a paper clip, a marble, or a water bottle.
    • Do you miss having something in your mouth? Try toothpicks, cinnamon sticks, lollipops, hard candy, sugar-free gum, or carrot sticks.
    • Drink a lot of water and fruit juice. Avoid drinks like wine and beer. They can trigger you to smoke.
    • “Your body begins to heal within 20 minutes after your last cigarette.”
  2. 2. Stay Away From What Tempts You
    • Instead of smoking after meals, get up from the table. Brush your teeth or go for a walk.
    • If you always smoke while driving, try something new: Listen to a new radio sta-tion or your favorite music. Take a different route. Or take the train or bus for a while, if you can.
    • Stay away from things that you connect with smoking. Do it today and for the next few weeks. These may include:
      • Watching your favorite TV show
      • Sitting in your favorite chair
      • Having a drink before dinner
    • Do things and go places where smoking is not allowed. Keep this up until you’re sure that you can stay smoke-free.
    • Remember, most people don’t smoke. Try to be near non-smokers if you must be somewhere you’ll be tempted to smoke, for example at a party or in a bar.
  3. 3. Plan To Reward Yourself
    • You will save money by becoming smoke-free.
    • Is there something you’d like to buy for yourself or someone else? Make a list. Figure out what these things cost. Then start putting aside “cigarette money” to buy some of them.
    • Buy yourself something special today to celebrate. See a movie. Buy a CD you’ve been wanting. Or buy some other treat. Be careful with food treats. You need less food when you don’t smoke. This is true no matter how much you want to put something in your mouth.

When You Really Crave A Cigarette...Remember This—The urge to smoke usually lasts only three to five minutes. Try to wait it out. You can also try these tips:

  • Keep other things around instead of cigarettes.
  • Try carrots, pickles, sunflower seeds, apples, celery, raisins, or sugar-free gum.
  • Wash your hands or the dishes when you want a cigarette very badly. Or take a shower.
  • Learn to relax quickly by taking deep breaths.
  • Take 10 slow, deep breaths and hold the last one.
  • Then breathe out slowly. Relax all of your muscles.
  • Picture a soothing, pleasant scene. Just get away from it all for a moment. Think only about that peaceful image and nothing else.
  • Light incense or a candle instead of a cigarette.
  • Where you are and what is going on can make you crave a cigarette. A change of scene can really help. Go outside, or go to a different room.
  • You can also try changing what you are doing.
  • No matter what, don’t think, “Just one won’t hurt.” It will hurt. It will undo your work so far.

Remember: Trying something to beat the urge is always better than trying nothing.

Sticking With It

Stick With It

Beating an addiction to nicotine takes a lot of will power and determination. You should feel great about yourself for making it so far. Now’s the time to focus on sticking with it.

Keep Your Guard Up

Your body has changed since you began to smoke. Your brain has learned to crave nicotine. So certain places, people, or events can trigger a strong urge to smoke, even years after quitting. That’s why you should never take a puff again, no matter how long it has been since you quit. At first, you may not be able to do things as well as when you were smoking. Don’t worry. This won’t last long. Your mind and body just need to get used to being without nicotine.

After you’ve quit, the urge to smoke often hits at the same times. For many people, the hardest place to resist the urge is at home. And many urges hit when someone else is smoking nearby. Look at your Craving Journal to see when you might be tempted.

Then use the skills you’ve learned to get through your urges without smoking.

Fight The Urges

Review the tips in this booklet to help you fight the urge to smoke. These tips are meant to help you stay a non-smoker.

Stay Upbeat

As you go through the first days and weeks without smoking, keep a positive outlook. Don’t blame or punish yourself if you do have a cigarette. Don’t think of smoking as “all or none.” Instead, take it one day at a time. Remember that quitting is a learning process.

Keep Rewarding Yourself

Now that you aren’t buying cigarettes, you probably have more spending money. For example, if you used to smoke one pack per day:  Think about starting a “money jar” if you haven’t already. Put your cigarette money aside for each day you don’t smoke. Soon you’ll have enough money to buy a reward for yourself.

If You Do Slip Up

Don’t be discouraged if you slip up and smoke one or two cigarettes. It’s not a lost cause. One cigarette is better than an entire pack. But that doesn’t mean you can safely smoke every now and then… no matter how long ago you quit. One cigarette may seem harmless, but it can quickly lead back to one or two packs a day.

Many ex-smokers had to try stopping many times before they finally succeeded. When people slip up, it’s usually within the first three months after quitting.

Here’s what you can do if this happens:

  • Understand that you’ve had a slip. You’ve had a small setback. This doesn’t make you a smoker again. Don’t be too hard on yourself. One slip up doesn’t make you a failure. It doesn’t mean you can’t quit for good.
  • Don’t be too easy on yourself either. If you slip up, don’t say, “Well, I’ve blown it. I might as well smoke the rest of this pack.” It’s important to get back on the non-smoking track right away.  Remember, your goal is no cigarettes—not even one puff.
  • Feel good about all the time you went without smoking. Try to learn how to make your coping skills better.
  • Find the trigger. Exactly what was it that made you smoke? Be aware of that trigger. Decide now how you will cope with it when it comes up again.
  • Learn from your experience. What has helped you the most to keep from smoking? Make sure to do that on your next try.
  • Are you using a medicine to help you quit? Don’t stop using your medicine after only one or two cigarettes. Stay with it. It will help you get back on track.
  • Know and use the tips in this booklet. People with even one coping skill are more likely to stay non-smokers than those who don’t know any.
  • START to stop again!
  • See your doctor or another health professional. He or she can help motivate you to quit smoking.
“After you quit, the urge to smoke often hits at the same times.”

Parting Thoughts

Remember The Instant Rewards Of Quitting

Your body begins to heal within 20 minutes after your last cigarette. The poison gas and nicotine start to leave your body. Your pulse rate goes back to normal. The oxygen in your blood rises to a normal level.

Within a few days you may notice other things:

  • Your senses of taste and smell are better.
  • You can breathe easier.
  • Your “smoker’s hack” starts to go away. (You may keep coughing for a while, though.)

The nicotine leaves your body within three days. Your body starts to repair itself. At first, you may feel worse instead of better. Withdrawal feelings can be hard. But they are a sign that your body is healing.

Find New Things To Do

Starting today you may want to create some new habits. Here are some things you might try:

  • Swimming, jogging, playing tennis, bike riding, or shooting baskets. It’s hard to smoke and do these things at the same time. How about walking your dog?
  • Keep your hands busy. Do crossword puzzles or needlework. Paint. Do wood-working, gardening, or household chores. You can also write a letter or paint your nails.
  • Enjoy having a clean tasting mouth. Brush your teeth often and use mouthwash.
  • Take a stretch when you’re tempted to reach for a cigarette.
  • Set aside time for the activities that satisfy you and mean the most to you. There are natural breaks even during a busy day. After dinner, first thing in the morning, or just before bed are good examples.
  • Get plenty of sleep. You’ll also need plenty of rest while you get used to your smoke-free lifestyle.

Craving Journal

Keep track of each cigarette you smoke and how much you wanted it. Every time you light up, write down:

  • The time
  • Where you were
  • What you were doing
  • Who was with you

Rate how strongly you wanted to smoke:

  • 1 = just a little
  • 2 = some
  • 3 = a lot

Date: __________

Cigarette NumberTime Of DayCraving LevelWhat I Was DoingWho I Was WithHow I Was Feeling
Example10:45 a.m3at workalonestressed out

Adapted from One Step At A Time Program — Book 3. Canadian Cancer Society. 1998.

Did You Know?

  • Tobacco use remains the leading preventable cause of death in the United States, causing more than 440,000 deaths each year and resulting in an annual cost of more than $75 billion in direct medical costs.
  • Nationally, smoking results in more than 5.6 million years of potential life lost each year.
  • Approximately 80% of adult smokers started smoking before the age of 18. Every day, nearly 4,000 young people under the age of 18 try their first cigarette.
  • More than 6.4 million children living today will die prematurely because of a decision they will make as adolescents—the decision to smoke cigarettes.
  • There are more than 4,000 chemicals in cigarette smoke.


Living Tobacco Free: A Guide To Understanding Tobacco

The information in this brochure was drawn from the National Cancer Institute. The in-formation is in the public domain and may be used and reprinted without permission.

For more information please refer to In addition, information was drawn from Clearing The Air, a publication of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ National Institutes of Health and National Cancer Institute. Please visit The information was accessed in January 2005. This information is not intended to replace the advice of your healthcare provider.

If you have any questions about managing your own health and/or seeking medical care, please contact a medical professional.

Wellness Councils of America
9802 Nicholas Street, Suite 315
Omaha, NE 68114-2106
Phone: (402) 827-3590 Fax: (402) 827-3594

2005 Wellness Councils of America