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So many people who want to stop smoking talk about “doing it on my own” and “quitting cold turkey.”  The sentiment makes sense.  Kind of an, “I’ll know if I’m really ready to quit because I’ll be able to do it on my own” type of thing.  It reminds me of playing a game of one on one basketball and that desired sense of accomplishment that comes from doing something completely on ones own.  However, this ignores some of the rules of the game.

There are some Jordans and Magics and Birds out there who manage to win the game and quit successfully on their own.  But we all know that those people are the exceptions.

Most of us need to use our teammates in order to have the best chance of winning.  We can get support from our families, friends, and co-workers.  Utilize FDA approved medications that have been shown to be safe and effective in winning this battle.  Search out and connect with professionals who are trained to help come up with game plans to defeat this foe.  Talk to your doctor or health care provider if you don’t know where to start.

Even with all of these teammates this is still a tough battle, and it might not happen the first time.  But leveling the playing field by bringing your own team increases your odds of eventually being smoke-free!


Blame and Guilt

Posted by dr.hurt Mar 18, 2011

Some people have a much harder time stopping smoking than others.  There are a number of reasons for this, one of which is that some people, because of their genetics, have a greater response to the nicotine when they begin smoking cigarettes.  They physically become more addicted.  People who are more addicted can have an extremely difficult time becoming tobacco free despite a strong desire to stop and a great deal of effort expended trying to stop.  As a result they blame themselves.  


We try to encourage people who are more addicted to stop blaming themselves.  Focus the anger where it belongs.  Tobacco companies have created a highly sophisticated and extremely addicting product in the cigarette.  Nicotine is the addicting substance in cigarettes.  Tobacco companies have ‘improved’ cigarettes by using ‘bases’ like ammonia to raise the pH (degree of acidity) of cigarettes and enhance or ‘free-base’ nicotine thus making the nicotine travel to the brain more quickly.  Speeding up the delivery of nicotine increasing its addicting potential.  This powerful drug delivery device combined with the additional vulnerability that some people have for becoming addicted to nicotine can make it terribly hard to stop.


If you smoke it is important that you stop even though it can be hard.  Don’t blame yourself.  Instead, use every tool available to help you stop smoking.  If you haven’t been able to stop on your own look for a specialist who can help you develop a plan that will work for you, talk with your health care provider, or call the local tobacco Quitline at 1800 QUIT-NOW.  Best treatment includes both counseling and medication, and more intensive treatment has a greater impact.  If you haven’t yet succeeded, don’t blame yourself, but get the help you need to stop smoking for good.


Your Lucky Day

Posted by dr.hurt Mar 11, 2011

St. Patrick’s Day has been called a ‘day to begin transforming winters’ dreams into summer magic.’  Maybe it’s a day that you can begin your transformation to smoke-free living.  Maybe you can enjoy a smoke-free spring into summer.  If you are planning to make a quit attempt, don’t rely only on the ‘Lucky Leprechaun’ to throw out those cigarettes for you.  A little work preparing for your stop day can make this day truly lucky.   

Thomas Jefferson said that the harder he worked the more luck he had.  There are plenty of tools available to help you succeed.  Use the website to plan your big day.  Talk with your health care provider about medication options.  Let people know that you are planning to stop smoking.  Ask for support from family members and friends.

Each time a smoker tries to stop smoking, the more likely the person will become smoke-free.  With hard work, a little Irish luck, and some planning this will be your time.

Sometimes one of the reasons we keep smoking is because we're waiting for the best time to stop.  We look into the future and predict when that best time will be, only to find out when we get there it is no longer the best time.  So we wait some more, make a new prediction and when the appointed time arrives, it still may not feel right.  This can happen for a variety of reasons, but the bottom line is that we're still smoking when that time finally arrives. 

How can we get out of this cycle?  Recognize that the ‘best’, perfect time to quit may be a form of postponing something that is difficult.  You know you will quit someday, so why not set yourself up for success sooner, rather than later?  Many people find it helpful to choose a stop time frame, rather than a stop date. 

A stop time frame allows you the freedom to quit anytime within a pre-chosen time frame, whenever you are most ready to quit and does not constrain you to a specific date, especially if that date arrives and it's no longer a good time for you to quit smoking.  This puts YOU in control, not the stop-date. 

So choose your time frame, get your patches ahead of time or whatever you will use to help you with the cravings, and then move forward with the intention of quitting smoking on your terms.  Don't wait for the ‘best’ time to quit because it may never arrive.  Choose your time frame and put yourself in charge of your smoke-free future.

Dr. Richard D. Hurt is an internationally recognized expert on tobacco dependence. A native of Murray, Kentucky, he joined Mayo Clinic in 1976 and is now a Professor of Medicine at its College of Medicine. In 1988, he founded the Mayo Clinic Nicotine Dependence Center and since then its staff has treated more than 50,000 patients for tobacco dependence. Send your questions directly to Dr. Hurt at

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