November 13, 2008

How to quit smoking

Posted: 02:04 PM ET

Ask most former smokers and they will tell you how hard it is to kick the habit. If you are trying to quit smoking, news this afternoon from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may give you hope.


The study, in this week's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, finds fewer adults are smoking. And while the numbers are not startling - 19.8 percent of U.S. adults smoked in 2007 versus 20.8 percent in 2006 - it is the first significant decrease since 2003.

"The good news, we continue to see fewer people smoking," says Janet Collins, director of the CDC's National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. "The bad news is we need more people to quit." Public health officials had hoped to lower the smoking rate to 12 percent by 2010. Based on current trends, that's not likely to happen. Smoking, as we all know, is a serious public health crisis. It causes at least 30 percent of all cancer deaths each year, including more than 80 percent of lung cancer deaths.

Experts say there is no easy way to quit. But here are tips to get you started.

Write down why you want to quit. Is it because you are sick and tired of not being able to walk up stairs? Want to set a better example for your kids? Sick of smelling like smoke? As the CDC points out in its online brochure, You Can Quit Smoking,” people who live after a heart attack are the most likely to quit for good. They are VERY motivated.

Plan to reward your own success. Once you decide why you want to stop, come up with a reward. I once heard of a man who saved all the money he typically spent on cigarettes and bought himself a brand new fishing rod.

Set a "quit day." One former smoker I know decided to "sin boldly" in the days before she quit. Just as some people do before they go on a diet, she allowed herself to smoke as much as she wanted. If you want to stop smoking soon, a great opportunity is just a week away. The Great American Smokeout is next Thursday, November 20. Click here to get more information.

Don't do it alone. You don't need to yell it from a mountaintop, but don't keep your decision a secret. Tell your friends and family. Ask them for support. Be honest if you feel they are sabotaging your efforts. Don't allow people to smoke in your home. If you need support outside your circle, click here for more information.

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Clark Howard helps you become a wise consumer. We know you're busy, and that's why Clark's tips are quick and effective. He'll arm you with the information you need to make smart choices. During these tough economic times, Clark wants to help you save more, spend less and avoid getting ripped off!