Every year at this time I hear from people who want to quit smoking and wonder what might work the best for them. What a good question!
In general, the best approach is to get some help from the stop smoking experts in person, on the phone, or online, and to use one of the stop smoking medicines as recommended.
To find the best plan, I start by asking questions to learn more about each unique person.
Do you smoke a little or a lot? Was it easy or hard the last time you tried to quit? What stop smoking medicines have you already tried and how did they work? Did you get some help or did you just try quitting on your own? What made you go back to smoking? Do you have other health problems that smoking and quitting might affect?
Once I know more, I try to find the best options. Here are some tips:
- If you’ve had an easy time quitting before and either didn’t use any medicines or used them sparingly, I usually suggest trying to quit this time with medicines used for the whole duration of the quitting program. One of the most common reasons people go back to smoking is that they don’t stick with their quitting program long enough to fully adjust to being a non smoker. Take the time you need to stay quit for good.
- If you’ve had a hard time quitting before, I always suggest getting more help from the stop smoking experts together with using the right medicines for the right amount of time. A good place to start is to call the Oregon Tobacco Quitline at 1-800-QUIT NOW and talk to their trained specialists about what will work best for you. If you are smoking a pack or more a day it can also help to double up on the medicines. I find that when people use a 21 mg nicotine patch together with some 4 mg. nicotine gum or lozenges it works pretty well. The patch gives a steady dose to handle the routine cravings and the gum or lozenge gives that extra dose to handle the hard times.
- For people who have a hard time quitting and also have other health problems, I recommend the full court press. Check in with your doctor, get help from the stop smoking experts, and use the right medicines for the right amount of time. If you have a health problem like depression or anxiety, smoking and quitting can have a different effect on you because of how nicotine affects your brain chemistry. Checking in with your doctor and the stop smoking experts together can help you find the best options.
Many insurers in Oregon now cover tobacco-cessation programs and medicines, so be sure to check to see what is available for you through your health plan benefits. If you don’t have insurance, the Oregon Tobacco Quitline (1-800-QUIT NOW) may be able to help. Good luck and don’t give up!
Wendy Bjornson, M.P.H., is the co-director of the OHSU Smoking Cessation Center and has been at OHSU for over 25 years. Wendy has coached hundreds of smokers to quit, trained hundreds health care providers and tobacco treatment specialists to help patients, and presently directs the program at OHSU helping hospital patients to quit.