Deciding to quit for life

Deciding to quit for life

Smoking is not a natural act. It is a learned activity. People gradually become conditioned to smoking in certain social situations such as talking on the telephone. Others may smoke to reduce tension, anxiety or use it as a food substitute. Soon the act of smoking becomes so ingrained that the person may not be aware they are lighting up.

The addictive elements of tobacco make quitting smoking incredibly difficult. It can take as few as four cigarettes for a teenager to learn how to smoke without choking. Every cigarette after the first four is practice for a regular smoking habit.

In Northwestern Ontario, 35% of adults reported that they were regular smokers (Ontario Health Survey). In spite of this fact, it seems people want to quit. Research shows that the majority of smokers in Ontario, including teens, have quit smoking for at least one week. In Canada, more than half of Canadians who have ever smoked have quit.

The majority of people who have quit have done it on their own. It may take several attempts to quit before a person learns enough about their own smoking habit to successfully resist the urge to smoke. The three situations which can commonly ruin a person’s attempt to quit are:

  • negative emotional states, (frustration, boredom and anger)
  • interpersonal conflict (with family, friends, or stress at work)
  • social pressure

When you stop smoking, the nicotine leaves your system within several days but there's more to the smoking addiction than nicotine. Some people trying to quit experience setbacks like having a cigarette or even starting to smoke again. Don't be too hard on yourself. Quitting is rarely automatic. Becoming a non-smoker is a process of learning how to be a non-smoker. The average person will require four to five serious quit attempts, spread over two years, to become a non-smoker.
You have a choice of many methods to quit. Some of the most common are gradually reducing the number of cigarettes you smoke (tapering off) or stopping smoking immediately (cold turkey). Tapering off might seem easier at first. It works for some people but with cigarettes, matches and ashtrays around, you might be tempted to start again during periods of difficulty or stress. Cold turkey is a big commitment and takes allot of will power.

Think carefully about the method that is best for you. In either case, you need to pay attention to what you're doing. The better you understand yourself and what triggers you to smoke, the more successful you will be at quitting the habit.

Although most smokers quit without any help,
various smoking cessation techniques are available, including nicotine replacement therapy (gum and patches), acupuncture, hypnosis and training in behaviour modification. Self-help resources are available from both the Smoker’s Helpline online
( and the Thunder Bay District Health Unit
at 625-5982 or Your family doctor can, also, help with your strategy. Use whatever method will work best for you.

Amber White
Public Health Nurse, Tobacco Program
Thunder Bay District
Health Unit - 625-5982