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Quitting smoking 101

If you use tobacco, quitting is the most important thing you can do to enhance and maintain optimal health.

An illuminated "no smoking" sign

The benefits of quitting smoking

The typical smoker takes 10 to 12 puffs per cigarette. Someone who smokes 10 cigarettes a day will send 100 to 120 puffs of smoke into their lungs. Each puff contains over 4,000 compounds, many of which are toxic and known to cause cancer or other health problems.

In the booklet How Tobacco Smoke Causes Disease [PDF], the CDC points out that:

"If you spilled drain cleaner on your skin, it would hurt and become inflamed. If you did this many times a day, your skin would not have a chance to heal. It would stay red, irritated, and inflamed. The organs in your body also have a lining of cells similar to skin. Chemicals in tobacco smoke cause inflammation and damage to these cells. When you keep smoking, the damage cannot heal."

The compounds in tobacco smoke don't only stay in your lungs, they get absorbed into your bloodstream and circulate throughout your entire body and cause damage.

There are dozens of great reasons to quit smoking! Some of the benefits of becoming smoke-free include:

  • A decreased risk for many cancers, cardiovascular disease, respiratory diseases and numerous other health problems
  • Better fertility (in both men and women) as well as fewer pregnancy complications
  • More money and time
  • Eliminate harm to family members (including children), pets and others from second-hand smoke
  • ... And many, many, many more!

What can I do to quit smoking?

There are plenty of resources to help you quit smoking. They include self-help books, online quit smoking guides and meeting with a health professional at Concordia.

Decide to quit

The first step to smoke-free living is to make a firm decision to stop using tobacco. The majority of smokers would like to quit. Some things to think about that can help with your decision include:

  • Acknowledge that you are addicted to nicotine, and when your brain doesn’t get nicotine it leads to negative emotions. These negative emotions will go away.
  • Remember: there are twice as many Canadians who used to smoke and have successfully quit than those who continue to smoke. Millions of people on this planet have quit smoking. YOU CAN TOO!
  • Think of the reasons why you want to quit. 
  • Review all the wonderful benefits of quitting … there are dozens! 
  • Calculate how much money you will keep for yourself rather than give to cigarette companies.

Get ready

Those who make a plan are more likely to succeed at becoming smoke-free than those who don't. Some things to consider when making your plan include:

  • When will you quit? Determine a date and write it down.
  • How will you quit? Will you:
  • Ask yourself how using tobacco fits with the things that are important to you (i.e., your values)? By exploring this question you will likely realize that smoking is not consistent with the things that you value, such as money, family, health, etc.
  • How will quitting smoking help you achieve your life goals?
  • What are your strengths and how can you use them to quit smoking?
  • What things can you do to deal with the negative emotions that you may experience when you quit? These are called coping strategies. Build them and use them.
  • Do you have any negative thoughts about quitting that can interfere with your success? What are they? How can you think more positively about quitting? 
  • Do you believe in any of the myths about smoking/quitting? Take a critical look at these myths.
  • What things have helped you remain smoke-free when you have quit in the past? Which of these strategies can you use during this quit?
  • Why did you go back to smoking when you have quit in the past? What can you do to prevent this from happening again this time?
  • Who can support you during your quit? How can they support you?
  • What are your smoking triggers? What can you do to avoid them or manage them?

Quit

Now that you are prepared, it is time to quit. You might decide to cut down to quit or to quit “cold turkey." Either way, there are some things you can do to make the early days easier.

Be good to yourself in the early days. Take it easy; do things you enjoy. Make sure to take care of yourself by going to bed early, eating healthfully, geting some physical activity and avoiding alcohol (alcohol is among the top reasons why people go back to smoking).

Know your "triggers" so you can avoid them or, if that's not possible, have a plan to deal with them.

Have a list of tools to deal with the cravings and use them. Some of the best tools are to remind yourself:

  • What is happening in the brain
  • Of the reasons you are quitting (write them down and refer to them)
  • Of the numerous and desirable benefits of going smoke-free
  • Of the money and time you will save
  • That cravings are a normal part of the quit process and they are temporary … THEY GO AWAY!
  • That quitting is by far the #1 thing you can do to enhance and protect your health

Relaxation exercises can be very useful, especially deep breathing. Distraction can also help. See "101 things to do besides smoking" for ideas.

Avoid being Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired (HALT)

Structure a smoke-free environment by throwing out cigarettes, lighters and ashtrays and avoiding places and people that could encourage you to smoke.

Talk with supportive friends/family members: Remember why you are doing this. Focus on all the wonderful benefits of becoming and remaining smoke-free.

Have strategies to deal with the symptoms of recovery.

Stay positive by identifing any negative thinking, stop it and replace it with positive thoughts.

Take it one day at a time.

Remain smoke-free

The American writer Mark Twain once said "Giving up smoking is the easiest thing in the world. I know because I've done it thousands of times." He highlights that quitting is the first big step to becoming smoke-free. The next big step is to remain smoke free.

In the first few weeks after you quit, continue to use the tips presented in the section above. Of greatest importance is to remember why you have chosen to quit smoking (it is the best thing you can do to enhance your health) and to remember that the urge to smoke will go away whether you smoke or you don't. You also want to be prepared to deal with any uncomfortable feelings that may arise when you quit smoking by having a repetoire of effective coping strategies. These negative feelings will go away!

Don't let a slip turn in to a replase. Should you have a slip, see our information on what to do in case of a slip for information on how to get back on track.

Where can I get help to quit smoking?

When smokers are asked if they would like to quit smoking, the majority say that they would.

In Canada there are currently almost twice as many ex-smokers than current smokers. This means that significantly more people have started and quit than have started and continued. 

Concordia students, staff and faculty can meet with a health promotion specialist for free one-on-one smoking cessation counselling. If you are not a member of the Concordia community, you can receive professional support from the Quit-Smoking Centre at your Health and Social Service Centre CSSS (type in your postal code at the bottom of the page to find the centre nearest you). You can also join an eight-week group smoking cessation program at the Jewish General Hospital. The sessions are FREE and are given in French and English.

Many smokers who quit do so on their own without the help of quit smoking aids or a professional. There are also many self-help options.

For more information and a complete workbook to help you quit smoking, view our PDF Your Guide to Qutting Smoking for Good!





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