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6 Quit-Smoking Tips for COPD

How to quit smoking, starting today, if you have COPD.
By
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Quitting smoking is a top priority for all smokers, but if you have COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) it's even more urgent.

Here's why: If you quit, it might be possible to slow down the disease and lessen the toll it takes on your breathing, but only if you cut out cigarettes permanently -- and soon.

Here's how to do it, starting today.

1. Get, and Stay, Motivated

Learning that you have a chronic disease is no doubt distressing, but it can also be the push you need to make necessary changes. Take advantage of that feeling.

"That's when people are highly motivated," says COPD specialist Joe Ramsdell, MD, director of the Airway Research and Clinical Trials Center at UC San Diego.

Smoking adds to the burden of this often debilitating disease. Don't let it.

"Quitting smoking will help you do more of what you want to do," says Patricia Folan, RN, MS, CTTS, who directs the Center for Tobacco Control at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, N.Y. "It will also help your COPD medications work better and allow you to exercise more, which will improve your mood, even if it's just walking."

Mary Ella Douglas, the American Lung Association's smoking cessation expert, agrees.

"When you are diagnosed with a lung disease, you may feel defeated. Don't," she says. "You will experience immediate benefits from quitting. It will help."

2. If at First You Don't Succeed...

"Falling off the wagon does not mean a flip has been switched and you're a smoker again," Ramsdell says. Instead, it just means that you have to keep trying. "Persistence is so important."

This is especially true for people with COPD, most of whom have been smoking for decades, says Douglas.

"When we talk about people who have been smoking a long time, we know there's a lot of fear and anxiety there because they have likely tried to quit before, and they look at those attempts as failures," Douglas says. "We encourage them to change their thinking. We want them to realize that those times they were off cigarettes were successes."

3. Be Prepared

Before you quit, make a plan. Quitting on a whim, good intentioned as it may be, is rarely successful, Douglas says. Her advice:

  • Set a quit day. Pick a day three or so weeks out and mark it on your calendar. That will be your first day without tobacco.
  • Make a list. Write down your reasons for quitting. For people with COPD, ‘Breathe easier' will likely be at the top.
  • Set up a reward system. Get ready to celebrate your smoke-free milestones -- the first 48 hours, the first week, the first month, and so on. Your reward might be new music, dinner out... anything that honors your efforts. And remember: You can afford those awards because you are not buying cigarettes. "We have people who save that money and put it toward a vacation," Douglas says.
  • Know your triggers and avoid them. "Behaviors become habits, and those habits can be associated with smoking," Douglas says. For example, if you always smoke with your morning coffee, make a change: Have your first cup on the way to work, perhaps in a coffee shop where smoking is not permitted. "Little changes like that can make a big difference," Douglas says.
  • Pick alternatives. Make a list of 10 things you can do instead of smoking. When you have the urge to smoke, pick something off the list -- call a friend, take a walk -- and do that instead.

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