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At Last, Quit Smoking for Good

7 tips for quitting cigarettes -- no matter how many times you’ve tried before.
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WebMD Feature

If you have COPD, the most important step you can take to manage your condition is to quit smoking.

Your second most important step is to live in a smoke-free environment.

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Whether you directly inhale smoke or get it from secondhand smoke, cigarette smoke accelerates the damage already going on in the lungs. Avoiding smoke slows the damage and actually slows the progression of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

In addition, when you quit smoking, you lower the risk for you and those around you of other serious health problems like heart disease.

Quitting cigarettes can make the difference between living longer and well - and not living at all. That’s especially true now that COPD is a part of your life. The good news is smoking is a risk factor you can control. Here’s how.

1. Set a Date to Quit Smoking

If you want to quit smoking, it helps to set a quit date, says Lindy Wolfenden, MD. Wolfenden is an assistant professor of medicine at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta. She is also director of the outpatient pulmonary function laboratory at Emory Clinic. Setting a date to quit formalizes the attempt to quit. And while it may still take several attempts, the likelihood of permanently quitting goes up with each attempt you make.

When you choose a date to quit smoking, make it one when it is less likely you’ll have added stress. Stress is a major roadblock to any behavioral change. That’s especially true when you try to quit smoking.

Mark the quit date on your calendar. Experts recommend that as it approaches you stay mentally and emotionally focused on this date as a time for new beginnings and better health.

2. Expect to Feel Miserable

When you first quit smoking, it will be rough. You might feel miserable, irritable, even depressed. But according to the American Lung Association, nicotine clears out of the system quickly. It is usually in the undetectable range within 24 hours after someone quits.

For a few weeks, you might feel hungrier than normal. You may want to eat snacks all day long -- anything to occupy your hands and mouth. Once you get past the first few days, though, you will begin to feel more in control.

Keep sugarless gum or hard candy in your pocket during this time as a short-term “fix” when you crave a cigarette.

3. Remove Smoking Triggers

A smoking trigger is anything your brain has connected with smoking. Everyone’s smoking triggers are different. Your smoking trigger may be the smell of cigarette smoke, your morning coffee, or spotting an ashtray.

Wolfenden suggests removing tobacco from the house, porch, and car. “People should talk with their families about getting cigarettes, ashtrays, and lighters out of the house. Remove anything that reminds them of smoking.”

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