In every issue of WebMD the Magazine, we ask our experts to answer readers' questions about a wide range of topics. In our November-December 2011 issue, we asked James Beckerman, MD, WebMD's heart health expert, for tips on quitting smoking.
Q: I'm finally ready to quit smoking. Do you have any tips for making it easier?
A: We all know that being tobacco-free is essential to a healthy life. In fact, the most recent report from the Surgeon General details how any exposure to tobacco smoke...
Sedberry smoked for 26 years. Last November, when she discovered that her 19-year-old son, Ricky, had picked up the habit, she was motivated to change. “I made a pact with him to quit together,” she says.
Sedberry bought a case of chewing gum and says she walked around looking like Bessie the Cow, for about 2 months, but it worked. Ricky quit, too.
“No patches, no shots, no hypnosis -- just trying to make sure my son did not pick up the bad habit," Sedberry says.
No question -- quitting smoking can save your life. But it brings temporary physical withdrawal symptoms -- such as irritability and headache -- followed by the long haul of sticking with it.
"The physical withdrawal, for most people, lasts from a few days to a maybe a week. After that, it’s the psychological withdrawal that people have the most difficulty with,” says Heath Dingwell, PhD, author of 12 Things to Do to Quit Smoking.
In essence, if you make it past the first week, you then face the psychological symptoms -- the mere habit of lighting up - which, for some people, can last quite a long time. In Dingwell’s opinion, it comes down to breaking that habit and finding better ways to manage stress.
Here are other offbeat ways smokers have kicked the habit.
Melissa Gold, 34, of Washington, D.C., quit smoking in 2001, on the first day of a six-month no-smoking challenge from her boss. At the time, she worked for Bratskeir & Co, a PR agency in Manhattan, when the owner came across a group of employees standing outside the building for a smoke break. He later asked what it would take to get them to quit. “I promptly said he'd have to pay me,” Gold says. That afternoon he issued the challenge.
The deal: The smokers would get $5 per day -- the cost of a pack of cigarettes then -- taken out their paychecks and stashed in a quit-smoking fund for six months, and Bratskeir would match that. If any of them faltered or got caught -- they split that person's payment.
“I think the final payoff came to around $2,000, plus he took all of us out for a celebration dinner,” Gold says.
Bratskeir also paid for whatever crutch the employees needed to quit. Gold remembers one woman chose acupuncture; another picked a nicotine patch. She tried nicotine gum, but says she couldn’t handle the taste and switched to watermelon bubble gum, which her boss also bought.
Five employees joined in, and all five earned the payout. Gold is still smoke-free nine years later. “I think with any kind of discipline challenge (weight loss, smoking cessation, etc.), it's really important to do it with a group. The peer pressure to stay clean and keep you accountable is key,” she says. A generous boss didn’t hurt either.