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Trying to quit cigarettes? Hutch researcher offers tips for keeping one's willpower from going up in smoke

Annual Great American Smokeout' coming up on Nov. 18

Research indicates that smokers who successfully shun cigarettes during the first 24 hours of a quit attempt are 10 times more likely to kick the habit long term than those unable to stay smokeless for a day.

This should be encouraging news for smokers thinking about taking part in the upcoming annual Great American Smokeout on Nov. 18, says Dr. Beti Thompson, a cancer-prevention researcher at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle.

"Whether practicing for the BIG quit attempt later or quitting for good now, the Great American Smokeout is a perfect opportunity for beginning the stop-smoking process," says Thompson, a member of the Hutchinson Center's Public Health Sciences Division.

Held annually on the Thursday before Thanksgiving, the Smokeout is an upbeat, good-natured effort to encourage smokers to give up cigarettes for 24 hours. The event is sponsored by the American Cancer Society.

Thompson offers the following tips to help smokers prepare for the big day:

  • List the reasons why you want to quit for a day (for example, to see what it is like, to start a life of non-smoking, to prove to yourself that you can do it). Read this list out loud regularly on the day of the Great American Smokeout.
  • Ask other smokers to quit with you on that day. You can provide support for each other.
  • Ask non-smokers for support. Let them "wait on you" that day by giving you not only encouragement, but also healthy, diversionary snacks, such as carrot sticks and popcorn.
  • Reduce the number of cigarettes you smoke in the days leading up to the event. This will reduce the level of addiction and help you stay quit.
  • Remove all cigarettes and ashtrays from your home the night before.

The day of the Smokeout, you may feel sleepy, irritable, nervous or jittery -- all symptoms of nicotine withdrawal. When the urge to smoke hits, Thompson suggests practicing the "five D's":

  • Delay smoking; the urge will pass.
  • Drink water to satisfy the oral cravings.
  • Do something else to take your mind off the cravings, especially activities that make it difficult to smoke, such as riding the bus, washing the car, brushing your teeth, knitting, sewing, walking the dog or taking a shower.
  • Discuss with a friend why you should not smoke.
  • Practice Deep-breathing to help keep you calm.

Other general coping strategies for quit day include:

  • Exercise.
  • Drink lots of water and juices.
  • Eat lots of fresh fruit.
  • Copy people who don't smoke; watch what they do.
  • Plan in advance what you'll do and say in situations where you may want to smoke.
  • Relax -- limit stress as much as possible.
  • Think of yourself as an ex-smoker.

Editor's note: To arrange an interview with Dr. Thompson, please call Kristen Woodward at (206) 667-5095.

CONTACT: Kristen Woodward
(206) 667-5095

Nov. 12, 1999


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