New years resolutions are written on a chalkboard.
Make a resolution to quit smoking? You can do it. You just need a plan. (For Spectrum Health Beat)

Every year, many of the 75% of smokers who want to quit find motivation in getting a fresh start in the New Year.

Libby Stern, LMSW, TTS, knows that quitting smoking can be a challenge and, for many, it may take several attempts to finally succeed.

“A lot of times it’s like a practice approach,” she said. “It’s not uncommon to make six or seven attempts to quit.”

If you’re seriously thinking about kicking the habit once and for all, here are a few things that Stern—who leads Quit 101, a free tobacco and nicotine cessation class from Spectrum Health Lifestyle Medicine—suggests will help you get off on the right foot and stay on your path.

Remember what the QUIT acronym stands for:

  • Quit date. Set a quit date within two to three weeks. This gives you time to get used to the idea and to make preparations without allowing so much time that you forget about it. Having an important date allows you to attach additional meaning to your quit.
  • Use medication. Talk with your health care provider about using a medication to help you quit. There are prescription options like Chantix and Zyban as well as over-the-counter options like nicotine replacement patches, gum and lozenges. Figure out what you think will work for you and prepare yourself. Some medications will need to be started a week or two ahead of time.
  • Identify your social support. Find a quit buddy or someone who will support you along the way. It makes a huge difference to have someone you can talk to about your quit smoking journey and get their support and encouragement.
  • Talk to an educator or counselor. Counseling and/or formal education can help you to identify your personal triggers and develop new coping skills. Combining counseling with medications significantly improves the likelihood of success.

Develop a quit plan for yourself. Keep in mind that, when you quit smoking, you have to change more than the smoking.

Identify how you can change your routine to make quitting easier. For instance, if you always wake up, make your coffee and smoke while you read the paper or watch TV, change it up. Maybe you skip the coffee and paper and go straight for the shower and off to work instead, getting your coffee at work where there is no smoking.

If driving and smoking poses a challenge, get some coffee stirrers, cinnamon toothpicks, sugar-free licorice sticks or lollipops and have them in the car for those times when you have a craving. Changes in your routine can make it easier for you, especially in the beginning.

As a former smoker, Stern knows quitting is hard, but not impossible. Sometimes, students even tell her it was not as difficult as they expected.

Her message to anyone hoping to quit: “There are more former smokers today than smokers. You can be one, too.”

Planning is the key, so make sure you plan ahead for the expected and unexpected. Educate yourself and consider medications that may help.

Only you can decide when you’re ready to quit, but when you are, remember that there are many resources to help you. You can do this—there are more former smokers today than smokers.

You can be one, too.