Which is worse: using tobacco, or quitting it? Using tobacco dramatically raises the risks of severe illness and death, but quitting smoking is one of the most difficult things many people do.
Put plainly, a lot more people would quit if it weren’t so hard, says Bill Blatt, director of tobacco control programs at the American Lung Association. When quitting gets tough, “some people feel like a failure or like they have a personality flaw,” Blatt says.
But don’t buy it. “It’s a matter of figuring out the best way to quit for you, and sticking to it,” Blatt says.
And it’s worth it despite the monetary cost of patches, gums and. There are more than 250 harmful chemicals in tobacco smoke that, over time, cause ailments like emphysema, COPD, stroke, heart disease, and cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute. That leads to losses of at least $289 billion each year in the United States, including health care and lost productivity costs, according to the American Cancer Society.
If you’re ready to quit smoking, there are strategies you can use to ease the mental, emotional, and financial burden— so that this time is the last time you quit. If you make a plan, get support from loved ones and take steps to reduce your reliance on pricey quitting aids, you’ll be set up to win.
Here are 5 ways to help you quit smoking:
1. Set Yourself Up for Success With a Plan
Having a “quit plan” will help you succeed. “You had to learn how to smoke, so you have to learn how to quit, too, and creating a plan that works for you is a great strategy,” Blatt says. Before you get started on a plan, you may want to check in with your doctor to ensure you’re taking the right steps given your history and medical status.
A solid quit plan includes choosing a quit date, identifying triggers, informing loved ones and choosing nicotine-free rewards for milestones. A good quit date is one to three weeks in the future— say, Nov. 19, the date of the American Cancer Society’s Great American Smokeout.
Once you’ve chosen your quit date, identify your triggers and decide how you will handle them. For example, if you always smoke after dinner, resolve to take a walk instead; if you always smoke in the car, pop a piece of gum before you turn the key.
2. Get Support
Your friends, family and co-workers may already have been rooting for you to quit smoking, so they’re likely to be your main support. But they can’t be around all the time, and sometimes you need a professional to talk to.
That’s why you should have the number for a quitline stored in your phone or tucked into your wallet. It will come in handy when you experience nicotine withdrawal symptoms or cravings. Every state has a quitline that you can reach by calling 1-800-QUIT-NOW, and the National Cancer Institute has a line at 1-877-44U-QUIT.
If you’re tech savvy, there are quite a few apps that can help you quit smoking. The American Lung Association’s collaboration app with Pfizer (the maker of smoking cessation drug Chantix), called Quitter’s Circle, is free, and helps users set up a quit plan and track progress. It also features a crowdfunding platform where loved ones can donate money to help pay for cessation aids like gum, patches and medication.
Other free apps like QuitBit or QuitCharge use different methods to help smokers quit, like visual tools or games that allow you to “kill” cravings while also distracting you from them. Check your preferred online store for a quitting app that appeals to you.
3. Check Your Insurance Policy
Your health insurer also wants you to quit smoking, and may help you save money doing so. Every major health insurer has some sort of tobacco cessation program, whether it’s free nicotine gum or a counseling program for smokers. Offers vary by insurer, so check your insurer’s website for available programs.
4. Save on Quitting Aids
Quitting isn’t necessarily cheap. A pack-a-day smoker will spend more than $240 per month on cigarettes, or $2,923 per year, given the average cost of $5.76 per pack plus $2.25 in tax, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). A month’s worth of prescription Chantix costs around $300. Gums and lozenges will run you $40 to $0 for 100 pieces, and patches cost at least $60 per month for generic brands.
There are often cheaper generic alternatives to patches and gums like Nicoderm and Nicorette. The manufacturers of the brand-name products also offer coupons and deals if you provide an email address on their websites. Alternatively, if you’re considering a prescription drug like Chantix, Pfizer’s website offers a discount card.
Buproprion is an antidepressant that may also help reduce smoking cravings, and it is available as a generic drug. If you and your doctor agree you should try it, the drug is available for less than $20 per month at some pharmacies.
5. Ask Your Boss About Wellness Benefits
Workplace wellness programs commonly include a benefit to help employees quit smoking. Some tobacco wellness programs pay you for every day you don’t smoke, in the form of a gift card or extra money in your paycheck. If your employer doesn’t offer such a program, ask if they’d start one up.
Whatever you use to help you quit smoking, the key to success will be perseverance. And while it may not be easy, you can bet you’ll thank yourself for it later.