Friday, 20 June 2008

How to quit smoking

1. Have a heart attack.

Preferably a serious one. This will mean hospitalisation, and very probably sedation of some kind. This will take you over the worst stages of the chemical withdrawal symptoms. Because you're very unlikely to get any cigarettes in the ICCU.

Better still, don't start.

Seriously though.

1. Stop fooling yourself about the addiction.

That's the really big one; or at least it was for me. Nicotine is ferociously addictive. Period. You're a junkie. And addiction of any kind fucks with your mind. A junkie will always find reasons to continue. Plausible, perfectly respectable reasons. That is, from your point of view. They will look silly from the outside. Or the other side. Trust me on this. I see now that one of the reasons I avoided air-conditioning was that most ACed places don't let you smoke. And I mean avoiding ACs even in a Delhi summer.

There's an old Dave Barry piece about smoking that makes the point beautifully. I quote:
I mean, surely the government has better things to spend its money on. Surely the government could could have used those research funds to buy a better military toilet seat, and just asked us former smokers about nicotine vs. heroin addiction. We could have simply pointed out that, when a commercial airliner takes off, the instant the wheels leave the ground, the pilot, who you think would be busy steering or something, tells the smokers that they may light up. He does not tell the heroin addicts that they may stick their needles in themselves, does he? No he doesn't, because heroin addicts have enough self-control to survive a couple of heroin-free hours. But the pilot knows that if he doesn't let the cigarette smokers get some nicotine into themselves immediately, they will sneak off to smoke in the bathroom, possibly setting it on fire, or, if already occupied by other smokers, they will try to get out on the wing.

2. Avoid the company of smokers.

At least in the beginning. Or your addiction, revived by the siren wisps of second-hand smoke, will play silly buggers with you. You will want desperately to have that one drag, that one cigarette. Maybe you'll be able to do "just one" after a while. I wouldn't count on it.

3. Deal with it one pang at a time.

The urge to smoke doesn't usually last more than a few minutes. 15 minutes at most. Find something to do with your hands for those 15 minutes. It helps. Or just recognise the pang, acknowledge it, and deliberately think about something else. Your mind will take over and do the job for you. All hail low attention spans.

4. Plan to smoke again.

This may seem counter-intuitive, but hear me out.

Each time you pass a cigarette shop, or get side-swiped by someone else's smoke, tell yourself that you'll buy a cigarette at the next shop. By the time you get there, the urge would have faded.

There's a variation on this, on the other end of the length-of-time spectrum, relayed to me by pal Pervin, about her dad. He told his family he'd start smoking again (he'd quit because he'd had a heart attack) once the kids had grown up and were self-sufficient.

Another addict friend gave me another variation; she tells herself she will drink again. In 2079.

My version: I will smoke again when my kids are grown up. (I don't have any. (That I know of. (Yet.))) Sounds weird, I know, but it works. Maybe it's the grin you grin to yourself, maybe the brain really is a gullible old thing, I dunno, but it works.

5. Read up about the bad effects of smoking.

Yep, all those articles you quickly flipped past over the years. Read them now. Go find more; the web is your friend. These will help you keep going, strengthen your resolve.

6. Commit yourself publicly.

Announce it to friends, the kind who you'd rather die than back down in front of.

Or blog it. :)

Note to people who know people who are in the throes of quitting.

Don't bring up the topic. Unless the quitter brings it up, don't brightly ask how the quit is going or how the pangs are being dealt with. Chances are that the very asking will cause huge, I mean fugging monstrous, gigantic, vice-like pangs. Maybe those will be the first real pangs of the day. The week even. Maybe it will stress the smoker out. maybe it will send the smoker sneaking off to smoke one and he'll feel like shit afterwards and have to claw back up yards and yards of distance lost. Or at least that's what happened to me once. So don't ask me, okay? Unless I'm all full of it, in which case let me go on for a little bit and then steer the conversation elsewhere. The steering's easy. I'm feeble-minded: I used to smoke, remember?

(Oh, and I hereby silently apologise to all the ex-smoker-now-anti-smoking-evangelist folks I've ever silently sneered at in the past. Y'know how it is: you look at this person who once bummed your smokes, who smoked everywhere, regardless of who was around (unlike virtuous you, who didn't smoke around children, old people and non-smokers in general), and who was now getting all sanctimonious about the habit. I know where you're coming from. And thank you for trying, but dudes, seriously, no one who still smokes will get it.)

I'm going to come back to this post with more about my quitting journey, maybe more tips. Or perhaps I'll make it a series. Let's see. Meanwhile, perhaps you, if you have successfully quit, want to leave some tips behind for me and posterity?


dez said...

what makes smoking worse is booze, coz booze raises the craving for a smoke. and funnily, a smoke is most enjoyable with a booze and a booze is most enjoyable with a smoke - the two make a vicious circle. so if u drink as well, u need to put the booze too, under ur scanner.

Lekhni said...

My first thought was - this advice sounds so heartfelt. And then I realized that sounds like such a bad pun :(

Another tip I've read about is to carry stuff like candy or gum with you always, so you can munch that when you get a sudden craving.

Gautam said...

Damn. So true. I've been fighting the monster and it does get easier everyday but not by much. Though in hindsight, the justifications I make to myself are hilarious.

What did make it easier was an article I read that talked of how the brain thinks it is dying without the nicotine and hence self-preservation kicks in to drive you to the nearest cigarette. Once you know this, it's freeing because you can out think the craving.

No one tells you how hard it is. And even if they did, you'd never believe them. Unfortunately, this is a road that you must walk to know.

zigzackly said...

Yeah. That's why I decided not to drink at all for a month or two.

We laughed heartily. And I mean that from the bottom of my heart. It's always heartening to see young 'uns writing in a lighter vein.

Yep. That bit of knowledge helps get over the pangs.

harini calamur said...

i guess that i should think about quitting !!!
somehow all the articles that one reads doesn't drive home the point as much

dez said...

i stopped short of giving gyaan, but smoking causes your throat to dry so you crave/reach for a drink; after u've had a drink, u crave/reach for a smoke. c how the two generate each other. so u can't put drink away for like 'two months'. it won't work :)

of all the tips u've already spoken of, the one that really works is "i'll smoke later, not now". it can bring down the number of ciggies u smoke bigtime, down to one/two a day and even wean u away from fags w/o u knowing enything :)

Mark Roberts D.Hyp. said...

There are some excellent tips for quitting the habit.

If anyone would like any further help there is a FREE Quit Smoking Tips page on my website. To read the article, please visit:-

Lekhni said...

Your hearty repartee makes me glad. I was worried you'd think I was heartless, or hard-hearted. May I add, it's heartwarming to be called a "young 'un". I am not so young these days, though at heart I will always be a kid :)

P.S. Did I leave anything out ? ;)

suniti said...

Proud of you :) Keep away from that cig. My dad did, and he didnt wait for a heart attack to wake him up. He decided one day that he would. He quit for a month before announcing it. My brother still sends him a card on the anniversary of quitting smoking. Its 12 yrs now. And you must quit at least till your children are grown up :)))

All the best.


Pradeep said...

Another way is to engage oneself in a activity that makes smoking difficult. Rather than take an abrupt decision to quit, make it gradual. It might take time, but it will be longlasting and permanent.

km said...

Have a heart attack

Best damn advice ever.

//Another tip: Don't *ever* watch Bogart/Bacall movies or any noir films from France.

newnimproved said...

Some tips:
Try meditation in a non-religious way.
Exercise (you get a natural high)
Hypnosis works for some ( the clinical kind not the quacks)
Wish you a speedy recovery!


Rajat Chaudhuri said...

I read (or heard) that a walk helps. Just when you feel the urge take a walk in the park, or anywhere for that matter. 5 to 7 mins ... no kidding!

Pfizer I believe has a new pill on the market called Chantix. A three month course can help you quit. But it's not cheap and there are undesirable side-effects.

Rajesh Kumar said...

I quit smoking too. I did it myself, and have shared my experiences at my blog

Anonymous said...

just in case Zig
you wanna do 'way with the cig
in another another way

Monica said...

Take with a pinch of salt or snuff. At least three different friends have stopped smoking after reading Allen Carr's book, "Easy Way to Stop Smoking"!

Anonymous said...

Say : "I quit " and throw it away.

Shrabonti said...

Another great help is lack of opportunity. I want to smoke, but I can't. I know it can't work for you, but being a stay-at-home-mom with maids around the house (Indian women, smoking, all the hiding. Another story) went a long way towards kicking the habit. Oh, even now I smoke when i go out with friends (minus baby) or promise myself a pre-sleep smoke but most of the time am dead tired before the child has called it a day and can't drag myself to the balcony.

So, lack of opportunity. I barely smoke anymore, though I haven't technically quit.

Griffin said...

Good advice. You should also read up at and join a support group like ours at