Quitting smoking consistently ranks among the most popular New Year’s resolutions, but it’s also among the hardest to achieve. The good news for smokers in northern New York is that there are free, effective resources available locally and statewide to help individuals follow through on their resolution to break free from nicotine addiction.
“Everyone’s quit journey is different, but there are several strategies that are proven to exponentially increase a person’s chances of success,” said Brielle Carnright, tobacco project coordinator at The Heart Network, which facilitates North Country Nicotine Consultants alongside Glens Falls Hospital. “Working directly with healthcare providers, using nicotine replacement therapy and learning from former smokers are all excellent ways to make sure your New Year’s resolution sticks.”
“One of the biggest mistakes a smoker can make is to attempt to quit on their own,” said Riley Brennan, program coordinator at Glens Fall Hospital’s Health Promotion Center. “We strongly encourage smokers to learn about the people, programs and resources available to help them take control of their health and kick the habit.”
Learning from former smokers
“No one is better positioned to provide insight into quitting than those who’ve been through it themselves,” Brennan noted. “Learning from others is highly effective and can help build a network of support.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Tips From Former Smokers initiative highlights six key strategies smokers can use to quit successfully:
- Adjust your medicine. If your urges are hard to resist and you are using nicotine replacement therapy (NRT), you may be able to use more. For instance, if you are using a lower-dose patch, you can increase to a higher dose. Or you can add the nicotine mini-lozenge or gum. If you are using varenicline or bupropion, you can talk to your doctor or other healthcare professional about your urges, as well as using these other tips.
- Make your environment work for you. Get rid of all the cigarettes in your home, in your car and at work before you quit. Get rid of things that you use while smoking like lighters, matches and ashtrays. Wash your clothes and anything else that smells of tobacco smoke.
- Distract yourself. Listen to your favorite music, get some exercise, call or text a friend, play a video game or do a puzzle, or binge-watch your favorite show.
- Find safe substitutes for cigarettes. Keep them close by when you quit. Some ideas include: toothpicks, straws, cinnamon sticks, paper clips, pencils for doodling, squeeze ball.
- Listen to what the urge says, then talk back. “I’m stressed, so I deserve a cigarette.” What could you say to that thought? Maybe you could talk back by saying:
- “Yes, I’m stressed, so I deserve a break to breathe and relax.”
- “Part of why I’m stressed is because I’m going through nicotine withdrawal. Once this urge passes, I’ll feel fine. And once I’ve quit for good, I’ll be less stressed.”
- Ride the waves. Some people find it helpful to think of urges like ocean waves. Rather than swimming to fight a wave, let the wave carry you up. Before you know it, the wave will go back down. This is the same with urges — rather than spending energy to fight them, just let them come and go, like waves.
For more tips from former smokers, visit cdc.gov/tobacco/campaign/tips.
New York State Smokers’ Quitline
The New York State Smokers’ Quitline is a service of the New York State Department of Health and based at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center in Buffalo. It is one of the first and busiest state quitlines in the nation and has responded to nearly three million calls since it began operating in 2000.
The Quitline encourages those who use commercial tobacco and vape products to talk with their healthcare professionals and access available Medicaid or health insurance benefits for medication support.
“The Quitline is a highly effective resource based here in New York State, offered at no cost to current and former smokers,” said Carnright. “And we know it works — this year, the Quitline is sharing stories about individuals from across the state who’ve quit smoking and transformed their lives as a result of its services.
In northern New York, the Quitline shared testimonials from Dylan C. of Rouses Point and Tim D. of Watervliet. Last names have been withheld out of respect for privacy.
Dylan first called the NY Quitline in November 2021, developed a quit-plan with assistance from a tobacco treatment specialist and then received a free supply of nicotine patches and nicotine lozenges in the mail. He greatly appreciated the assistance, especially with his varying income in the construction industry.
“I was worried about achieving success because the vape products I used have a much higher concentration of nicotine,” Dylan said in his Quitline story. “But I stuck with the patches and lozenges for a few months and then switched to mints and chewing gum. Now I’m diligent about staying away from places where people vape and avoiding triggers.”
“For all those thinking about quitting, have a good plan in mind and know why you want to do it,” Tim shared in his testimonial. “Start with small, attainable goals and take it one day at a time so you don’t get discouraged. Keep at it, keep trying and remember there are a lot of resources available to help you successfully quit.”
To read Tim and Dylan’s quit stories, or to check out testimonials from other former smokers, visit nys-quitline.mailchimpsites.com. All New York State residents can call 1-866-NY-QUITS (1-866-697-8487) or text QUITNOW to 333888 for coaching and resources, free of charge, seven days a week beginning at 9 a.m. Visit www.nysmokefree.com for more information.
Providers play a pivotal role
Just as smokers are encouraged to talk to their providers about quitting, healthcare professionals should be proactive in speaking to their patients.
“In any given year, over two thirds of tobacco users will visit a health care provider,” Brennan said. “Clinicians have an opportunity to treat tobacco use and dependency as they would any other chronic disease, with behavioral counseling and pharmacotherapy. Just three to five minutes of brief counseling can double a patient’s chance of quitting successfully. Long term quit rates increase over twenty percent with consistent follow up counseling and thirty percent when counseling is combined with pharmacotherapy.”
North Country Nicotine Consultants, a collaborative initiative of The Heart Network and Glens Falls Hospital, provides resources and consultation to health care providers to help increase delivery of comprehensive, evidence-based treatment for nicotine addiction. These services are made possible thanks to a Health Systems for a Tobacco Free New York grant through the New York State Department of Health.
To learn more about North Country Nicotine Consultants, visit heartnetwork.org/ncnc.