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How To Quit Smoking


Quitting smoking is particularly important for men and women who have a life changing condition.  By quitting smoking, you can:

  • Improve your body's response to treatments
  • Lessen complications and side effects
  • Decrease the risk of recurrence
  • Enhance survival

There is no question that It is difficult to quit smoking. Tobacco is both a physical and a mental addiction. Smoking also becomes a conditioned response to everyday stimuli. For instance, you may be used to smoking with a cup of coffee, or an acoholic drink or after sex. If you live, work or socialize with a smoker, there is also peer pressure.

While it may not seem like it when you're going through it, physical withdrawal from nicotine is short-lived. In a few weeks, the worst is over. However, emotional and circumstantial tugs to smoke can last much longer. As Jane Brody put it: "Depending on when and why you smoke, cues can include needing a break from work, having to focus on a challenging task, drinking coffee or alcohol, being with other people who smoke or in places you associate with smoking, finishing a meal or sexual activity, and feeling depressed or upset. To break such links, you must first identify them and then replace them with other activites, like taking a walk, chewing sugar-free gum or taking deep breaths. These can help you control cravings until the urge passes.... Perhaps most important is to be sure you are serious about quitting; if not, wait until you are. Motivation is half the battle. Alsok should you slip and have a cigarette after days or weeks of not smoking, don't assume you've failed and give up. Just go right back to not smoking."

Millions of people have successfully quit smoking - and you can too.  

There are many tools available, including a great deal of free help. The key is to find the method that works for you, including psychological support and perhaps medicinal aids. 

Consider the following alternatives to help quit smoking:

  • The federal government provides the following for free:
    • A Quit Guide to help you prepare to quit and support you in the days and weeks after you quit.  Quit Guide also describes problems to expect when you quit. Being prepared can help you through the hard times. For a copy of the guide, see: offsite link. offsite link also provides a mobile app to help.
    • Stop smoking counselors are available via toll free 800 numbers. 
      • Federal counselors at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) quitline: Tel. 877.448.7848 or Instant Message counselors through Live Help offsite link. Counselors can tell you:
        • Ways to quit smoking
        • Groups that help smokers who want to quit
        • NCI publications about quitting smoking
        • How to take part in a study of methods to help smokers quit
      • State counselors. All 50 states and the District of Columbia have free telephone-based support programs that will connect you to trained counselors. Call.: 800.332.8615
      • Military personnel and their families: See: offsite link
      • For answers to frequently asked questions about quit lines, see: offsite link
    • Additional tools to help you quit. See: offsite link
  • Online support groups. Ask a local hospital or the American Cancer Society: 800.227.2345 (For information about support groups, click here.)
  • Speak with your primary care doctor or your specialist about medications and other tools which are available to help break tobacco dependence. (It is likely that stop smoking drugs will be covered by your health insurance.) The most popular is nicotine replacment therapy which is sold both with and without a prescription. For instance, nicotine patches, gums, sprays, inhalers and losenges. They are all geared to helping you gradually reduce your dependence on nicotine.
  • Speak with friends or colleagues who quit smoking successfully. 
  • Check with your disease specific non-profit organization. For example, American Cancer Society has quit lines. Tel.: 800.ACS.2345 (You don't have to have cancer to take advantage of the American Cancer Society program).

According to the Surgeon General, the combination of counseling and medication is more effective than either alone. Many people also find it helpful to:

  • Have a buddy who also stops smoking and/or
  • Join a self help group or a support group of people who are also working on quitting smoking or staying smoke free.
  • Follow the advice of the American Cancer Society and pick a "quit day." On the quit day, get rid of all smoking paraphernalia; start a stop-smoking plan; stock up on whatever aids you need. Drink lots of water and juice and change any routines that possibly link to smoking.

Insurance Coverage For Helping You Quit

Medicare covers up to two attempts a year to quit smoking. If you have private health insurance, check to see what it provides about help to quit smoking. Under the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), smoking cessation services are free for people with health insurance.

  • Medicare
    • Medicare has two types of counseling: one for people who have health problems which are caused by smoking, and one for people who do not have symptoms related to tobacco but want to quit smoking.
    • For people with health problems caused by smoking:
      • Medicare pays for counseling sessions subject to a co-payment of 20 percent of the approved fee.
      • This coverage is also subject to Medicare Part B Deductibles.
    • For people with no health problems caused by smoking:
      • Medicare covers up to two attempts a year to quit smoking.  
      • Each attempt may include up to 4 counseling sessions with a qualified physician or other Medicare-recognized practitioner.  This is a total of 8 sessions in any 12 month period.
    • These preventive services are free (they are paid 100 percent by Medicare with NO co-payment  or deductible).
    • If you have Medicare Part D, prescribed antismoking drugs are covered. 
    • To learn more about Medicare, click here.
  • Private Health Insurance
    • Check to see what your policy provides about help to quit smoking. The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) requires insurance providers to cover 2  tobacco cessation attempts a year with no co-pay from patients. 
    • If there is no coverage, consider calling the company and asking a supervisor if the company would cover it. Unless you lied about smoking on an application, there is no reason not to ask. It may be particularly helpful to remind him or her that a person who doesn't smoke is less costly to the company than a person who does. You can also remind the person about the provisions in the Affordable Care Act.
    • To learn how to maximize use of your health insurance, click here.
  • Medicaid
    • The rules for Medicaid coverage vary from state to state. 
    • Check to see whether Medicaid in your state pays for smoking cessation products such as nicotine patches, inhalers, nasal sprays and drugs. If Medicaid does pay, a doctor's prescription is necessary. 
    • To learn more about Medicaid, click here.

NOTE: Some manufacturers and retailers claim that ecigarettes are healthier than normal cigarettes and can help you stop smoking. Johns Hopkins Medical advises that it is better to avoid these cigarettes until there is scientific evidence to support these claims.

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