Would you do it if it were harmless?

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It’s a resounding “No!” from me, and yet, if you’d asked me the same question just a few years ago, my answer would have been a triumphant “Yes!” It’s quite a common question on quit-smoking forums, and it usually goes something like this: “Would you start smoking again if it were entirely harmless?” It’s an interesting proposal because it makes the person who has quit think about the potential of returning to smoking.

A large number of people, particularly those having only recently quit, respond affirmatively. I suspect that this reaction is caused by the fact that early on, quitting smoking is a chore. It takes time and energy to refrain from smoking and, therefore, the idea of finding a safe way of going back to their habit provides them with welcome relief. This may be one of the reasons why companies touting electronic cigarettes as a ‘safer’ alternative to tobacco smoking are so successful, but I digress.

What does harmless mean, anyway? No more cancer? No more COPD? No more strokes or coronary heart disease? No more asthma attacks? No other smoking-related illnesses? For a deeper look at what smoking does to your body, see this article from CDC. If smoking were harmless, all those problems would be gone, and the world would be a happier place (insert deep sigh of sarcasm here).

But, let’s pretend for the sake of argument that the potential for illnesses has successfully been eradicated. There would still be a number of other considerations, such as the expense, the tobacco tar that covers everything, the bad smell (including second-hand smoke), the butt ends and empty packs littering the streets, not to mention the slavery of it all. I’m sure I have forgotten some of the other harmful side-effects of smoking, but for me, the slavery was probably the thing that annoyed me the most. I’m a very independent person, who dislikes being controlled by anyone or anything, and yet I allowed myself to be a slave to cigarettes for over twenty-five years! To me, that was harmful behavior.

“Ah, but you asked, Would you do it if it were harmless?” This is true, so let’s get rid of the expense, the tar, the bad smells, the litter, and the slavery at the same time. What are we left with? Fresh air. It’s a resounding “Yes!” to fresh air from me, and I’ll even high-five you for it!

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Quitting vs. Having Quit!

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When some people stop smoking, they refer to it as ‘quitting.’ If offered a cigarette they may say “No thanks, I’m quitting.” Similarly, they may say that “Quitting is difficult,” or “It feels lonely when quitting.” I sometimes fall into the trap myself, saying things such as “You need to be on your guard when quitting.” However, there is something fundamentally wrong with talking this way, and I’m not just pedantic!

The reason it is wrong is because quitting smoking is an event, not a process. When you say that you are kayaking, swimming, running, jumping, solving a problem, arguing with someone, or doing whatever, the assumption is that at some point you will cease that activity. In the same way, saying that you are quitting smoking implies that quitting will end at some point! It may all seem very futile on the surface, but deeper down it can have implications because it sounds so tentative. When someone tells you they are swimming, you fully expect them to stop swimming at some point. When someone tells you they are quitting smoking, it appears as though they’re making an attempt to no longer smoke, but it’s unclear at what point that process ends. It’s not definitive enough!

To be clearer, we should refer to having quit from the point we stubbed out our last cigarette. We are not quitting. We have quit. We should say “No thanks, I quit,” “Refraining from smoking again is difficult,” “It feels lonely now that I have quit” and “You need to be on your guard after you have quit.” I emphasize this way of thinking because it reinforces the fact that the event of quitting has already passed. You have already quit! There is no endpoint in sight, no time by which you will revert to smoking, and no time or circumstance to measure when you have succeeded. You are already a success! The goal from that point onwards is to learn to live without smoking.

Just to finish off, quitting smoking is not an object either. You can lose your car keys, but you cannot lose your quit. 😀

Bored of Quitting?

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Let’s face it. Quitting smoking isn’t exactly a barrel of fun. There may be some initial excitement at the prospect of living a smoke-free life, and you may have made some plans to carry you through the first few days. There may even be times further down the road when congratulate yourself about how far you’re come from the days when you used to be an addict. But, in the meantime there is plenty of time to kill, and unless you’re well prepared, it can be easy to slip back into your old ways.

I talk about preparing to quit more than having quit because I firmly believe that preparation is the foundation for success. Very few people succeed in life without planning unless they are extremely lucky, and usually not in disciplines where a certain level of effort is required. The same is true for most people when they quit smoking. The better prepared you are, the more likely you are to be successful. Just one area in which you need to be prepared is how you will cope with boredom.

Psychologists have determined that the human being has an individual learned repertoire of coping mechanisms to combat boredom. Some of us are more skilled than others at addressing boredom, partially due to experience or circumstance and partially due to the creativity of the individual. On top of this, it has been determined that we tend to lean naturally on our learned behaviors to cope with boredom. By default, the easy way out is to resort to what we already know. This effectively means that if we get bored while quitting smoking, the easiest way to deal with the boredom would be to smoke. That is unless you have already foreseen the fact that you are very likely to be bored at times.

We all get bored from time to time, regardless of whether we smoke or not. The question you need to ask while quitting smoking is what you are going to do about it when it happens. This is particularly true in the beginning when you haven’t yet encountered the many situations where boredom is likely to set in, and you haven’t yet built a new repertoire of coping mechanisms. People often talk about ‘craving’ a cigarette. Initially, this is due to the nicotine addiction, but as time passes it becomes more of a psychological issue. Notwithstanding multiple other reasons for craving (or desiring) a cigarette, boredom is a situation that can be managed quite efficiently if you are prepared.

The first step is to understand that you may get bored. You may have nothing to do and not much interest in doing anything at that particular time. This may come about as something very short-lived such as having to wait five minutes for a bus, or something more significant such as having to stay a whole evening alone in a hotel room. Whatever the situation, it can easily lead to thoughts of filling the gap by smoking, as that would be one of your default coping mechanisms to combat boredom. To prepare for this, you need to recognize that boredom will likely happen at some stage while quitting and that it is okay to think about smoking under those circumstances. Tell yourself “I’m only thinking about smoking because I have nothing better to do right now.” Just by understanding this fact, you are more likely to succeed.

The second step is to build a set of alternate activities that can be carried out during those times when you are likely to be bored, from that five minutes at the bus stop to the five hours in the hotel room. I could list off thousands of activities for every circumstance imaginable, but I think it’s better for you to explore what suits you best. Books, puzzles, and computer games are among the favorite activities when you are alone, or participating in events with other people is always enriching. Whatever you choose to occupy yourself, be aware that it should be something you find enjoyable and not just something to do to fill time. Otherwise, that activity may bore you too! Also, try to find things that you can do in the longer term because your goal should be to build new ways of coping with boredom and not smoking. If you are at a loss for ideas, use Google to search for “100 things to do when I’m bored.”

Lastly, while building your list of activities to keep you from being bored, remember that your surroundings may dictate what you can and cannot do during those boring times. For example, you’re unlikely to be able to use your desktop computer at the bus stop and some environments may prohibit the use of mobile phones, or you may have no signal. Also, you may get temporarily bored of a certain activity, so be prepared to have a few alternatives that can be applied to the same circumstances. The key is to think ahead and be prepared for as many eventualities as you can imagine. After all, you have a lot more opportunity to control your life than the bored lion at the zoo!

Independent Review of Quit Smoking Products from The Quit Company, LLC.

Quit Tea and Quit Support

Before I begin, I would like to point out that this is an unpaid non-commercial product review, based entirely on voluntary and unbiased product testing as an individual contributor. My quit smoking philosophy has always included a strong focus on the psychological aspects of tobacco cessation, including the adoption of good habits to replace the bad ones. No single product will make you quit smoking, but some products are designed to help supplement your desire and willpower to quit. Such is the case with those I tested in this article.

I was recently offered the opportunity to evaluate a couple of quit smoking products from The Quit Company based in Greenwich, CT. The first is called Quit Tea® and the second is called Quit Support™. These products are designed to be used as quit smoking aids, particularly during the early stages of quitting. My first reaction was to make sure that they did not contain any nicotine, which they don’t. This was particularly important to me, as I’m not fond of replacing a product containing an addictive substance with another product containing the same addictive substance, except when clinically approved and used in strict accordance with the prescribed instructions. Both products from The Quit Company are labeled as an herbal supplement containing only natural ingredients, which was a great start to my assessment.

When the parcel arrived, it contained a box of twenty tea bags and a plastic medication bottle containing sixty herbal capsules. The packaging looked professional, fresh and modern, with clear labels and instructions. Each tea bag was individually wrapped in sealed plastic sachets, and the medication bottle had a tamper-proof plastic seal around the screw top. Another tick for the products’ presentation and safety.

The first product I tried was the Quit Tea, of which I gave a couple of samples to my partner. As a first impression, we thought that the taste might be too strong because of the strong spicy smell emitting from the teabag before it was used. However, this was not the case, and both of us agreed that the taste was really great. We are used to drinking herbal teas from other brands, and this one was right up there with our favorites. I could easily see myself having a few cups per day. A quick look at the ratings on Amazon confirmed my thoughts, with an overall 83% positive rating for the product from a sample of over 200 voters. That’s good going for any product, especially as some of the most negative reviews were from three years ago, whereas the tea has undergone a continuous improvement process.

Due to the fact that I quit smoking over four years ago, I cannot vouch for the tea’s effects with regard to curbing cravings. But once again, a look through the comments on Amazon clearly indicates that it helps the consumer focus on something other than smoking, which is one of the main goals. Aside from that, the tea has a definite calming effect, which is a good thing because quitting smoking makes a lot of people nervous and agitated. It says on the box that some ingredients may cause drowsiness, so use with caution. Also, the box warns against use during pregnancy or while nursing. That also makes sense.

The second product I tested was Quit Support, which comes in vegetable cellulose capsules containing a mix of finely ground herbs. At a dose of two per day, the bottle contains enough capsules for a thirty day supply. One of the listed ingredients in my sample bottle is St John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum), which is known for its calming effects on nerves and anxiety. However, it is also known to interact with prescription medications, and therefore you should consult a doctor before use. It is possible that the St John’s wort may be replaced by one or more other ingredients, as was the case with Quit Tea, but for now it does not seem to be the case.

Quit Support appears to be a newer product than Quit Tea, at least based on the ratings on Amazon, for which it currently has an outstanding 88% approval rating based on 16 customer reviews. Again, I cannot vouch for its effects on quitting smoking. However, I have been taking the capsules for several days with no noticeable side-effects.

In conclusion, I would definitely recommend trying these products as part of your quit smoking arsenal because they are professionally made from natural products, they help focus your attention on something other than smoking, and they both have good success ratings.

For more information about Quit Tea and Quit Support, please visit:

http://quittea.com

http://quit-support.com