Support Key When Deciding to Kick Smoking Habit

When it comes to being healthy, Wisconsin residents don’t fare too well. We lead the nation when it comes to binge drinking and have a high percentage of residents who are overweight. The state is also home to many smokers – an estimated 20 percent of state residents smoke, according to a 2011 survey by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

Among those smokers, an estimated 70 percent want to kick a habit. But as any smoker can tell you, quitting is no easy task. But it’s something you can do.

Before talking about how to quit, let me quickly review why you need to quit: Smoking is an unhealthy habit. Smoking not only causes lung cancer and chronic lung disease, it also raises your risk of heart disease and stroke. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Smoking has also been linked to eye problems, decreased bone density and other types of cancer besides the lungs.

Once you’ve decided to quit, the first thing to do is spread the word. Studies have shown that smokers who have support while they’re trying to quit are the most successful. These supporters can help keep you busy on those first few days with activities so you don’t have too much time to dwell on smoking. They can also help you when you’re feeling weak by offering encouragement. When you decide to quit, please tell your physician. If needed, he or she can provide you with a prescription to help with the nicotine withdrawal. Medical providers also have access to resources you can tap into while trying to quit.

It’s also essential to change your habits. Let’s say you always have a cigarette on your break at work. Instead, come up with something else to do with that time – maybe find a partner and take a quick walk. You need to replace your unhealthy habit with a healthier one. Some people say they like to have something in their mouth so try gum or sucking on a lollypop. Need something in your hand? Try holding a pencil. Try to stay away from activities that you normally associate with smoking – it’s easier to quit without those environmental triggers tempting you.

Some other tips to help:

  • Hang out with other non-smokers or places where you can’t smoke. Again, by changing your surroundings, you can help break those mental triggers telling you to light up. Quitting smoking is not only about fighting the nicotine addiction, but also about changing your habits.
  • Focus on the benefits of not smoking. Your health will improve and you’ll save money (smoking is an expensive habit).
  • Don’t give up! It may take people a couple of times of quitting before it finally kicking the habit for good.

Quitting smoking is one of the hardest things to do, but making the change will make a huge difference in your health.

Scott Schuldes is a certified family nurse practitioner and associate medical director at ThedaCare Physicians-Hilbert. He can be reached at

Time to quit?

The Wisconsin Tobacco Quit Line offers a single access point to help people looking to quit smoking. Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (784-8669) to get free counseling and access to support materials. The Quit Line also has information for families of smokers, who are looking to help their loved ones quit.