Approximately 30.8 million adults in the United States alone smoke cigarettes, with 16 million of them living with smoking-related health issues. Many individuals are aware of these health risks and want to quit smoking, but get discouraged after multiple, failed attempts. Recommendations from medical experts help individuals understand the health risks of smoking, but a powerful tip from a former smoker can be the key to sticking with smoking cessation. To this end, the CDC created a successful campaign called Tips From Former Smokers with this message in mind. In the campaign, individuals who have faced the painful consequences of smoking offer their most important pieces of advice to those trying to quit. And even though this campaign has not been active since 2018, these and many other recommendations for quitting smoking are still available to the public, along with several supportive resources.
Read on to learn more about the Tips From Former Smokers campaign by the CDC. Then learn about making a plan to quit smoking, backed by recommendations from participants of the campaign.
Tips From Former Smokers (Tips) is a public health campaign created by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and promoted in recent years. The campaign used video stories from real former smokers, informational pages on the CDC website, and advertisements to educate the public about the dangers of smoking and encourage individuals to quit. The CDC estimates that this campaign influenced 16 million people to attempt quitting smoking, with 1 million successfully quitting. While the campaign is no longer actively running, videos and website information are still available.
The CDC indicates that personalized public health campaigns with a more serious tone and direct approach can make a difference. Individuals who told their stories were upfront about the severe health consequences they experienced, and they each shared one essential tip for those considering quitting smoking. They recommended that individuals:
Smoking cessation comes with its challenges, but the process can be less stressful when approached with a smoking cessation plan. Individuals can prepare themselves by choosing a two-week timeframe where they have few scheduled demands and can limit temptations to smoke. Individuals can acquire quit aids ahead of this timeframe, such as medications or signing up for a support program. These and other strategies can help individuals manage the ups and downs of nicotine withdrawal.
While many smokers believe willpower is sufficient for quitting smoking, more is needed to combat the powerfully addictive effects of nicotine. Quitting smoking is not an easy journey; individuals often question whether they can resist the cravings and keep going. Keeping one’s motivation front and center can provide additional leverage to push through the toughest moments.
Support from friends and family is essential for quitting smoking successfully. Individuals can hold themselves accountable and get needed encouragement by telling others about their plans to quit smoking. Individuals can feel encouraged and less isolated by connecting with other smokers trying to quit.
1-800-QUIT-NOW is a phone support line for smoking cessation called a quitline. Individuals can access the quitline for their state and speak to a trained coach who can connect them with resources in their local area, listen to their concerns, and answer questions.
Adults 18 and over can sign up to receive messages offering evidence-based support and information about quitting smoking from the National Texting Portal. Service is free and tailored to a caller’s local area.
Nicotine withdrawal symptoms are often the most uncomfortable during the first week of quitting. These symptoms can be surprisingly intense, especially for individuals quitting smoking for the first time. Individuals who struggle with symptoms often begin smoking again to feel better.
These symptoms occur because of how the body adapts to the chronic presence of nicotine. It is a stimulant that affects many bodily activities, increasing mental alertness, suppressing appetite, impacting sleep regulation, and interfering with the absorption of caffeine. Over time, nicotine becomes necessary for normal activity, causing a strong and disruptive reaction when nicotine levels begin to drop. Withdrawal symptoms begin to peak by the third day and last for about another week, ushering in the most challenging period for an individual trying to quit smoking. By the second week, symptoms begin to improve, and some of the benefits of not smoking emerge.
While coping with these symptoms can still be challenging, understanding what to expect can help. Each individual has a unique response to withdrawal, typically experiencing some or all of the following symptoms:
Nicotine withdrawal is the physical and psychological response that occurs when nicotine leaves an individual’s body. Symptom management is key to enduring the first several days of quitting smoking.
FDA-approved smoking cessation medications are recommended and effective for individuals quitting smoking. They may be used as a standalone intervention or combined with other treatments. These medications include bupropion (antidepressant), varenicline (smoking cessation aid), and nicotine replacement therapy treatments in the form of gum, patches, and nasal sprays. They help the body manage the physical withdrawal symptoms so the individual can better cope with the emotional, psychological, and behavioral aspects of quitting.
A behavioral counseling approach called motivational interviewing was initially designed for alcohol addiction treatment, but it is also well-suited for individuals trying to quit smoking. This technique provides support and guidance to individuals as they address ambivalence about making change. In counseling sessions, individuals learn practical methods for identifying and avoiding triggers, coping with cravings, and managing withdrawal symptoms. This mental preparation helps individuals become more proactive about managing withdrawal symptoms and increase their odds of quitting smoking. Evidence also shows that behavioral counseling and smoking cessation medications create a significantly effective combination.
Deep transcranial magnetic stimulation (Deep TMS) is an FDA-cleared, evidence-based intervention for short-term smoking cessation. Some individuals may have mild discomforts, such as a brief headache during the first session. But Deep TMS is noninvasive, safe, and has no long-term adverse effects.
Magnetic coils embedded in a cushioned helmet deliver electromagnetic pulses to brain structures associated with addiction. These pulses stimulate neurons deep within the brain, helping stabilize and regulate their activity. Deep TMS is clinically proven to be effective for helping individuals who have attempted to quit smoking multiple times, significantly reducing cravings and the average number of cigarettes smoked per week.
When individuals are trying to build up the courage to quit smoking, tips from ex-smokers can give them the nudge they need to move forward. But quitting smoking is not easily done on a whim. With guidance from professionals and tips from former smokers, individuals can create a plan to help them get through the most challenging days of getting smoking, knowing their efforts can pay off in the end.