How To Drop Your Smoking Habit

By David Baron
My patients are a highly intelligent lot. So, I’ll try not to insult you by telling you one more time about all the dangers of smoking. Because you’re so well-informed, you’d probably rather not be a smoker (if you are one). But it’s just not that simple.
Once you’ve become a regular smoker, the nicotine in tobacco has hijacked a very powerful (and extremely primitive) part of your brain often referred to as “the reward center.” It wants what it wants and it wants it now. It also happens to be responsible for some pretty mission-critical functions like breathing, eating, sex and survival. So, it drives you to keep smoking, forces your more highly evolved (but essentially weaker) cerebral cortex to make up endless excuses why you should, or must, and fights like hell to get you to smoke again when you try to stop.
You need help.
Fortunately, there are numerous resources available online. You can also call Tobacco Free California’s smoking cessation support hotline at 1-800-NO-BUTTS.
Finally, let me give you the condensed version of my advice about how you may be able to quit successfully that I believe has helped many of my patients over the years: Don’t quit. Instead, become a nonsmoker. Pick a date that’s not so far off that it’s a sham, and not so soon that it freaks you out, then put it on your calendar. On that date, you change your identity. I don’t mean your name. We each have multiple identities, some of which we’re born with (e.g., man, woman, gender neutral), some of which we earn or train for (e.g., physician, attorney, bus driver) and some of which we assume either by choice, declaration, or our actions (e.g., husband, wife, athlete).
If you are a “smoker,” you earn that identity by smoking. We go from single to married or student to graduate in a nanosecond, with a simple declaration, after having met certain requirements. In this case, for the change to be legitimate, you simply, though not easily, have to not smoke. But understand and accept that you will want to smoke for a long time after you change the behavior. Figure out some other ways you can manage those feelings; talk about them, complain about them, write about them, dance, exercise or chew gum. But don’t be hijacked by them.
And don’t tell people you’ve “quit smoking” or are “trying to quit.” Just tell them you don’t smoke anymore. You can be dying for a cigarette. But as long as you don’t smoke, you’re a lot less likely to die of lung cancer. So are those around you.

At Primary Caring of Malibu we have returned to old-fashioned style family medicine to bring our patients the executive personal care and attention they deserve. It’s not a new idea — it’s just an old concept brought up-to-date, with modern methods and technology making it even better.

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