A fresh start to a new year | Kitsap Week

Tips on quitting smoking, a common yet difficult New Year's resolution.

It’s a new year, and with it comes a new round of resolutions made to improve life, health, spirit and more.

From blogs to news articles, snuffing out a smoking habit is among the most common resolutions listed each year. The Center for Disease Control even has a website dedicated solely to 2015 quitters. Yet quitting smoking is one of the hardest annual goals for addicts to achieve.

“I would say (I’ve quit) probably six to eight times over the last 14 years,” said Jennie Morello.

Morello, of Bremerton, knows the challenges that quitting smoking poses. With family members who are smokers and years fueling the habit, quitting is no easy feat. Her current attempt began on Nov. 18. While the new year wasn’t the trailhead for Morello’s quitting, many other smokers will embark on the same path at the start of 2015.

“I knew my challenge was long-term cessation,” she said. “Quitting was easy enough, it was staying quit.”

“Everything I did revolved around my habit and when my next one was,” Morello said. “I would say each time, quitting has gotten easier. I focus on the small wins and improvements, I talk about them and share them to reinforce me making better decisions.”

It’s that back and forth between quitting and smoking that experts caution against. While it may take a few attempts, try not to getting discouraged.

“We often tell smokers ‘you had to learn how to smoke and you have to learn how to quit,’” said Bill Blatt with the American Lung Association.

“We believe that tobacco addiction has physical, mental and social components and that each person needs to address all three in order to be successful,” he said. “It often takes several tries before a tobacco user learns the right combination of techniques for him or her to overcome their addiction.”

For example, Blatt said, if nicotine patches  aren’t working for a quitter, then maybe a different medication should be attempted.

Even when a good quitting aid is found, it’s just as important to use it correctly.

“Use enough of it and use it long enough,” Blatt said. “Nicotine gum, for instance, isn’t chewed like regular gum so people should follow the package instructions to make sure they’re receiving the intended dose. People often use far less of the medication than directed.”

“Finally, they need to use the medication long enough — two weeks probably won’t be enough,” he added. “It could take six, eight or even 10 weeks until someone has overcome enough risks of relapse to discontinue their nicotine medication.”

Risks such as stress or smoking triggers, Blatt said. In the end, it’s about learning each little aspect of daily life that smoking has become a part of, and planning around it. For Morello, quitting techniques, stress and habits has come down to forming the right mentality.

“I set myself up to succeed as much as I possibly could,” she said. “I got a few packs of my favorite gum, I rented a few books, I downloaded new music playlists, I got rid of all my cigarette associated things and started walking my dogs more. I knew what was going to be my challenges and I was ready to face them, because I really and truly was done.”

While patches, gum and quit-smoking pills work well for other quitters, Morello did not find success with them.

“I knew when I did it cold turkey I was the most successful, so that was my method this time,” she said.

Morello has also found strength in Facebook groups for quitters.

Morello will enter 2015 with nearly two months behind her, smoke free.

“I felt like I had been sitting, watching my life go by and then I’ve been released to finally go live it,” Morello said. “I felt like I was walking around with a dirty, smelly blanket wrapped around me, making me unhealthy and sucking my energy, dragging me down, taking all the fun out of playing. Then when I decided to quit, it was a feeling of slowly becoming cleaner, and better, bit by bit, day by day. Then I no longer was wrapped in something dirty, I was fresh and clean.”

“I could breath deep, and run after my daughter,” she said. “We could play and have fun. I had more time to care for my home and play with my family.”

Tips from the American Lung Association

The American Lung Association provided five tips for smokers trying to quit for the new year. See this advice, and more, online at www.lung.org.

1. Start early. The earlier a smoker quits, the sooner they can reap the benefits such as a healthier body and more money saved from cigarette purchases.

2. Many smokers have tried and failed to quit before. It is important not to become discouraged by past attempts and to learn from them.

3. Don’t quit alone. Tell friends and family and use their support.

3. Medication can help, such as gum and patches, but it is important to use them correctly.

5. Always bear in mind that every smoker can quit. It is just a matter of finding the right combination of techniques to do so.

The American Lung Association has a wealth of assistance and information online. It also has a smoking cessation phone line to help answer quitting questions at 1-800-LUNGUSA