Giving up cigarettes for good
Advice from a recent quitter
Here is guidance from UC Davis Health System's tobacco cessation specialist, Cari Shulkin, on how to increase your chances of success at quitting smoking.
1. Get ready. Set a quit date and remove all cigarettes, ashtrays and lighters from your environment on that day.
2. Get support. Call 1-800-NOBUTTS, talk to your health-care provider and tell family, friends and coworkers. All of these resources are part of your quit team.
3. Learn new skills and behaviors. Start before you quit by changing smoking-related behaviors such as where and when you smoke. Once you quit, distract yourself from urges to smoke by going for walks, talking with friends, getting busy with tasks or drinking water.
4. Get tobacco cessation medication. Your health-care provider can prescribe medication that can double your chances of success.
5. Be prepared for relapse and difficult situations that can trigger relapse, especially during the first three months. Avoid alcohol and other smokers, reduce stress, have a plan to avoid weight gain, be aware of “bad moods” or depression, and join a smoke-free support group.
Cynthia Pineiro smoked on and off for 30 years. She started in her 20s, primarily to help relieve stress and because her husband smoked. She stopped while pregnant and when her children were small, but eventually started again.
“Once you’ve had nicotine, your brain never forgets it and always wants it,” said Pineiro, who works in the front office of the pediatric clinic at the UC Davis Medical Group site in Auburn. “It’s not a habit, it’s an addiction. And quitting has been the hardest thing I’ve ever done.”
Cynthia and her husband recently quit smoking together with help from a tobacco-cessation program offered to UC Davis Health System staff and patients. Led by nurse and educator Cari Shulkin from Health Management and Education, the program involves an “arsenal of support,” including medication, nicotine replacement therapy such as patches and gum, counseling and education.
“It’s never easy to quit, but this comprehensive, evidence-based approach makes it possible,” said Shulkin.
Pineiro was inspired this time to quit by her children, who want her to be part of her grandchildren’s lives for a very long time. The turning point keeping her motivated occurred when she watched herself in a mirror as she smoked, which is part of Shulkin’s program.
“It was not pretty,” she said. “I looked desperate. At that point, I could see what smoking was doing to me.”
Getting her life back
After completing the four-week program, Pineiro is “happy to be getting her life back” and feeling better every day. She worries that her grandchildren or children may one day try cigarettes or another form of tobacco — like hookahs or chewing tobacco — that are becoming popular with youth who might think cigarette alternatives are less dangerous than their parents or grandparents’ tobacco.
“Trust me, I’ll be there to tell them, ‘Don’t do it. Don’t test the waters. Don’t pretend it isn’t smoking.’ Once your mind tastes nicotine, it can never let go,” she said.
For more information about smoking cessation programs for patients and staff at UC Davis, call Health Management and Education at
916-734-0718 or Cari Shulkin at 916-734-8493, or visit the program website at www.chronicdisease.ucdavis.edu.