“What are your thoughts on quitting at this time?” is a question I’ve asked perhaps more than any other since beginning work within the tobacco reduction field.
Tobacco Treatment Specialists (TTS) are trained to screen people who use(d) some form of commercial tobacco to determine their readiness to quit and interest in working within a tobacco reduction program. Within the clinics and other organizations that house these programs throughout MIchigan, additional staff are also trained to screen and refer individuals interested in reducing their tobacco use to the TTS. If someone is not ready, the conversation is paused and put off until a follow up screening can occur. If the individual indicates readiness to quit, or interest in working with a tobacco treatment professional, they are referred on to develop their own quit plan.
In a perfect world, readiness to quit would always strengthen and lead to a successful cessation of commercial tobacco use. Individuals would overcome cravings and urges to smoke without challenges to their motivation, and they would never have to deal with the question of “am I truly ready to quit?” In reality, tobacco cessation is often a non-linear process where motivation to quit increases and decreases depending on the day, hour, and even minute. It’s not uncommon for people to be ready to quit one day, and never want to even think about quitting the next. In a society that still struggles with stigmatizing those who use commercial tobacco products, not being ready to quit can feel embarrassing. This feeling of embarrassment can often lead to people feeling pressured to quit, whether they truly are or not.
Here are three reasons why it’s OK to not be ready to quit your commercial tobacco use.
1. Quitting is Challenging
Quitting smoking is challenging two reasons:
Neither is an easy feat and can be intimidating for anyone looking to reduce, whether they have previous quit experience or not. Determining where to start and how to counter cravings or urges to smoke can alter confidence in one’s ability to quit. Though both can be dealt with successfully in the short and long term, it’s okay if the challenge seems daunting at the time being.
2. Only You Can Determine How to Quit
The most important part in developing any quit plan is to know that only YOU can determine how you are going to quit. No outside person whether it be a TTS, a doctor, a case worker, or a loved one can tell you the best way for you to quit. Whether they have successful quitting experience or not, we know that there is no guaranteed way for all people to quit, and that anyone who uses commercial tobacco will have to plan ways to cope with their specific challenges.
3. It’s NEVER Too Late to Quit
Whether you’ve quit before or not. Whether you’re 22 or 72. Whether you smoke half of a pack per day or two packs per day. Whether your entire family smokes, or no one in your family smokes. The best thing about trying to quit commercial tobacco products is that each new day is always another opportunity to quit or to think about quitting.
Many question what the point of quitting late in life is, especially if they feel they won’t enjoy the long term benefits of quitting as long as someone who quit in their 20s/30s/40s/50s would. But there are short term benefits that one can experience almost immediately and throughout the first year of being quit including:
- Within minutes, your heart rate will drop
- Within the first few hours to the first few days, the level of carbon monoxide in the body will drop to that of someone who does not use tobacco
- Within the first few weeks, circulation may improve
- In as little as one month, coughing and shortness of breath will decrease
- Within several months, lung function will improve
- In the first 1-2 years, the risk of a heart attack will drop
How Can I Build Readiness to Quit?
Even if one is not currently ready to quit, you might still know that you would like to quit someday. But how does one build readiness to quit? There are various ways to build both motivation and readiness to quit including:
- Explore new resources – look into options previously unused. Quit medications, Quitlines, online resources, support groups, or tobacco treatment programs can all be a great place to start.
- Consider the benefits that you will experience – both short and long term, write down all the positives you might experience when quitting.
- AND the benefits that are most important to you – highlight the benefits that are most important to you. These will build motivation to and interest in quitting more than a general list will.
- Find support or program options – whether in support groups, healthcare settings, or amongst friends and other loved ones, think about where you will find support and who you can count on.
- Review what worked for you, what might work for you, and what you think won’t work for you when quitting – if you have experience in quitting, you might have concerns about your ability to quit successfully long term. But previous quitting experience can be helpful in determining what has previously worked and what hasn’t, which sets you up at a great starting place. Make a list of what’s been helpful previously in craving management, and other options that may be helpful to explore this time.
- Try a practice quit day – pick one day, or even a half of a day, and try to go without tobacco. This will give you a better idea of what you might need to be prepared for and allow confidence to build in small successes.
Quitting commercial tobacco use can be intimidating, and though many people who use tobacco products want to quit, many are unsure of whether they’re ready or not. It’s not uncommon for people to feel pressured into quitting, whether it be by family, friends, health care providers, or even society at large. But it is okay to not be ready to quit commercial tobacco, it’s even okay to be unsure of whether you’ll ever be ready to quit. Just know that when you are ready, or if you think you might be ready, there are resources and support options available to help make it happen.
Think you might be ready to quit or just want to know more about options?
Contact our team for more information:
Tobacco Treatment Coordinator