Advance with MUSC Health

Tobacco & the Holidays

Demetress Adams-Ludd
December 01, 2021
Demetress Adams-Ludd, MUSC Health Tobacco Treatment Specialist

Family and friends gathering, delicious food, cozy sweaters, sappy memories- oh, the joyous holiday season is here! With a few weeks away, the end of the year festivities rounds out 2021. As a tobacco user, the holidays can feel a lot different. The anxiety of relapse is frightening. The holiday season can seem like another daunting task. Tobacco users are consistently planning where to smoke or even how to remove the smell of smoke in the home, car, and clothes, especially if interacting with others. Take a deep breath. I want to help by giving you five tips to ease worries and motivate you on the tobacco-free journey.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reports tobacco use remains the leading preventable cause of disease and death in the United States and leads to more than 480,000 deaths each year. Smoking harms nearly every organ in the body and leads to premature death. Within 30 minutes of smoking a cigarette, your heart rate and pulse drop to a normal level, according to the American Cancer Society. The day after quitting smoking, carbon monoxide levels move to a normal range which is beneficial in removing toxic chemicals from your body. As eye-opening as these statistics are, the holidays don’t stop. In the same respect, the decision to live a tobacco-free life shouldn’t stop either.

Tip #1:

Get ready to quit (or stay quit). One tip to get prepared to quit is to gather as much information as possible. Use tools such as Google to research tips and effective methods to stop and remain smoke-free. As a word of caution, every website is not reputable. Be careful when selecting information. If the data isn’t supported by the Centers for Disease Control, American Cancer Society, or another state/nationally recognized organization, proceed with caution. Get rid of temptation. Don’t leave ashtrays, lighters, or tobacco packets in view to test your already short patience. Put them away. Remember: out of sight, out of mind. Think about what you learned from past quit attempts. There is terrific information from past quit attempts. Save and implement meaningful techniques, adjust and then improve methods that were not as successful.

Tip #2:

Use support. Quitting is a very personal experience, but you are not alone. Family and friend support can be beneficial. Also, organizations like 1-800-Quit Now,, Become an Ex, the American Cancer Society, and the MUSC Health Tobacco Treatment Program are readily available to support you!

Tip #3:

Use medications. Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) is a medically approved method to treat people with tobacco use disorder by getting nicotine into the bloodstream by means other than smoking. NRT stops or reduces the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal. There are five types of NRT which can be purchased over-the-counter at a local pharmacy or prescribed by a physician. Those five NRTs are nicotine patches, gum, lozenges, nasal sprays, and inhalers. Which NRT to use is a personal preference. For all products, read the manufacturer's instructions on the package for detailed advice on each type of NRT, or seek advice from a pharmacist, doctor, or nurse.

Tip #4:

Learn new skills. Plan ways to distract yourself. Strategically keep items nearby to hold and assist with the habit of having a cigarette in your hand. Participate in fun activities. Be prepared to manage withdrawal symptoms such as dry mouth, irritability, disrupted sleep patterns, increased cough, and constipation. For smokeless tobacco users, incorporating lozenges or sugar-free candy can assist with hand-to-mouth fixation.

Tip #5:

Be prepared for a relapse or difficult situations. Find new ways to handle stress or calm nerves. Consider mindfulness practices like yoga and meditation. A hot bath with a book or biweekly massages are just some examples of incorporating a stress-free approach. Limit or monitor your use of triggers. With social gatherings, surrounding yourself with the smoking crowd can really test your triggers. This year separate yourself from social environments with smoking to lessen triggers. If you are hosting a gathering, create a smoke-free zone in the home. Hint: smoke-free zones can be in the car. Not smoking in the car can be especially helpful on road trips. Most importantly, if you slip, don’t beat yourself up. It can take several attempts for a tobacco user to stop using tobacco completely. If you or a loved one are among the 34 million U.S. adults who smoke and want to quit, there are resources to help.

Demetress Adams-Ludd, LMSW is a tobacco treatment specialist at MUSC Health Florence and Marion Medical Centers. For more information about the MUSC Health Tobacco Treatment Program please call 843-792-1414, or 843-792-9101 for an appointment or visit the MUSC Health Tobacco Treatment Program.

*This article originally appeared on