Advance with MUSC Health

Quitting Smoking? Here are 7 Things You Need to Know Now

Advance With MUSC Health
January 03, 2023
Person breaking a cigarette in half.

The goal to stop smoking ranks at the top for New Year’s resolutions, and it’s also a goal that can burn out quickly without a concrete plan in place. Stopping smoking can be hard, but it’s possible with a quit plan.

“Seeing quitting as a resolution can be defeating,” says Emily Ware, Pharm.D., a clinical pharmacy specialist who assists smokers in quitting. “Tobacco treatment is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s not going to happen overnight. You’ll need more than the month of January because quitting for most people is a slow and steady race, one that requires ongoing work.”

It's helpful to see it as a beginning, a goal with a start date of January 1 then continuing for a year, says Benjamin Toll, Ph.D., director of MUSC Health Tobacco Treatment Program and professor of Public Health Sciences and Psychiatry.

Treatment is the same for stopping vaping. “Vaping is a tobacco product, and preliminary evidence shows that tobacco cessation treatments work,” says Toll. 

The New Year is a great time to start, so prepare to quit tobacco products for good in 2023 by putting a plan in place. And remember that while a new beginning on the first day of the year is part of an ideal plan, any plan to quit in 2023 is a good one, regardless of whether you quit today, tomorrow or even later this month.  

Steps to Prepare

Take these steps leading up to your official Quit Date:

  • Ready your environment by scanning your house and workplace. Remove ashtrays, cigarettes, matches and lighters. If household members or coworkers smoke, share your plan to quit.

  • Quit-smoking medicines can help. Talk to your PCP and pharmacist to learn about over-the-counter medicines and prescription medicines to help you quit. Schedule needed appointments now, so medicines are ready before your quit date.

  • Consider a treatment program. The MUSC Tobacco Treatment Program accepts all patients. “We welcome and accept all people in South Carolina who are interested in quitting,” says Ware. In-person and virtual, remote treatment options are available. “We help treat tobacco users across the state, with counselors available in our regional health centers in Florence, Marion and Black River, Lancaste and Chester territories, and virtual visits for the Midlands.”

  • Limit or stop drinking alcohol. “You are more likely to use tobacco if you’re drinking,” says Toll. He suggests not drinking for the first two to four weeks after your quit date.

  • Set up a support system. Find a friend who’s trying to stop smoking and make a check-in plan. Seek out friends who are non-smokers. At parties or gatherings, expect to be triggered when you see smokers outside. Arrange to stay close to a buddy and find another activity. Hand and mouth distractors, such as straws, toothpicks, party horns and cinnamon sticks can help.

  • List your motivations and benefits. Know your reasons. Write down why you want to quit: for your health, your family, to save money. You might have an upcoming trip or event as a goal. Use reminders and sticky notes. “It can be hard to stay motivated by week seven or eight,” says Toll. “Keep reminding yourself of the benefits. Some patients keep their lists on their phone.”

  • Plan for stumbles, says Toll. You’re climbing a mountain. You may fall and stumble, but the important thing is you stand back and move forward. “It’s OK to stumble as long as you keep going in a good direction,” he says. “It’s OK to feel disappointed but keep going.”

“Quitting is a big goal,” says Ware. “There’s usually a trial-and-error period — you might not get the equation correct right from the start. But if you keep trying and learning, the next time will likely be even more successful.”

The MUSC Health Tobacco Treatment Program offers pharmacotherapy, counseling services and programs, and ongoing coping skills for smoking cessation. Call 843-792-9101 or email to learn more.