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The impact of cigarette smoking cannot be overlooked. In fact, the FDA recognizes it as the leading cause of preventable death and illness. What’s worse is that cigarette smoking is not only detrimental to smokers themselves but also to those around them. Specifically, exposure to second and thirdhand smoke has been linked to increased biomarkers for chronic conditions like cancer and heart disease. 

With these risks in mind, countless smokers attempt to quit every year. According to the National Cancer Institute’s trend report, over 50% of all adult smokers tried to quit in 2020 alone. Unfortunately, quitting cigarettes is notoriously challenging due to the dependencies it creates. The same FDA report cited above notes that only 8% of quit attempts succeed up to a year. Since the effects of smoking only grow with time, it's even harder for long-term smokers. For these smokers to successfully kick the habit, they need to adopt specific methods that cater to their unique needs. Here are some examples:

Find stronger cigarette alternatives

It may seem tempting to go cold turkey, but this can lead to withdrawal symptoms like weight gain, headaches, and fatigue, which can encourage a relapse. This is where alternative nicotine products come in. Available in various formats, these offer controlled nicotine doses to help wean smokers off cigarettes. For long-term smokers who have a higher nicotine tolerance, though, it’s important to find alternatives specially made for them. 

Case in point, let’s look at nicotine pouches. Smokeless, tobacco-free, and discreet, these oral products come in a variety of strengths, with ZYN and On! among the most well-known. However, long-term smokers are better off trying something along the lines of White Fox nicotine pouches. Made for veterans, these pouches come with pre-activated, high-purity nicotine in strengths that go up to 30mg. As such, these pack a stronger punch for longer. Furthermore, they come in flavors like Black Edition, which synthetically mimics the smokey notes of tobacco to make the experience even more familiar. Meanwhile, smokers who need a product that’s used more similarly to cigarettes can turn to vapes. Also called e-cigarettes, these heated devices use flavored liquids to produce vapor. However, do note that vaping is not risk-free, but it does pose fewer dangers than cigarettes. Namely, they don’t include the tar and tobacco that can be toxic over time. Brands like Juul come in various strengths and have proven popular as smokers can use them to satisfy their nicotine and behavioral cravings. 

Look into bespoke therapy

Since smoking is often rooted in psychological, emotional, and social patterns, therapeutic interventions are useful to unlearn these. Far too often, though, these only offer a generalized approach that fails to account for a smoker’s nuance. These are also usually made for the average smoker and not those who’ve developed the habit for years. 

As such, it’s important for long-term smokers to find more tailored options. Two of the most common ones are cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) and mindfulness-based interventions (MBI). Customized per person, these approaches focus on understanding the reasons why a smoker turns to the habit before teaching coping mechanisms that can replace these. For instance, smokers who use cigarettes for stress relief may be taught to meditate instead. Meanwhile, a smoker who relies on the habit to relate with others may be taught how to converse sans cigarettes. Cessation research from the NIH finds that pairing CBT and MBI with other traditional quit aids can increase the chances of overall success. While private practitioners can offer CBT and MBI, Medicare cessation coverage also includes up to eight expert-led counseling sessions. These are beneficial for long-term smokers who may struggle to find and finance this treatment on their own. 

Learn to celebrate 

Because smoking is largely taboo, many smokers may experience guilt. This is compounded among long-term smokers who may feel like a failure for sticking to this habit for an extended period. Having said that, the American Cancer Society encourages smokers and their peers to celebrate every milestone. This ensures that the experience is a positive one that won’t be associated with fear or shame. If you’re going this alone, reward yourself whenever you stick to your cessation plan. This can be in the form of a coffee for every time you reach for your nicotine replacement over cigarettes or a massage every time you complete a CBT or MBI session. Meanwhile, if you’re sharing this experience with loved ones, you can celebrate whenever you hit a certain number of cigarette-free days. The idea here is not to make you dependent on incentives but rather to help maintain a healthy mindset. Over time, these rewards will only be additional perks that come on top of the ultimate prize, which is better health.

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