The New Year is resolution time and once again many smokers have resolved to give up their cigarette habit. Although nearly three out of four smokers say they would like to quit, only 2.5 percent will actually succeed. Experts say that quitting is harder nowadays than in years past, but there are also new resources that can make keeping that New Year's resolution easier.
"Smoking is the worst thing in the world. Don't smoke. If you do smoke, quit," says veteran TV, stage and film actor Jack Klugman. Klugman lit up his first cigarette when he was a teenager, and continued to smoke for 40 years. He paid a high price: in 1974, he was diagnosed with invasive throat cancer. "It cost me my voice," he says. "When I had cancer and went to see my doctor, he said that smoking is the whole cause. That's the reason they removed my vocal cord and that's why I sound as bad as I do."
And that's why he says quitting is the most important resolution smokers can make as 2006 begins. Smoking cessation expert Jack Henningfield agrees. However, he says quitting smoking has become more difficult than ever. "The first thing is that the cigarette itself is highly addictive," he says. "It delivers a lot of chemicals - including nicotine - that cause addiction. Secondly, it's manufactured in a way to make it even more addictive than, say, an old-fashioned cigarette. Then, for a person trying to quit smoking, we live in a stressful world with a lot going on. And all of those things make it much more difficult."
And quitting smoking requires more than a New Year's resolution. Henningfield says smokers must have a plan. "If you are going to do a cross-country trip, you would plan, you would have a road map," he says. "You would be prepared and you would have resources. That's the most important thing. You set a date. You make a plan. The plan should be based on your own experience. It's really helpful to get help in making your plan. The National Institutes of Health has a wonderful web site, www.smokefree.gov. You can go to the consumer-friendly website that I like, which is www.quit.com."
Along with turning to resources like the Internet, Henningfield recommends that smokers who decide to kick the habit also seek help and support from their family and friends. "What we are learning is that you should talk to your family and friends and say, 'Look, I'm going to quit on such and such date. I need your help," he says. "This is what will help and this is what will hurt.' That makes all the difference in the world."
But before asking others for their support, Hal Urban, author of Choices That Change Lives, says smokers must ask themselves a question: do they have the will to quit? "The most important thing, I think, is that you have to really want to change this habit," he says, "because if other people are pressuring you to stop smoking, and you don't really feel the need, then it's probably not going to happen."
Urban says the new year is a good time not only for resolving to quit bad habits like smoking, but to focus on improving one's life in other ways. "I think a certain amount of self-reflection is good," he says. "I think we need to evaluate where we are in life, what could be better, what changes we need to make. I tend to call them New Year's goals rather than New Year's resolutions. For several years, I have been writing down a number of goals - things that I want to achieve in that particular year."
The author and inspirational speaker says his New Year's list of goals usually motivates him all year long. "Some of the goals I write every year are what I call personal development goals," he says. "Like, for instance, I want to remind myself each day that I'm free to choose my own attitude no matter what the circumstances are. I want to continue to work on patience. There are a couple of things that I don't want to do. I don't want to talk badly about another person and so every year, I write that down as one of my goals."
Urban says New Year's resolutions can really change our lives for the better if we take them seriously. But he says quitting long-time bad habits, like smoking, is not just a resolution. It's a process. So he suggests listing 'quit smoking' as a new year's goal even after putting out that final cigarette. It's what he calls a maintenance goal.