Tips for Controlling Smoking

Vijai P. Sharma, Ph.D

"I will burn a twenty dollar bill every time before I light a cigarette." If you can make that resolution, you don't have to read the rest of this article; you have cured yourself. 

I wouldn't use any scare tactics. Every one knows the horrible statistics about heart, lungs, kidneys, and other precious organs. We, human beings, learn not to be scared of things that we really want to do. Look at the parachute jumpers, divers, mountain climbers, and other daredevils. They were once scared like the rest of us but they kept on going while some of us didn't. 

A smoker soon learns not to read the warning label. I asked a smoker who had a pet whom he loved dearly, "If you went to a store to buy food for your puppy, and the label on the food bag said, 'Warning! It is dangerous for the health of your pet. Your pet may get a lung disease, throat cancer, heart disease, etc.,' would you still buy it and feed it to your puppy?" 

The questioned smoker looked at me with a glance which said, "How could you even think a thought like that?" and snapped right back, "Of course, not!" I asked him to remember my question the next time he went to buy a pack of cigarettes, and extend himself the same compassion and care that he had for his pet. 

Sure, it helps to know what and how much smoking can harm us but an even more important question is, how much we love ourselves. I can say, "Of course! I love myself, " but the question is "Do I really, truly, care what happens to me twenty years from now. " If I care enough, I may utilize the knowledge about the harmful agents. But I do have to overcome another hurdle, "It's not going to happen to me." 
A lot of us don't think long-term. We may be more moved by what it can do to us or for us, today, or tomorrow. Pick up a note pad and write the advantages of quitting smoking. When you can write at least twenty advantages that you truly value, you are ready.

It is easier to do something when we are for something rather than when we are against something. No need to draw pictures of yellow-stained nails and teeth, tar-coated lungs and a cancer-ravaged windpipe. It is better to ask yourself to work on having a fresh taste in your mouth (when you can really taste your food), clean and healthy lungs, healthy looking skin, a strong and robust heart. Live that health dream. Work for it. Decide what you would be doing with the money you can save on smoking. 

People who come to me for help with smoking cessation are surprised when I calculate for them how much they can save in a year. One lady, after I told her what it would save her in a year, said. "Wow! I can have a two- week vacation with that kind of money. " We tend to think in terms of what we spend on smoking per day, but think in terms of the savings for a year. 

However, to have a full impact of what you save every day by not smoking, deposit that money in a piggy-bank every day. Going through the actual motions of depositing that dollar bill and/or coins has a very real feeling of accomplishing something. Put a label on your piggy-bank to say what that money is going for. It will stimulate you, every time you look at it. 

Think of having greater and greater smoking-free time. When do you light your first cigarette? Postpone lighting that first cigarette in half hour or one-hour increments. Keep on working at it, until your whole day is smoke-free. The idea of giving up smoking completely or quitting cold turkey terrifies people. Increasing half hour or one hour at a time to your "clean" morning, afternoon, and evening is less painful. 
Likewise, expand the "clean" space area at work and at home. Gradually come to one specific area where you smoke, at work, and at home. Make the bedroom and dining area particularly smoke free. 

Some people think they don't have the will-power to quit smoking. I want to assure them that they do have will power. They are not using it for quitting smoking but for doing what they want to do even more, which is to smoke. This may appear rather perplexing, but often, there are very powerful forces, sheer habit, influence of idols and models, social life, tension-release, etc. which compel us toward smoking, so we are likely to resist our own attempts for not smoking. 

Make a list of why you should not quit smoking. Before you begin, you should at least intellectually be able to dismiss all those points. Also, you know that you do control your smoking in certain situations, such as wedding, worship, funeral, lecture, making love, etc. So when you get an urge for smoking, picture yourself in the smoke free situation of your choice. If it is a pleasant situation, fantasize and enjoy reliving it rather than lighting that cigarette.

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Copyright 1996, Mind Publications 


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