Talking FACS

Talking FACS header image 1

Your Year to QUIT. . . Smoking!

January 7, 2019

Host:  Dr. Jennifer Hunter, Assistant Director for Family and Consumer Sciences Extension, University of Kentucky

Guest: Alex Elswick, Extension Specialist for Substance Use Prevention and Recovery

O:00 Welcome to Talking FACS; what you need to know about family, food, finance and fitness. Hosted by the University of Kentucky Family and Consumer Sciences Extension Program, our educators share research knowledge with individuals, families and communities to improve quality of life.

0:20 Dr. Jennifer Hunter: Hello and welcome back to talking FACS. This is your host, Dr. Jennifer Hunter, Assistant Director for Family Consumer Sciences Extension with the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment.

Today, I'm joined by Alex Elswick, our subject matter specialist for substance abuse, prevention and recovery. And today, we're focused on New Year's resolutions and the idea of quitting smoking in the New Year. Thanks for joining us, Alex.

0:48 Alex Elswick: Thanks for having me.

0:50 Dr. Jennifer Hunter: So, I think as we have entered into the new year that often individuals set New Year's resolutions; if it's weight loss, a diet, financial goals, saving additional money and then quitting smoking typically tops the list of New Year's resolutions. And so, I appreciate you joining us today to share tips about how individuals could successfully meet their resolution to stop smoking.

1:15 Alex Elswick: I think if you were to list the most common New Year's resolutions you probably just touched on it.

1:21 Dr. Jennifer Hunter: That's what I was thinking. That losing weight, saving money and stop smoking.

1:25 Alex Elswick: And probably, those three are more connected to our health and overall well-being than anything else; particularly smoking, if a person is smoking.

1:34 Dr. Jennifer Hunter: And often, when we talk about the behaviors or what it is that is behind maybe over eating or overspending or smoking that they're very, very similar behaviors that they just present in different individuals differently.

So, I do think that it's very unique of how closely those three topics are very much linked.

1:53 Alex Elswick: And in some ways, the tips that we would give to help people budget we'll see some similarities to the tips we would give to people stop smoking. That sounds strange to say, but for instance, one of the first things we recommend before a person even begins to try their actual quit is to journal the cigarettes that they smoke.

So, I would tell someone, “Go ahead and smoke as you would normally, but every cigarette you smoke, write down what time of day and why you think you're smoking that cigarette”.

2:23 Dr. Jennifer Hunter: Which makes you very aware. Then you're mindfully smoking. The same as we talk about mindfully spending or mindfully eating.

2:30 Alex Elswick: That's exactly right. So, you may still be doing the behavior, but now you're fully aware of what you're doing. Because for some people, they may smoke the first thing in the morning because they're having a nicotine craving because they've gone 10 hours of sleep without smoking– without taking in nicotine.

But then the next cigarette may be simply because they got in the car or go to work. So, it may not really be a craving. It may be one that's easily replaced with a stick of gum or something like that.

So, like you’ve said, a person can journal and they can get to become more aware of all the cigarettes they smoke. And then you can pick all the low hanging fruit; which are the cigarettes that I can most easily give up.

3:03 Dr. Jennifer Hunter: The easy ones to give up.

3:05 Alex Elswick: Absolutely. So, you can do things like that's where chewing a piece of gum or using bendy straws.

3:12 Dr. Jennifer Hunter: Okay. That you would give a kid?

3:14 Alex Elswick: Absolutely. A lot of people, part of what they're satisfying with smoking is a sort of hand-to-mouth behavior. In addition, to the nicotine is just sort of the action or the behavior. And so, just chewing on a bendy straw can give a person a sort of distraction as they're trying to quit.

3:30 Dr. Jennifer Hunter: So, that's one that I've never heard before. But interesting and easy and cheap and easily accessible.

3:37 Alex Elswick: You may be surprised to know that in a lot of the quit kits that like the health department will give out will oftentimes have straws in there for people to chew on; toothpicks. In particular, cinnamon gum. There's something about the strength of the cinnamon flavor that's really useful to try to curb a craving.

So, one of the things we recommend when a person experiences a craving is that they have some sort of a sensory experience to take their mind off of the craving.

So, that could be being active; get up and go, walk around the block one time. I know some folks who will take chili peppers and chew a chili pepper.

4:13 Dr. Jennifer Hunter: Oh, that seems a little extreme to me. Oh, wow.

4:15 Alex Elswick: So, it's just a distraction, but it's effective.

4:15 Dr. Jennifer Hunter: Okay.

4:17 Alex Elswick: It could be cinnamon gum, it could be the twisty straws, things like that.

4:22 Dr. Jennifer Hunter: Okay. So, I think that that seems just a really easy way to, like you say, have something in your mouth and just be compensating for that mouth feel; that expectation that your mouth has.

Are there other tips; what's the next step that once you've kind of picked off the low hanging fruit, maybe identified “I've really just smoked that cigarette because I was bored or that I was walking from one building to the other building at work and the time was available”. What would be our next step?

4:50 Alex Elswick: So, yeah. So, we've done our journal, we're aware of why we smoke when we smoke. We've picked off the low hanging fruit. Now the cigarettes that we're still smoking throughout the day we’re probably smoking because of nicotine cravings– because of a legitimate nicotine addiction.

So, the next thing we recommend is to pick a start date. And that seems obvious, but there's something important about preparing yourself so that it doesn't sneak up on you, “This is the day I'm going to quit” and you can sort of try to emotionally prepare yourself for that.

That's one of the reasons that a New Year's resolutions sort of make sense for quitting smoking, because it's a definitive date, “January the first, I'm done smoking”.

So, you pick your quit date and then when you get started, you may want to put together a quick kit like I mentioned.

5:32 Dr. Jennifer Hunter: Okay.

5:33 Alex Elswick: So, you want to have things like straws or toothpicks, maybe stress ball, a squeeze ball to distract your hands. You may want to have gum and then certainly, you may want to use what are called NRT’s, which is Nicotine Replacement Therapies.

So, the health department offers Nicorette or Nicotine Gum and nicotine patches for free or at a very low cost. You can get those at the health department. And it can be a really effective way to help you step down and mitigate those nicotine withdrawals.

6:05 Dr. Jennifer Hunter: In general, do most health departments have the quit-kits available or is that something that you would need to put together yourself.

6:11 Alex Elswick: Some may. If they don't, you can find information about it online and you can personalize your quit-kit.

6:17 Dr. Jennifer Hunter: And it sounds like a very basic list of supplies; things that you may already have laying around the house or that would be very inexpensive to purchase.

6:24 Alex Elswick: Yes, things that are easily accessible and at the same time, it still may be important for you to put it together for yourself so that it's within arm's reach.

6:32 Dr. Jennifer Hunter: I completely agree. So, that it's in the car with you or that it is with you at work or easy to access at home when you have that that craving or that desire as opposed to because your cigarettes are probably with you at all times. So, definitely you want to have something else to grab for.

6:50 Alex Elswick: Which brings up another good point; which is once you said your quit date, when your quit date arrives, you're going to want to rid yourself of all of your tobacco and all of your paraphernalia; your lighters and matches and things like that. Those things can easily be a trigger for people who smoke. You want to get rid of ashtrays. Really committing to your quit attempt is going to make it more effective.

7:12 Dr. Jennifer Hunter: So, let me ask you this question. I've sometimes heard that just the lingering smell of smoke, if it's on your clothes or in your car that could be a trigger too to want to smoke. Is there a need or a way or is it even reasonable to think about trying to remove that smoke smell?

7:29 Alex Elswick: Absolutely. It's actually one of my favorite little tips that someone has given me before about quitting smoking is once their quit date has arrived, to go and get your car detailed and get that smoke smell removed.

And for some reason, there's something about not just taking away the trigger of the smoke smell, but also giving people pride in their new way of life that they don't smoke in their car anymore.

7:53 Dr. Jennifer Hunter: Great. Is there anything about changing routine or changing behavior?

7:58 Alex Elswick: So, as a part of that mindful exercise where you've journaled when you smoke cigarettes, it also gives you an idea of when you're most anxious or most susceptible to looking for ways to cope.

And so, if you identify that for instance, some people report that while they're at work, they don't smoke as many cigarettes when their minds occupied, but between 5 o'clock when they get off work and 10 o’clock when they go to bed they smoke lots of cigarettes.

That means that's a particular sort of danger zone for you where you really need to maybe create more of a routine, maybe add in a little bit of exercise, a little bit of meditation, really structure your day so that you don't have too much of that free time, especially in the beginning.

8:39 Dr. Jennifer Hunter: So, I don't know that this is a question you can answer, but how does a person know that they're ready to quit smoking?

8:47 Alex Elswick: You're ready to quit smoking when you say you are. And that sounds a little hokey, but the truth is that most people take something like 20 times of attempting.

8:56 Dr. Jennifer Hunter: Oh, wow.

8:57 Alex Elswick: And so, you can sort of see that in two ways; it may be discouraging to hear that it can take that many times, but I think it's also encouraging, because if that's the average and a person has just let's say failed their 19th quit attempt, it could be really easy to say, “This is never going to work for me”.

But so often it's just that next time. We often say, “Don't give up five minutes before the miracle”. So, if you have a slip, you just go right back. Get back on the horse.

9:24 Dr. Jennifer Hunter: And I think that that's one thing that we often talk about with New Year's resolutions is that just in general, New Year's resolutions have a high fail rate. That if you come back and interview someone six weeks after the first of the year that maybe they've not had a lot of success with sticking with their New Year's resolution.

But that doesn't mean because you did have that one failed attempt that if it is in stop smoking that you smoked a cigarette or if in saving money that you went out and spontaneously spent or on a diet and ate a chocolate bar, that doesn't mean that you've thrown all the good work that you've done out the window. It's not letting that one failure then define the next move as well.

10:03 Alex Elswick: That's a great point there. The ultimate goal is definitely to quit smoking entirely, but one cigarette shouldn't be an excuse to smoke a second cigarette.

10:12 Dr. Jennifer Hunter: Right. So, it's kind of getting back up on the horse; right?

10:16 Alex Elswick: Absolutely.

10:17 Dr. Jennifer Hunter: Once you fall down you get back up again.

10:17 Alex Elswick: That’s right.

10:20 Dr. Jennifer Hunter: Any other tips or closing remarks that you may have to share?

10:24 Alex Elswick: One of the last things that I would share is to make a list of all the benefits that you're going to get from quitting smoking and to keep it on your fridge, keep it at your desk at work, give yourself a reminder of why I'm doing it.

Because the reality is no matter how many of these tips you implement, quitting smoking is going to be hard; it's a difficult thing to do. And so, to keep your eye on the prize and remember that you're going to save a considerable amount of money, you're going to do so much.

I read recently that quitting smoking is the health equivalent of losing 100 pounds.

10:52 Dr. Jennifer Hunter: Oh, that's significant.

10:55 Alex Elswick: It's really, really significant. It's very good for your health to quit smoking as soon as you can.

10:57 Dr. Jennifer Hunter: And I think that there's probably other benefits, in terms of with your family or in social settings that just in general of acceptance of having quit smoking.

11:07 Alex Elswick: Really, the list you could create of the advantages to quitting probably goes on and on.

11:12 Dr. Jennifer Hunter: Excellent. Thanks so much for sharing with us today, Alex.

11:14 Alex Elswick: Glad to be with you.

11:15 Thank you for listening to Talking FACS. We deliver programs focusing on nutrition, health, resource management, family development and civic engagement.

If you enjoyed today's podcast, have a question or a show topic idea, leave a ‘Like’ and comment on Facebook @UKFCSExt.

Visit us online at to learn more about the University of Kentucky Family and Consumer Sciences Extension program or contact your local extension agent for Family and Consumer Sciences. We build strong families. It starts with us.