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Quitting tobacco is one the most common New Year’s resolutions made each year, but often proves to be one of the most difficult to keep. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than half of adult smokers have made an attempt to stop smoking, but only one in 10 succeed.

Crystal Labbato, a certified Tobacco Treatment Specialist with Baptist Health, said the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is making it even tougher for many to quit.

“The pandemic has been so hard and isolating, and smoking is a common way to cope with stress,” Labbato said. “If you don’t have alternative coping techniques, then you tend to fall back on the thing you know best. Unfortunately, smoking happens to be that for a lot of people.”

Labbato leads Plan to be Tobacco Free — a no-cost, one-time class offered by Baptist Health and the Kentucky Cancer Program. The one-hour, virtual class, which is next scheduled for Jan. 12, helps participants learn about tobacco and nicotine addiction, over-the-counter replacement products and how to develop a personal plan to quit.

She offers the following tips for those in the class and anyone trying to quit for good.

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again

In Labbato’s experience, it can take many attempts to stop smoking before someone is able to snuff out tobacco for good, due to the addictive nature of nicotine and ingrained behavioral patterns. She urges her patients not to get discouraged if their first try doesn’t work out.

“I always like to remind people that quitting smoking is probably the hardest thing they will ever do,” Labbato said. “It took you a while to learn how to smoke, it’s going to take you a while to learn how to live as a non-smoker. The only thing that matters is that you keep showing up and you keep trying, because you will get there.”

Labbato explained that these past attempts, which could be six or more tries, should be reviewed because they can be helpful in finding a strategy that is ultimately successful.

“I think you learn something new about yourself at each quit attempt, so with each try you bring along new skills that you’ve learned from the last try,” she said.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

Quitting tobacco for good takes more than will power, and your health care provider can be an important partner in getting the resources you need.

“We’ve moved away from talking about smoking and continuing smoking as a moral failure. Nicotine addiction is a physiologic process is happening in your brain,” Labbato said. “Your doctor can help you get real treatment — so always be honest about tobacco use.”

The seven FDA approved medications to assist in smoking cessation are reviewed in the Plan to be Tobacco free classes. Labbato says using medication, along with counseling, can double someone’s chances of success.

“The idea behind using medications is to calm down the mind and the withdrawal symptoms that cause anxiety stress, those uncomfortable feelings enough so you can work on the behavioral changes and new coping skills that you need to develop to walk away from cigarettes,” she said.

A personalized plan can increase your chances for success

During one-on-one counseling sessions, Labbato works with patients to create a customized stop-smoking plan. To find new coping skills, for example, she asks them to think about where they find relaxation, which might be talking to a trusted friend.

Other recommendations can include increasing the amount of water you’re drinking, reducing alcohol and caffeine, or increasing physical activity.

“Personalizing it for the individual is important,” Labbato said. “What their sources of strength are, what are the sort of healthy coping patterns that they’ve used in the past, and we’ve also worked to explore new coping pattern, so that’s an essential part of any quit plan.”

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