cigarette butts in an ashtray

Former Smokers Share How They Quit the Habit for Good

By Jené Luciani Sena
Reviewed by Daniel Lew, M.D.
April 13, 2021

“I quit smoking when my spine specialist told me he wouldn't do my surgery if I was a smoker. I could barely walk at the time, so that was some wicked motivation!” says Paula Colarusso, a hair salon owner in Hudson, New York. “Eighteen years later, I’m still smoke-free.”

There are plenty of success stories like Paula’s. Be it for family, health, or simply social reasons, when a smoker is motivated to quit, it can be done.

For Stephanie Yauchler, a registered nurse in Duanesburg, New York, it was the cold winter that served as her catalyst. “I was out with friends one night and standing outside the bar, shivering, while everyone else was warm inside. I looked down at my cigarette and asked myself, ‘What am I doing?’”

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, smoking leads to many health problems including cancer, heart disease, stroke, and lung disease. Smoking can ultimately lead to death about 10 years early, as compared to nonsmokers. Quitting smoking can reduce the risk of premature death, especially the younger you are when you quit.

Elizabeth DeRobertis, a registered dietitian practicing in Scarsdale, New York, usually recommends quitting smoking as the first step to anyone looking to adopt healthy habits. “Whether they’re suffering from a chronic illness like psoriasis, or they just want to lose weight, I always start with something my patient can control,” she says. “Even though smoking is an addiction, with the right steps, they can quit and that can be the avenue to making other healthy lifestyle changes, too.”

If you want to be able to proudly call yourself a nonsmoker, here are five proven strategies you can use to kiss cigarettes goodbye.

Use an App

Yep, there’s an app for that. For Russell Oden, a makeup artist and TV personality in West Chester, Pennsylvania, it was the power of positive thinking combined with high-tech methods that helped him kick the habit. “I downloaded an app called Quit It, and also just started telling myself I wasn’t a smoker. That was four years ago!” Quit It is available for iPhone and Android; it tracks the time and money you save by not smoking. Plus, it shows you the amount of cigarettes you didn’t smoke and the benefits you reap by not smoking to help motivate you. There are many other apps for quitting, too, so pick the one that appeals most to you.

Find a Replacement

Carla Alves of New Rochelle, New York, and her husband, Sirley, successfully quit smoking together, and she has her dad to thank. “I was driving one day, smoking a cigarette, and I started thinking about all the health issues my dad had before he quit smoking,” Carla says. “I’m not even 40 yet, and I didn’t want [smoking complications] to happen to me. I decided that would be my last cigarette.” She says her husband joined her in the quest to quit. “He used nicotine-free cigarettes he purchased from Amazon for about two weeks until he was able to quit altogether,” she says.

Nicotine-replacement therapy is also an option, and this comes in many forms such as gum, lozenges, patches, and sprays. For many people, it’s a “hand-to-mouth” habit, and chewing gum—even just regular nicotine-free gum—can do the trick. Some people also say it helps to suck on a lollipop, use toothpicks, or eat carrot or celery sticks to satisfy their habit.

Go Cold Turkey

My own mother-in-law, Angela, was motivated to quit when she became a grandmother. My husband informed her that she wouldn’t be allowed around the kids if she didn’t quit. Plus, she said she feared being the “stinky grandma.”

In fact, for many people, the stale-smoke stench that comes with the cigarette habit is often motivation enough. Albany, New York nurse Johanna Lupoli says she and her husband were about to move into their dream house, and all she could think about was how she didn’t want it to stink when they entertained guests. “I quit cold turkey and 29 years later, I still have an aversion to cigarette smoke,” she says.

Jessica Chiera, of Averill Park, New York, says she quit in an effort to improve her psoriasis symptoms and she was also able to quit cold turkey. While this is a notoriously difficult method, it does work for some people. In fact, in one study, people who quit smoking abruptly were more likely to not be smoking four weeks later than people who quit gradually.

Call in the Pros

Talk to your doctor for personalized advice for quitting smoking. They can likely suggest a smoking cessation program; provide a tailored nicotine-replacement regimen; prescribe you medication, such as an antidepressant, to reduce cravings; or recommend a combination that can help make the process a bit easier.

You may even want to discuss your efforts with a mental health professional. James Vajda, an airline employee who’s been trying to quit for years, says certain emotions, or even situations, keep him puffing away. You may need help figuring out the triggers that make you want to light up, and how to get through those cravings.

Alternative Therapies

Some people have had success with alternative medicine, such as hypnotherapy or acupuncture. These work for some but not others. For example, in one study, 24 percent of people who tried hypnotherapy to quit smoking were successful. The key, often, is having the motivation first, and then doing something about it. If at first you don’t succeed, definitely keep trying.

You May Also Like: