believe and know this:



If you have tried to quit smoking and failed before, take comfort in the fact that most adult smokers fail several times before quitting successfully. Past failures are not a lesson that you are unable to quit. Instead, view them as part of the normal journey toward becoming a nonsmoker.

The information below will ease your way and help insure that this is the last time -- perhaps the only time -- you will ever need to go through the painful process of quitting. You can do it!


by Patrick Reynolds

The most important step to take is the first step —
admitting you have an addiction.

When asked why you smoke, you might have said once or twice, "I just like to smoke!" or "It's my choice to smoke."

The tobacco companies have promoted the idea that smoking is a matter of personal choice. As I see it, there really isn't as much choice as they have suggested in their ads.

Ask yourself, and be totally honest: Am I addicted to tobacco? Am I truly making a freely made choice when I smoke?

You might consider that you need to have a cigarette. Studies have shown that nicotine addiction is as hard to break as heroin or cocaine addiction.

In Nicotine Anonymous' 12 Step program, which sprang from the venerable AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) program, the first step is admitting to yourself, "I'm powerless over tobacco." Making this admission may seem trivial to you, but for many it is a very significant part of completing the journey to becoming a non-smoker.

By telling smokers that smoking is a personal choice, the tobacco industry has helped to keep its customers in denial about the true extent of their addiction. If smoking is a choice, then what's the rush to quit? The tobacco companies have used this spin to help keep millions of customers buying their deadly products.

Admitting that you're smoking more out of addiction than choice will help motivate you to go on to the next steps -- taking control of yourself and becoming a nonsmoker.

This admision will further serve you by helping you stay smokefree later. In the months and years after you quit, when temptations to smoke occasionally overpower you -- and they will -- remind yourself, "I have an addiction and I'm powerless over tobacco." Saying this to yourself in overwhelmed moments of desire will help give you the strength to say no to "just one" cigarette. If you can make it for just five minutes without giving in, the urge to smoke will be gone.

In this way, you'll be able to stay smokefree for life.

For me there were two very distinct and EQUALLY IMPORTANT phases to quitting:

Phase One — Quitting with help
Phase Two — Staying smokefree and not relapsing

Phase One
Quitting with help

When Quitting, THE MOST SUCCESSFUL PEOPLE GET HELP. Speak to the health teacher, the school counselor, or a teacher you particularly like at your school. Talk to them and ask about a quit program.

Just by being on this page, you're already on the right track. Below you'll learn all the classic, boilerplate concepts found in the best quit smoking programs, and you'll read about and see links to several top smoking cessation programs.

You may think you don't need a program, but one recent study shows that without using a program, quitters have a 95% chance of failure! But by getting help such as the tips below, or by getting into a counseling program, the studies now prove that your chances of quitting successfully improve most dramatically. So speak to your health teacher or the school counselor about quitting today.

The truth is that people who succeed in life tend to get help. For example, a successful businessperson gets lots of help -- they get a lawyer to write the contracts, an ad agency to handle the advertising, an accountant to do the accounting, and so on. People who succeed in attaining their goals get help, and plenty of it. Yes, real men do ask directions! And good students ask questions of teachers and parents, and dialog back and forth.

Below you'll learn more about the basics of quitting, and several good programs out there. We promise you that this page will be an invaluable tool to help to you quit successfully. But above all, talk to the health teacher or counselor in your school.

Don't be shy -- your life is on the line.
Talk to your health teacher or school counselor!

Q: What Can I Do If My Parents Smoke?

The best way to ask parents to quit will be found on our Message to Youth page a little more than half way down the page, under the title in red, What Can I Do If My Parents Smoke? There we suggest that you not nag your parents every day, or even every month, to stop. We do say you do get to speak up as often as you like about second hand smoke. There's even a message for parents (it's in a box) on our Message to Youth page, telling them what they can do to get their children not to smoke.

Q: How Do I Ask My Friend to Not Smoke?

You'll find a good answer on our Message to Youth page. Very near the top, look for a title in red that says If Cigarette Ads Told the Truth About Smoking. Right under the Utter FOOL poster is the answer.

To review: People who attain their goals get help, and plenty of it. In business, a businessperson gets a lawyer to write the contracts, a marketing firm to do the marketing, an ad agency to create the ads – and so on. The fact is that winners get help and plenty of it! Real men DO ask directions.

It's comforting for some to know that most smokers fail several times before stopping successfully. I certainly did. Every time I failed, I lost the belief that I could really quit -- so it got harder and harder to motivate myself to quit each time.

My mission is to restore your faith in yourself -- you CAN quit.

Even if you've failed several times in the past, understand that this is actually just NORMAL and you're not alone.

Let's face it, you'll never quit unless you get your resolve up and try again. So get it now -- YOU CAN DO IT!

Some of the techniques and programs below are for adults, so you should talk to your school health teacher or counselor to see if there are any programs for people you own age. I finally quit for the last time when I was 34.

I got help -- and lots of it. I got into a good program, once even a combination of programs. Today some of the programs for adults are --

Nicotine Anonymous Doubtless there is a weekly or even daily meeting right in your neighborhood (much like Alocholics Anonymous, they're nonprofit, free and GREAT). Try calling 1-800-555-1212, or your local directory telephone assistance to get the number for Nicotine Anonymous. (Someone with a profit motive trademarked "Smokers' Anonymous" -- and of course you want the FREE program -- Nicotine Anonymous.)

Reccomended for Youth: try calling your branch of the American Cancer Society, or the American Lung or Heart Associations in the city where you live. They all have inexpensive, very effective, mainstream programs. And you can talk to someone.

Not recomended for youth withour counseling: A physician-endorsed route is to get the nicotine patch or gum, now over the counter at any pharmacy.

Buy a How to Quit Smoking Book, or a motivational cassette tape in any bookstore, and listen to the tape. Every little bit helps!

Don't count on any of these programs to make it a breeze. None of them will do that -- but they WILL reduce your distress by 10% to 50%, depending on how addicted you are physically and psychologically.

I'm not promising it will be easy -- it won't! So get your resolve and willpower up, because you'll need it! And you CAN do that!

I've often had the thought that wealthy folks have a much harder time quitting smoking or even dieting -- because they're used to getting whatever they want whenever they want it.

The rich often have weaker self-denial muscles than you and I. (No, I'm not super wealthy financially, in case you were wondering. But I'm wealthy where it counts -- in friends, family, chosen profession and spirit.)

How are your self denial muscles? Pretty good, no doubt! Let's see. Are you able to easily put off getting a new car or going to a $50 per head restaurant? How about postponing that vacation in Florida? Good! If you can do those things, chances are good you have the muscles and willpower you'll need to quit smoking. And yes, you'll need to flex them and yes, it might hurt a bit.

A Note About Tobacco Ads

Many teens, if asked, would say that tobacco ads have no influence over them. However, new studies tell us that advertising plays a greater role than even peer pressure in getting teens to smoke.

And one recent study shows that the three most heavily advertised brands are the same three brands most often smoked by teens -- Camels, Marlboros and Newport. It's no accident! Cigarette ads clearly influence our teens. Tobacco ads may not influence your conscious mind -- but they do influence the unconscious mind.

Your Unconscious Mind

What is the unconscious mind? In a famous study, the Russian scientist Pavlov rang a bell every time he fed his dog -- and after a while, the dog would salivate upon just hearing the bell ring -- even though there was no food there. The dog had made an unconscious association between the sound of the bell and suppertime, and began to drool!

Cigarette ads reach our unconscious minds -- and they help build an unconscious association between cigarettes and strong images of healthy young people, sports like tennis or mountain climbing, beautiful country scenes, masculinity and manhood, being feminine and womanhood, freedom, being a 'real person,' and more. And the tobacco industry spends $4.5 billion every year to advertise its deadly, addictive products. This makes cigarettes the second most heavily advertised product in America today (after cars).

It's a Mental and Physical Habit

Let's look at someone trying to quit smoking. For most addicted smokers, the addition is about half mental, half physical; the ratio varies with each individual. The physical portion of the addiction is to nicotine. As to the mental aspect, a smoker's conscious mind says, 'I will stop smoking -- no problem.' But the unconscious mind has been conditioned that cigarettes give pleasure, and that's all it can focus on. The unconscious mind says, 'Gimmie a cigarette -- now!' It only recognizes what feels good, painful, etc. It demands a cigarette, without regard to right or wrong, and ignores the conscious mind's intentions.

During the process of quitting smoking, a new habit of being a nonsmoker forms. The ex-smoker's unconscious mind gradually gets used to being a nonsmoker, and the urges to smoke die away. Let's now talk about the boilerplate points of quitting.

The Boilerplate Points

Do your best to follow as many of these as you can.

These points are advocated by most top quit-smoking products.

  • The first few days, drink LOTS of water and fluids to help flush out the nicotine and other poisons from your body.
  • Try hard to stay away from alcohol, sugar and coffee the first week or longer, as these tend to stimulate the desire for a cigarette. Try to avoid fatty foods, as your metabolism will slow down a bit without the nicotine, and you may then gain weight.
  • In one study, about 25% of quitters found that an oral substitute was invaluable. Another 25% didn't like the idea at all -- they wanted a clean break with cigarettes. The rest weren't certain. I personally found a cigarette substitute to be an invaluable help. One interesting new product has recently come on the market; a doctor's prescription is necessary to get it. It's a new plastic cigarette which has a replaceable nicotine capsule inside. So in addition to being a cigarette substitute, it's a nicotine inhaler. A simpler way to go is to buy bottled cinnamon sticks at the supermarket. I used them when I quit. Just chew on them and keep them handy, and handle them just like a cigarette. When they get chewed on one end and start looking like an exploded firecracker, chew on the other end. And if people ask, "Excuse me, but is that an exploded firecracker in your mouth?" just tell them you're quitting smoking – and their odd stares will quickly turn to support. You won't need the cinnamon sticks after the first few days of being a nonsmoker.
  • THIS IS KEY: Every time you want a cigarette, do the following three times: inhale the deepest lung-full of air you can and slowly exhale. As you very slowly let the air out, close your eyes and let your chin gradually fall down onto your chest. As you exhale, imagine all the tension leaving your body, just flowing right out of your fingers and toes…this is a variation of an ancient yoga technique from India, and is VERY relaxing, if you practice it. Try it now and see!
  • Go to a gym, sit in the steam, exercise! Change your normal routine – take time to walk or even jog around the block or in a local park. Look in the yellow pages under Yoga, and take a class – they're GREAT! Get a one hour massage, take a long bath -- pamper yourself.
  • Ask for support from coworkers, friends and family members. Ask for their tolerance, and tell them you're quitting, and that you might be edgy and grumpy for the first few days. If you don't ask for support, you certainly won't get any. If you do, you'll be surprised how much it can help. Take a chance -- try it and see!
  • Check out and go to their chat room, where those quitting are doing it together, not alone. It can be a great source of support -- like a Nicotine Anonymous meeting, but on line. This site was put together by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health's Tobacco Control Program, which has a budget in the millions, thanks to Massachusetts's State cigarette tax increase of the early 90's.
  • If you prefer warm bodies to your computer screen, then pick up your TELEPHONE and ask directory assistance for the phone number of your local Nicotine Anonymous meeting. These meetings are 12 step meetings much like AA, and are run entirely by volunteers. If there is no NA meeting in your city, try calling 800-555-1212, or call a nearby city's directory assistance. Find out how to start your own Nicotine Anonymous meeting in your town. So many have -- that's how it spread all over the nation. And it's free!
  • It's critically important to ask your smoking friends not to smoke around you – and don't be afraid to ask. This is very important. If you don't speak up for yourself, no one's going to do it for you. Your friends can't read your mind.
  • Write down ten good things about being a nonsmoker -- and then write out ten bad things about smoking. Do it. It really helps.
  • Don't pretend smoking wasn't enjoyable – it was. This is like losing a good friend – and it's okay to grieve the loss. Feel that grief, don't worry, it's okay. And, as with all losses -- feel, and you will heal. Don't anesthetize the pain with food, drugs, alcohol -- or you'll just postpone the pain. (For more on this, see the paragraph below which begins, "America is a nation of addicts...")
  • Several times a day, repeat the affirmation, "I am a nonsmoker." Many quitters see themselves as smokers who are just not smoking at the moment. They think of themselves as smokers who still want a cigarette! Repeating the affirmation "I am a nonsmoker" helps change your own view of yourself, and this is useful. Use it!
  • Support groups like Nicotine Anonymous might initially seem unnecessary - but they provide a GREAT outlet to vent your suffering verbally. This will spare your family and friends some grumpiness when you get home afterward. And it's therapeutic – really -- to see how other quitters are doing in their own struggles to stop. Try finding them through 800 information, 1-800-555-1212, or ask your local directory assistance.

In these ways you'll get the info and support you need to make the stopping process just a bit easier. DO NOT try to do it alone – get help, and plenty of it.

I wasn't one of those who could quit by cutting down gradually – although that works best for some. I always went cold turkey.

I would always quit on a Monday -- a regular workday, when work would occupy my thoughts -- and the usual routine tasks that were familiar helped get me through the first few agonizing days.

Once I tried quitting during a vacation, and I found there was little to do except to obsess all day long over having a smoke – and I failed that time. The positive stress of being on vacation actually added to my stress in quitting. More about positive stress in the next section.



Phase Two
Staying smokefree and not relapsing

Here is the most valuable secret I can share with you, and probably the most important information in ALL these tips!

After the urges to smoke have become more and more infrequent, overwhelming surprise attacks are sure to come a few weeks and months in to your new smokefree life. When these nearly out-of-control urges come (and they always engulfed me in totally unexpected moments) --

I learned that if I could just HOLD ON for 5 minutes -- they would completely pass.

That is BY FAR the single most important thing I learned -- the hard way -- about how to quit successfully.

Because I didn't know this, I failed 11 times. I finally stopped for good on my 12th try, in Spring 1985. It's the key to what has empowered me to stay smokefree for the past dozen years or so.

So know that out-of-control, very nearly irrestible urges to have "just one" are going to take you by suprise, like a sudden gale that seems to come from nowhere. This will happen one or more times in the coming months, and every time it does --

Hold on for 5 minutes -- you can do it -- seeemingly by a miracle, the urge will completley pass. I'm convinced that's the single most important secret to quitting.


A special NOTE TO NONSMOKERS living with a smoker, or close friends to one: don't be a NAG about their smoking habit! (You can make noise about their smoking in the house or near you, because their second hand smoke hurts you – but don't nag them to quit. There's a BIG difference!)

Just three times a year you can ask your loved one – briefly – VERY briefly – to please quit smoking -- in VERY loving and warm tones. (Try surrounding your request with HONEST complements, keep it BRIEF, and they might be more open to hearing you.

But if you speak up more than three times per YEAR, then you're a yukky, obnoxious NAG. Ick! And your beloved smoker will be so ANGRY with you that they'll keep smoking just to spite you. You'll be defeating your very purpose. Remember:

We ask nonsmokers to honor their smoking loved ones, and we treat them like adults.

Nonsmokers, don't be a nag about others' addictions -- (only about second hand smoke, which of course hurts you.)

And if your loved ones are nagging YOU, don't fall into the trap of hurting YOURSELF by continuing to smoke out of ANGER toward them.


The great family therapist John Bradshaw (The Family and other books) has said,

"America is a nation of addicts. We're addicted not just to one thing, but often to several – like cigarettes, food, television, drugs, even work. Each of these things is a kind of drug -- because each temporarily gets your mind off of your pain."

Bradshaw is right. He's talking about both current pain, such as anger, loneliness, or sadness --- and emotional pain we've carried with us since childhood, such as unmet childhood needs, like an absent father or abusive mother.

My goal is to be an ADULT and stay with my pain – and not go lighting a cigarette, raiding the icebox, taking drugs, or switching on the TV – or, going to work for umpteen hours. That's just another way of avoiding my feelings and numbing out.

If we stay with our pain, we'll eventually focus and see what's causing it – and then go about solving our problem.


ALSO, TALK TO SOMEONE! Like a trusted teacher, the school counselor, a parent, or a relative.

For example, grieving our sadness to completion is in fact the most effective way to heal it – rather than burying it, and carrying it around with you for years.

The same goes for anger – let it out in little bits as you go along, rather than letting it build up and exploding -- and saying or doing things you'll later regret.

So it's also helpful -- and healing -- to let it out verbally as you quit smoking. Let the words should come out of your mouth, in loud complaining tones -- it's OK! Don't worry, if you ask for support and tolerance, you'll get it.

If you ask, PLENTY of support will come your way - and hugs too! Don't isolate, and do join, and do lean on others.

Especially for men, this is a sign of STRENGTH. Let's face it -- not going to a support meeting is probably an act of fear, and therefore cowardice. Admit it! Be BRAVE and seek support from others. That's a good sign of a real man in my book. Real men ask directions!

It's true that smoking is mostly very enjoyable, even comforting, for you. Let's not lie about it. Quitting will be like losing a great, dear friend -- and you may find yourself grieving a bit. That's only natural, and it's okay, as painful as it may become.

But if you don't quit and "grieve" now, this great "friend" of yours will probably turn on you and kill you one day. It's statistically equivalent to playing Russian Roulette with not one, but two, bullets in the gun. Not to mention putting up with being an outcast whenever you smoke.

In coming decades, we'll look back on smoking as a thing of the last century. We know that only children and teens begin the habit. As our government passes laws making it increasingly difficult for children to obtain cigarettes, and as Uncle Sam limits advertising of tobacco, people will not start smoking in such huge numbers -- and finally, smoking will be no more. No more deaths, no more disease, no more grieving families around the world. Think of all the good that goes along with that....

Welcome to the wonderful world of nonsmokers -- and the 21st century!


One definition of insanity:

Repeating the same behavior over and over again, expecting different results.


To Review

Phase One was realizing that with the help of one or more programs, I could stay off cigarettes for one to three months.

But I did that 11 times.

Phase Two -- the period starting a few weeks after going cold turkey -- the urges to smoke would greatly diminish, even disappear. But it was vital that I came to realize that any time from a week to a year after quitting, I was sure to get an occasional surprise ATTACK – during which I was suddenly OVERWHELMED with the desire to smoke.

Usually these attacks would sneak up on me during moments of stress – positive stress (out with friends, partying, or on a vacation) or negative stress (while immersed in an angry, sad or lonely moment – you know about those.)

During these surprise attacks I would always rationalize, "I could have just one. Just one…I haven't had one for three months – so what's the harm of having just one now? I want it SO BADLY!" And I would take ONE, and ZAP! The next day I'd have "just one more," and before I knew it I was once again a full-fledged smoker, 100% addicted again, back up to a pack a day within just two or three weeks.


Hang on for five minutes.

I finally stayed smokefree in this way:

When the surprise attacks came a few weeks or months after quitting, I told myself, "Hang on for five minutes – and this out-of-control urge to smoke will pass."

After 11 failed attempts, I looked back and I realized that several times in the past, surprise attacks were ALWAYS the critical moment in which I would inevitably become re-addicted, as "innocent" as "just one cigarette" might seem.

As I wrestled with myself thinking about this during an attack, I thought, "Okay. Relief is about four minutes away..."

Still I was dying for a smoke – okay, so now it was just THREE more minutes to hold on for... Now TWO...

And sure enough, at the end of five minutes – the urge would be all gone, and I would be quite proud of myself for holding on (plus I got to deny my smoking friend his pleasure in seeing me light up like him.)

It's a bit harsh, but --

Only a baby gets to relieve itself whenever it feels like it. Adults know how to delay gratification. It's time to remember you're an adult. So grow up and join the rest of the adults!


Parting thought

It's time to try quitting, and do it differently this time. Reread and really use the tips above.

I'm not suggesting your journey will be easy -- but I know if you follow these tips, they will make your quitting experience a bit easier, and vastly more successful.

Being a smoker is uncool these days. Talk to the school counselor and the health teacher, and get their help.

Do it now -- because your life, your future social acceptability and your health are all on the line.

When you fall for the tobacco industry's spin and say you smoke out of choice, you are living the very lie they want you to. Think about it. What's the truth here?

Believe me, you can quit smoking. Do it now!

Yours for a smokefree life,

Patrick Reynolds, President
The Foundation for a Smokefree America


Check these other great QUITTING sites out --

Follow the stories of four young people as they try to kick their habit in "Quit 4 Life," a unique interactive site that offers important advice for teens trying to quit smoking. This is a very cool site, very much in the extreme.

The opening animated page says it all -- YOU are a target. But your mind is a weapon. "Question It" provides tips to help smokers win their personal battle against tobacco.

Their Kickin' Tips are truly excellent.

The Nicotine Junkies investigate the effects of nicotine on the body while offering tips on how to win the war against tobacco.



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