This site is offered for informational purposes
only. It is an article that is mirrored from the HabitSmart home page. Dr. Westermeyer offers some practical advice
for those trying to quit smoking. We'd also like to point out that his method of gradually
quitting can also be achieved by lowering the nicotine level of the tobacco you smoke. We offer
one strain of tobacco plant seeds with an extremely low level of nicotine that can be blended
with other tobacco in increasingly greater amounts. This would allow the smoker to gradually
wean themselves from the addiction until it would be much easier to give it up
We have absolutely no problem selling you
the Tree Tobacco seeds rather than their stronger family members. After all, we'll
have you as a customer for many more years to come. This suggestion is intended only for those
wishing to quit. It is entirely the choice of the individual. It should also be noted that this is
an idea completely independent of Dr. Westermeyer, although he's indicated it is "in line with the
harm reduction model" that you'll read about below. You should write him directly for his opinion,
or consult your personal physician on the merits of this method.
SMOKING REDUCTION TIPS
by Robert W. Westermeyer, Ph.D.
Many people who stop smoking do so "cold
turkey." As is the case with most addictive habits, this approach to change is not suitable for
everyone and often leads to frustration and feelings of defeat.
Heavy smoking is different from other
addictive habits in that the behavior often becomes strongly associated with a variety of
situations. Certain times of the day, certain mood states, certain places, even certain people
become associated with smoking. Therefore, stopping all at once often leads to an onslaught of
urges and cravings which occur throughout the day. This can be quite overwhelming, if not
intolerable, leading to relapse and self-statements like, "This habit is stronger than me. What's
Gradual reduction is a viable alternative
for some people for the following reasons:
1. It enables you to develop urge control
skills at a manageable pace, starting with the easiest smoking situations and, with success, moving
on to stronger urge situations. This approach can be quite empowering and have a "snowball
2. Learning which situations are most
difficult to tolerate without tobacco enables you to understand "the meaning" of the habit (e.g.
boredom reduction, stress reduction, social influence), so that you can begin to modify your
lifestyle by substituting more healthy alternatives .
3. An "all or nothing" approach to habit
change often leaves people alternating between total abstinence and heavy smoking. By learning to
cope with urges in specific situations, lapses can be caught early on and coping responses can be
initiated so that a slip does not become a full blown relapse.
4. Some people prefer to moderate their
smoking ("chipping") as opposed to quitting altogether. By learning to control urges in particular
situations, some people may learn to limit their smoking to specific situations.
Below are the basic guidelines for
1. Monitor your smoking for a week. Do not
attempt to cut back during this time. Monitor the situations in which smoking occurs (for example,
on break at work after morning meeting). Also monitor the mood you experienced prior to use (for
example, anxiety, boredom, happiness). Rate how strong the urge was (e.g. 0= little or no urge --
5= extremely strong urge).
2. Determine which situations tend to have
the least intense urges and occur in response to the least intense emotions. Decide to cut back by
one cigarette for two or three days. The following techniques can be useful for decreasing the
potency of urges:
a. De-catastrophize. Urges can be
overwhelming. Remind yourself of the following: "No one ever died from an urge." "With success in
avoiding urges, they will occur less frequently and less intensely." "I've coped with worse, I'll
get through this for sure." etc.
b. Dispute expectancies. Learn to
recognize what you expect tobacco to do for you when you experience an urge. you might be thinking,
"I'll feel much better if I light up." Put those expectancies in perspective by responding with
statements that highlight the negative consequences of lighting up and the benefits of avoiding
c. Distraction. Practice shifting your
attention during strong urges. In and of itself, distraction is often unhelpful, but after
de-catastrophizing and disputing expectancies effectively the urges often decrease to a level where
distraction is possible.
d. Monitor consequences of smoking
avoidance. People often notice some negative changes when giving up a habit. Some feel like they
have lost a passion and wonder how they will cope without their "friend." These feelings are not
irrational. Smoking, like any addictive habit, endures because of the positive consequences. It
will be important for you to develop other passions, or you will be left with an unbalanced
Others notice an increase of stress? Try
to develop alternative methods for dealing with stress, e.g. exercise, meditation, imagery, new
hobbies, relaxation techniques.
3. As you become successful with the
initial situation, move on to others, always keeping change efforts at a manageable level (most
people find eliminating three or four cigarettes per week tolerable.
4. Manage lapses. A slip does not have to
lead to a full blown relapse. If you backslide in an area you previously mastered, tell yourself
that it is "no big deal." Try to "nip a slip" in the bud. Don't allow yourself to entertain such
thoughts as "Well, I failed. what's the use, I might as well have another smoke." Try to entertain
alternative coping self-statements, for example, "Well, I slipped this morning. It was a stressful
day and I just lost control. I feel less stressed now and can get back on track. I need to put my
efforts into stress reduction. If I can keep myself from smoking heavily for the rest of the day
this will have been a tremendous success." Slips are always opportunities to learn. Detailed
monitoring of the lapse can provide you with useful information as to areas in which you need to
put more effort.