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Make a Plan to Quit Smoking Now—Tips and Tricks

If you want to quit smoking, two key steps are to make a plan and to choose a Quit Day. It’s even more important than ever to quit now, due to Coronavirus: Type COVID-19.

May 28, 2020 | HF Healthy Living Team

Dr. Anselm, a Senior Medical Director at Healthfirst, has led smoking cessation programs at several New York medical centers and numerous corporate locations since 1983. He joined Healthfirst in March of 2019, and he continues to serve as an Assistant Clinical Professor of Environmental Medicine and Public Health at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai where he teaches about tobacco control.

Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death1 in the United States, imposing a terrible toll in health, lives, and dollars on families, businesses, and government. Tobacco kills 480,000 people in the United States annually,1 and as the entire world faces the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, it is especially important for smokers to take care of their health, so that they can avoid the substantially higher risk of coronavirus COVID-19 progression.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) is an infectious disease that primarily attacks the lungs. Smoking impairs lung function, making it harder for the body to fight off coronaviruses and other diseases. Tobacco is also a major risk factor for noncommunicable diseases like cardiovascular disease, cancer, respiratory disease, and diabetes, which put people with these conditions at higher risk for developing severe illness when affected by coronavirus (COVID-19).*

There are over 50 million former smokers living in the USA today2. Current smokers and vapers can quit the same way they did, by using one or more of the proven methods. Smoking cessation is a long journey and some smokers require up to 20 attempts before being successful3. With each additional attempt, smokers can learn how to cope with their triggers for smoking and relapse. Smokers can learn about coping strategies from the NYSDOH website ( or through smoking cessation counseling. Medication can double the effectiveness of smoking cessation attempts. Some people can require two types of medication or higher doses of medication. All treatments are available without cost share and are is covered for all Healthfirst members without any copayment or deductible. Telephonic counseling is available in English, Spanish, Mandarin, Cantonese, Vietnamese, and Korean. Tobacco cessation medications can be obtained from primary care physicians, specialists, or Teladoc. Smoking cessation treatments may be covered by your health insurance plan. There are options for counseling over the telephone or via telehealth. Tobacco cessation medications can likely be obtained from primary care physicians or specialists.

During this time of a global pandemic that is characterized by respiratory illness, we should convince all smokers, young and older, to consider quitting smoking and vaping. Not just today, but every day, and not just to reduce the impact of coronavirus (COVID-19), but to prevent or reduce the risk of the many serious conditions associated with smoking and vaping.

The following information is provided by the American Cancer Society® (

The decision to quit smoking is one that only you can make. Others may want you to quit, but the real commitment must come from you.

Think about why you want to quit.

  • Are you worried that you could get a smoking-related disease?
  • Do you really believe that the benefits of quitting outweigh the benefits of continuing to smoke?
  • Do you know someone who has had health problems because of smoking?
  • Are you ready to make a serious try at quitting?

If you’re ready to quit, setting a date and deciding on a plan will help move you to the next step.

Set a Quit Smoking Date and Make a Plan

What’s important about picking a Quit Day? Once you’ve decided to quit, you’re ready to pick a quit date. This is a key step. Pick a day within the next month as your Quit Day. Picking a date too far away gives you time to change your mind. You might choose a date with a special meaning, like a birthday or anniversary, or the date of the Great American Smokeout (the third Thursday in November each year). Circle the date on your calendar. Make a strong, personal commitment to quit on that day.

How do you plan to quit? There are many ways to quit, and some work better than others. Nicotine replacement therapy, prescription drugs, and other methods are available. Learn more about ways to quit so you can find the method that best suits you. It’s also a good idea to talk to your doctor or dentist and get their advice and support.

Support is another key part of your plan. Stop-smoking programs, telephone quit lines, Nicotine Anonymous meetings, self-help materials such as books and pamphlets, and smoking counselors can be a great help. Also tell your family, friends, and coworkers that you’re quitting. They can give you help and encouragement, which increases your chances of quitting for good. For the best chance at success, your plan should include at least two of these options.

Prepare for Your Quit Day

Here are some steps to help you get ready for your Quit Day:

  • Pick the date and mark it on your calendar.
  • Tell friends and family about your Quit Day.
  • Get rid of all the cigarettes and ashtrays in your home, car, and at work.
  • Stock up on oral substitutes—sugarless gum, carrot sticks, hard candy, cinnamon sticks, coffee stirrers, straws, and/or toothpicks.
  • Decide on a plan. Will you use NRT or other medicines? Will you attend a stop-smoking class? If so, sign up now.
  • Practice saying, “No, thank you. I don’t smoke.”
  • Set up a support system. This could be a group program or a friend or family member who has successfully quit and is willing to help you.
  • Ask family and friends who still smoke not to smoke around you and not to leave cigarettes out where you can see them.
  • If you are using bupropion or varenicline, take your dose each day leading up to your Quit Day.
  • Think about your past attempts to quit. Try to figure out what worked and what didn’t.

Successful quitting is a matter of planning and commitment, not luck. Decide now on your own plan.

On Your Quit Day

Over time, smoking becomes a strong habit. Daily events—like waking up in the morning, finishing a meal, drinking coffee, or taking a break at work—often trigger your urge to smoke. Breaking the link between the trigger and smoking will help you stop.

On your Quit Day, go down this list:

  • Do not smoke. This means not at all—not even one puff!
  • Stay busy—try walking, short bursts of exercise, or other activities and hobbies.
  • Drink lots of water and juices.
  • Start using nicotine replacement if that’s your choice.
  • Attend a stop-smoking class or follow your self-help plan.
  • Avoid situations where the urge to smoke is strong.
  • Avoid people who are smoking.
  • Drink less alcohol or avoid it completely.
  • Think about how you can change your routine. Use a different route to go to work. Drink tea instead of coffee. Eat breakfast in a different place or eat different foods.

Be prepared to feel the urge to smoke. It will pass whether you smoke or not. Use the 4 Ds to help fight the urge:

  • Delay for 10 minutes. Repeat if needed.
  • Deep breathe. Close your eyes, slowly breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Picture your lungs filling with fresh, clean air.
  • Drink water slowly, sip by sip.
  • Do something else. Some activities trigger cravings. Get up and move around.

Often this simple trick will allow you to move beyond the strong urge to smoke.

To Learn More

  1. CDC Million Hearts Identifying and Treating Patients Who Use Tobacco: Action Steps for Clinicians- This guide provides evidence-based, tested tobacco use identification and intervention strategies for busy clinicians. These strategies consist of actions clinicians can take to improve care delivery and ways to increase the use of evidence-based brief interventions for patients who use tobacco. Additional resources and references for each action step are also included in this guide.
  2. The New York State Quit Line- in English and Spanish and Asian Quit Line in Mandarin, Cantonese, Korean, and Vietnamese

Also, explore or call the National Cancer Information Center’s toll-free number, 1-800-227-2345. Looking for an NYC health insurance plan or want to talk to someone about health insurance for smokers? Go to the Healthfirst website or talk to a representative today.

Text material in this post is used with permission of the American Cancer Society® and is a shortened version of an article published on To view the full, original article, go here.

Are you trying to quit smoking? Learn more about the Benefits of Quitting Smoking Over Time here.


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Updated content © 2020 HF Management Services, LLC
Original content © 2016 HF Management Services, LLC

Healthfirst is the brand name used for products and services provided by one or more of the Healthfirst group of affiliated companies.

This health information or program is for educational purposes only and not intended to treat, diagnose, or act as a substitute for medical advice from your provider. Consult your healthcare provider and always follow your healthcare provider’s instructions.

*“WHO statement: Tobacco use and COVID-19,” World Health Organization. April 29, 2020.

“Deciding to Quit Smoking and Making a Plan,” American Cancer Society. April 19, 2016.

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