Finally ready to kick that smoking habit? It's time

If you're ready to give up smoking, be smart about it. These seven tips will help.

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  • Are you resolved to quit smoking? Good for you! Smoking is an addictive habit that wreaks havoc on the body. Not only are cigarettes full of ingredients that are harmful — including 70 that are known to cause cancer — but smoking is bad for the environment and for people who are around smokers. If you're determined to quit but don't know where to start, let these seven tips be a starting place for the new, smoke-free you.

  • 1. Do your research

  • There are many ways to stop smoking. You can try nicotine replacement therapy, stopping on your own, prescription drugs and holistic methods like acupuncture and hypnosis. There is abundant information online at websites like cancer.org to help you learn the best way for you to quit.

  • 2. Make a plan

  • Once you've done your research, make a plan. Will you begin tapering off cigarettes, completely stop, or use replacements like gum, patches or lozenges? Write your plan down and be realistic about what you can do. If you've had a long habit of smoking and are strongly addicted to nicotine, it will take time to fully quit. Include in your plan the reason you are quitting. Let that reason be your focus as you move forward.

  • 3. Get support

  • Quitting smoking is hard. Withdrawal symptoms can include cravings, headache, restlessness and sleep problems. Enlist the help of loving family members and friends to help you through the first few weeks of your smoking cessation. Your support system can help you when you're craving a cigarette or not feeling well. If you know someone who has been successful in stopping smoking, get his or her advice and support.

  • 4. Replace your habit

  • Habits are hard to break. If you wake up each morning craving your first cigarette of the day, you'll need to find a distraction right away. Do a few stress-relieving yoga poses or go for a short walk. If you find you need to keep your hands busy, take up a new hobby like crocheting, cooking, woodworking or learning an instrument. It will take a conscious effort to stop smoking at the times you used to. You may want to avoid drinking and other situations where you used to smoke.

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  • 5. See your doctor

  • Your doctor can be a good source of information about the reasons to stop smoking and the ways to be successful. He or she can also prescribe drugs that might help you quit. If you experience health problems due to smoking, like emphysema or heart issues, you should see a doctor for treatment. Your doctor might also be able to refer you to social services in your area to help you as you try to quit smoking.

  • 6. Be prepared for setbacks

  • If you've been smoking a long time, or if you smoke a lot, quitting will be difficult. Most addictions are hard to overcome, so don't expect quitting to be easy. Try to stick to your plan for quitting, remember the reasons you are trying to quit and don't let setbacks deter you from trying again. I had a friend who said she was quitting smoking for the first four years I knew her. She finally overcame her addiction and is happy to be smoke-free, but it took several attempts before she was successful.

  • 7. Reward yourself

  • People are motivated by incentives. As you make your plan to stop smoking, plan some rewards for yourself along the way. These can be very small things — like a celebratory dinner after a month of not smoking or your favorite treat after your first week of no cigarettes. Your support system of friends and family can also help motivate you and reward you, so include them in the process.

  • People who don't smoke live longer and have healthier bodies. Become part of this group as you follow these seven smart tips to quit smoking. You can overcome your bad habit.

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Amy M. Peterson, a former high school English teacher, currently lives in Oregon with her husband and four children. She spends her days writing, reading, exercising and trying to get her family to eat more vegetables.

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