Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center

Finding New Ways to Quit Smoking

“It’s definitely hard to quit. If it was easy, most smokers would have already done it.”

David Balis, M.D.

A UT Southwestern internal medicine physician and Medical Director of the Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center’s nicotine cessation program.

Getting the Support You Need to Quit Smoking

UT Southwestern’s nicotine cessation program provides new techniques and treatments to help kick the habit.

If you’ve tried to quit smoking in the past and relapsed, you might feel as if there’s no point in trying again. But it’s important to know: You don’t have to go it alone.

UT Southwestern’s nicotine cessation program can provide the support, medical therapies, and proven techniques necessary to help you say farewell to smoking for good. We can also advise spouses and partners on how best to support you along the way.

Quitting won’t be easy. Nicotine is highly addictive, and the physical symptoms of withdrawal take up to a week to subside. It can take much longer for the cravings to pass. Because of this, many smokers attempt to quit an average of six times before succeeding.

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If you’re ready to quit smoking, a nicotine cessation program can boost your odds of success.

Almost 70% of adult smokers say they would like to quit, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, primarily to reduce major health risks but also to save money; a pack-a-day habit can cost smokers more than $200 a month.

Connecting with Support

The Simmons Cancer Center nicotine cessation program can help you stop any form of nicotine/tobacco use, including smoking, chewing, and vaping. The program is led by doctors and specialists who are certified in nicotine cessation, and it focuses on two main factors: habit and addiction.

Specialists encourage the use of a journal. This tracking exercise helps people identify patterns and situations where they are likely to use nicotine so they can anticipate the triggers and substitute an alternative. (For instance, if you always have a cigarette with your morning coffee, you can try eating a banana instead.)

The cessation program also includes one-on-one counseling. Each patient meets regularly with Dr. Balis and one of two certified counselors, Karla Jerkins or Michele Yates.

“We have tips and tools to help with the habits, and medication to help with the addiction.”

David Balis, M.D.

How Medication Can Help

Dr. Balis encourages people to try medication to help them quit.

“It can make a big difference,” he says, describing the three options:

  • Nicotine replacement therapies include patches, gum, and lozenges that are available over the counter and can help reduce cravings. They do contain small amounts of nicotine.
  • Wellbutrin (bupropion) is a prescription antidepressant that has proven to be effective at reducing tobacco cravings and easing nicotine withdrawal symptoms.
  • Chantix (varenicline tartrate) is a prescription pill that stops nicotine from attaching to nicotine receptors in the brain. The targeted therapy also eases nicotine withdrawal symptoms.

Dr. Balis recommends medication based on each person’s needs, reviewing what has worked in the past and what hasn’t.

“People might respond to one medication but not another, or have side effects from one but not another. Getting the medications right can eliminate cravings and make it easier to quit.”

David Balis, M.D.

How Your Partner Can Help

In addition to the medications and techniques provided by a nicotine cessation program, support from a spouse or partner can help smokers quit, too.

Here are some suggestions:

  1. Be supportive when a partner says they are thinking about quitting smoking, even if they’ve tried before.
  2. If you used to smoke, point out how much better you feel now.
  3. Avoid nagging, counting their cigarettes, or asking if they smoked today.
  4. Be patient with behaviors that can stem from withdrawal. Your partner might be irritable or have more appetite than usual.
  5. Plan activities in smoke-free environments.
  6. Distract your partner when cravings strike. Most cravings last only a few minutes.
  7. Celebrate success on good days and offer to take on some of their household tasks on days when they are struggling.
  8. Recognize they might slip. Many quitters start smoking again in the first three months. Let them know they have your long-term support.