Story last updated at 1:22 p.m. Thursday, November 28, 2002

Help available for smokers
by Chris Bernard
Staff Writer

Last week, as they have for 25 years, thousands of people nationwide quit making excuses for smoking and used the Great American Smokeout as an excuse to quit.

On the third Thursday each November, the American Cancer Society encourages smokers to give up tobacco products for the day -- or for good.

Smokers who ignore the pull of tobacco for the day can find solace in the fact that thousands of smokers across the country are going through the same aches and pangs of withdrawal.

The American Cancer Society offers tips, tricks and hints to help quit the habit, whether you're a closet smoker, a social smoker or a two-packs-a-day smokehound.

Reasons to quit are many, and include health, cost and a rapidly dwindling list of places where smoking is allowed. (See related story, this page.)

Quitting is difficult. Many people have their own techniques and approaches, from cold turkey and tapering to hypnosis and acupuncture. Some work for some people, others don't.

Help is available in the form of over-the-counter and prescription quitting aids, including nicotine patches and nicotine gum, smokeless cigarettes and homeopathic detoxification remedies.

Few people are able to quit alone -- tell your friends, family and co-workers your plan, and enlist their help and support. Find someone who can talk you through a weak moment.

Or, call the Anchorage Quit Line at (888) 842-QUIT. Trained counselors will help each person plan a quitting strategy around his or her smoking habits and personal concerns. Counselors send printed materials that fit the smoker's stage in the quitting process and can help put smokers in contact with the appropriate resources to help them quit.

Other helpful tips:

* Substitute carrot sticks, celery or toothpicks in the first few days of quitting to help you overcome the urge.

* Avoid the temptation by avoiding situations you associate with smoking, and by avoiding coffee and alcohol.

* Exercise, drink lots of water, and tell yourself firmly that each craving will, eventually, pass.

* Put the money you'd spend on cigarettes each day into a jar, and set a date down the road when you'll use it to treat yourself as a reward for quitting. At about $5 a pack, a pack-a-day smoker spends more than $1,800 a year on cigarettes.

That point is made even more encouragingly when you extrapolate those figures: if you invested that money in a tax-deferred account, assuming a 9 percent return you'd have about $200,000 after 30 years.

All that, and pink lungs.

Smokers also can call the American Cancer Society at (800) 227-2345 for a list of events, support groups and resources in their area.

Chris Bernard can be reached at