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Why your reasons for not quitting smoking aren’t good enough

A spouse or family member may be forcing you to “sneak” cigarettes at home. If you smoke on the job, chances are you do it outside. Lighting up in a public place? Why, that’s become a criminal offense. Heck, even Joe Camel has been put out to pasture. No question about it: Besides being bad for your health, smoking sure has become inconvenient.

So why are you still puffing away? Maybe you actually believe these tired old excuses for why quitting just isn’t worth it:

I’ll gain weight. It’s possible. But did you know that the odds of losing weight or staying the same are just as great? What’s more, only 10 percent of people who gain weight (the average amount is 5 pounds) keep it on. If weight is an issue for you, prepare for the big quitting day. Start adding more physical activity to your days. Stock your cupboards with healthful foods and get rid of tempting, high-fat, high-calorie treats. Most important, keep in mind that you’d have to gain a lot of weight to cancel out the tremendous health benefit of a smoke-free life.

Aunt Rose smoked like a chimney—and lived to see her 94th birthday. Aunt Rose was just plain lucky. True, not every smoker dies young—but every smoker has a 25 percent chance of dying early. If nothing else, think of all the damage Aunt Rose’s smoking might have done to innocent bystanders over the years: About 3,000 deaths from lung cancer are the result of exposure to secondhand smoke alone. And kids who grow up in smoking households are more vulnerable to pneumonia, bronchitis, ear infections and asthma.

I’ll be a nervous wreck without nicotine. Make things easier on yourself by picking a calm period in which to quit. If you’ve just lost your job or are going through a divorce, now is not the time to break a bad habit. What’s more, if smoking has been your main stress-management strategy, it’s time you explored more healthful options, such as exercise, deep breathing or meditation.

I’ll be so restless I won’t know what to do with myself. Play with rubber bands, drink water, doodle, munch carrot sticks, call a friend or march in place. Keeping your hands—and legs— busy will help burn excess energy.

I won’t be able to beat the cravings. Approach your first day of smoke-free living as if you never smoked a day in your life. Sometimes simply acting as if something is true can help you succeed. Then, devise a plan to help you survive a craving: Write in a journal, take a trip to the water cooler, do a crossword puzzle, fold some laundry, do a few jumping jacks. Most cravings last no longer than 20 minutes—so hang in there.

What good will quitting do now?I’ve been smoking for 25 years. The good news is no matter how long you’ve been smoking, you’ll benefit greatly from stopping. Quit today, and you’ll reduce your risk of heart attack 50 percent to 70 percent within five years. You’ll also lower your risk of several cancers, emphysema and bronchitis.

I’ve already tried quitting, and it didn’t work. Did you know that it takes most smokers three or four tries to kick the habit? So while you may consider your past quit attempts failures, they’re more like practice sessions. This time, the odds are greater than ever that you’ll be able to quit for good. About 44 million Americans have quit smoking; you can, too!