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Shortcuts: How to quit smoking

By Paul Sussman for CNN
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(CNN) -- As the year draws to an end, and thoughts turn to what 2007 holds in store, people everywhere are contemplating making a New Year's resolution. Without doubt the most popular of these will be to give up smoking (usually again, after last year's tobacco-quitting resolution fell by the wayside). Here's how to get off the cigarettes in 2007, and stay off them.

Willpower, willpower, willpower: Just like losing weight, getting fit and becoming a millionaire, there are no easy routes here. While there are a range of support strategies available, giving up smoking ultimately comes down to your own strength of will. Quitting tobacco takes grit and guts and determination and effort, and if you're not prepared to demonstrate these then you're probably not going to succeed. Try to think of yourself as a character in a movie: are you the hero who fights against the odds to save the world from flesh-eating alien invaders, or the vapid cowardly loser who tells the aliens where the children are hiding in a desperate effort to save your own pathetic life? If the former, you're going to beat the tobacco. If the latter, it's going to beat you.

Mull on the consequences: Smoking is not only an anti-social, but a deeply physically harmful habit, akin to jamming a piece of sandpaper down your throat and vigorously abrading your internal organs (according to the World Health Authority 5 million people every year die of smoking-related diseases). Long-term tobacco use is a proven or probable cause of some 25 extremely unpleasant health conditions, including heart attack, cancer (of the lung, mouth, liver, kidneys, bladder, cervix, stomach and bowel), emphysema and large vessel peripheral vascular disease (which can result in you having to have your limbs cut off). Get on the Internet, take a look at some pictures of a cancerous lung or an amputated leg, and ask yourself: Do I want this to be me?

Nicotine replacement therapy: This is one of the most supportive crutches to assist you in your long march to tobacco freedom. As the name suggests, it involves soothing your craving for nicotine -- the addictive element in tobacco -- with something less harmful than cigarettes. A whole range of nicotine-based replacement products are available, including patches, chewing gum, nasal sprays, inhalators and lozenges (in many countries you can get these on prescription, making them not only a lot healthier than cigarettes, but a lot cheaper too). True, Humphrey Bogart would have looked a lot less cool with a plastic inhalator hanging from his mouth rather than a real cigarette, but then again with a plastic inhalator he might not have died of throat cancer ("coffin nails" was how Bogart memorably described the 80-odd cigarettes a day he reputedly smoked).

Go alternative: If nicotine replacement doesn't work, or isn't enough on its own, you could try one of an array of alternative giving-up-smoking therapies. Of these, acupuncture and hypnotherapy are by far the most popular, and appear to have produced the most successful results. Other alternative treatments include massage, aromatherapy, meditation, herbal supplements and reiki. Although there is a school of thought that argues medicinal enemas can also be effective in the fight against tobacco, most people, when faced with a choice between a enema or smoking-induced bronchitis, would probably go for the bronchitis.

Make a date and stick to it: This goes back to the whole willpower issue. The key to giving up smoking is to set yourself targets and stick to them, and the first target should be a day and time to actually stop. Midnight on December 31st is a convenient cut off, allowing you to say at 12.01 am "I haven't smoked all year," a boast that should give you some much needed confidence at a potentially traumatic time.

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