Quitting Smoking Tips for Women (cont.)

Online resources that offer smoking information and cessation programs, besides WebMD, include the American Cancer Society, the American Lung Association, and Nicotine Anonymous.

  • Try nicotine replacement therapy (NRT), such as the nicotine patch or nicotine gum. The patch delivers a steady stream of nicotine automatically through the skin and into the blood. Easy to use, the patch is a popular choice for both men and women. Those who give in to cravings and smoke while using the patch, however, put themselves at risk for heart attacks (from a potential overdose). Nicotine gum helps to alleviate cigarette cravings by releasing nicotine into the bloodstream when chewed. Many women try both before settling on one. McCain felt sick after just five minutes on the patch and switched to nicotine gum. "The gum is very helpful because, like smokes, I see it as a reward," she says. The trouble with nicotine gum is that many people don't chew enough to quell their withdrawal symptoms, says Perkins. "Gum was a pale substitute for cigarettes," says Schoech. "It didn't lessen my cravings at all."

    But don't abandon quitting altogether if a nicotine replacement therapy doesn't work for you. Research shows that women are fueled more by "smoking cues" than by the nicotine itself. In other words, you're more likely to crave a cigarette if you get a whiff of smoke from your favorite brand or if you go out for drinks with friends who smoke. Make a list of things that spark your cravings and try to avoid them.

  • Get moving (preferably at a pace that precludes smoking). Adding a fast walk or a brisk swim to your daily routine not only staves off nicotine cravings but also burns excess calories. Try funneling the money you save from cigarettes (which can be sizable if you sit down and do the math) into a gym membership. If smoking left you feeling lethargic, don't overdo it. Perkins recommends walking one or two miles a day to start. A self-described non-athlete, Schoech made exercise an important part of her smoke-free routine. "When you're smoking you know that you're already doing the worst possible thing you can to your body, so you care less about eating junk food and not exercising," she says. "When I quit smoking, I wanted to become more healthy overall." Now, she walks 40 minutes a day three to five times a week and has improved her lung capacity and stamina.
  • Talk with your doctor about prescription cessation aids. Drugs such as Zyban and Wellbutrin are antidepressants that ward off nicotine cravings. Both can be combined with NRTs to boost the likelihood of success. Women smokers are twice as likely as men to have a history of depression, according to a January/April 1996 review article in the Journal of the American Medical Women's Association. Therefore, prescription antidepressants can be especially helpful, says Perkins. Zyban also helps prevent weight gain, which makes it an appealing option for many women, he says.