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EDITORIAL: Five tips to kick the habit in 2018

Here's a great way to start off the new year — with a breath of fresh air.

We know quitting smoking is extremely difficult. Many ex-smokers say it's the hardest thing they've ever done.

Why is it so difficult to stop? In a word — nicotine. Smokers get addicted to it and over time, their body gets used to having it in their system. And the more they smoke, the more nicotine they need to feel normal.

Quitting can bring on withdrawal symptoms that make it difficult to stop smoking, but take heart. Health experts say that most physical symptoms go away after a few days to a week and the worst withdrawal symptoms only last a couple of weeks. So there's hope.

Quitplan Services — a free support program offered through ClearWay Minnesota — offers these top five quitting tips for smokers in 2018:

• Set a quit date. Commit yourself to picking a date, and mark it on your calendar. Give yourself a few weeks to prepare for this big day and treat your quit date with the same level of importance as birthdays, marriages and other life-changing events. If you find yourself ready to make the move to tobacco-free living but "don't really know when," get support from Quitplan Services or talk with former tobacco users about what they did.

• Get support. Quitting can be difficult to do alone. Getting help and support from a trained coach or counselor can make a big difference. And research shows that counseling increases your chances of quitting. Getting support from people who have been in your shoes and experts can help motivate you to keep with your plan to quit. Support can come from friends and family, your healthcare provider or from Quitplan Services.

• Make a list of triggers and alternatives. Identify the situations and experiences (or "triggers") that make you want to light up. Coming up with distractions or substitutes can help you overcome your cravings in these situations. There's no avoiding the fact that cravings will happen as your body weans off nicotine. But if you're prepared, you can beat these cravings. Change it up — whether it's going somewhere different, doing something different, or just taking a few moments to collect yourself.

• Look in your wallet. Quitting isn't just good for your body. It's good for your wallet too. Starting with your first day of being tobacco-free you'll be saving money. Smokers can see how much they'll save by using the quit smoking calculator. A smoker who smokes a pack a day would save nearly $3,000 in just one year and more than $14,000 in five years.

• Remember "why." No one can tell you your own personal reasons for quitting, but reminding yourself why you are quitting can help keep you on track. Whether you're quitting for your health, your future, family and friends, money savings, or just so you won't have to stand out in the cold for a smoke break. Whatever your reason to stop smoking, think about that reason and keep reminding yourself that you can do this because you have your eye on the prize that is your "why."

You can learn more about the free help available from Quitplan Services by visiting or calling 1-888-354-PLAN (7526).

The free service has helped more than 160,000 Minnesotans in their efforts to quit. Add to that number in 2018.