You can send out for pizza, and have someone come in to clean your house, and you can take your shirts to the dry cleaner - but the only person who can quit smoking for you is you, says Dr. Tom Ferguson.
Stop smoking programs that rely on an "authority" who does something to you that enables you to give up cigarettes only work while you're in that authority's presence, says Ferguson, director of the Center for Self-Care Studies in Austin, Texas.
Ferguson is author of "The No-Nag, No-Guilt, Do-It-Your-Own-Way Guide to Quitting Smoking," which pretty much sums up his approach. The only effective stop-smoking program, he says, is one that you design to fit your own smoking patterns and your own personality.
Smokers need to feel they are "the architect of the process of quitting," says Ferguson.
Typically, he says, smokers take three to six months just getting ready to quit. This step - the working-up-to-quitting step - is the missing link in other stop-smoking approaches, he says.
During this phase a smoker should learn stress-mastery skills, begin exercising and build up a support system of family and friends who can be helpful without nagging. This phase should also include the following four steps:
-FIRST WEEK: Don't try to change your smoking habits but pay attention to every urge to smoke. Write down each of these urges, rating them from 1 to 10 in intensity.
-SECOND WEEK: Continue to rate the intensity and eliminate those cigarettes that fall into the 1 to 5 group. Most people smoke half of their cigarettes simply out of habit, notes Ferguson.
-THIRD WEEK: Switch to a cigarette that has one-half the tar level of your usual brand.
-FOURTH WEEK: Every time you buy a new pack, draw a red ring around each cigarette, one inch from the the lit end. Never smoke beyond that point. "Only the first few puffs are needed to satisfy the urge to smoke. The rest is habit," says the doctor.
At this point, he says, smokers will be down to about 25 percent of their regular cigarette intake. Cutting down in this fashion means less withdrawal and more control. "You're taking a lot of small steps toward the right direction. You're in charge."
Aversion therapy (in which the smoker is forced to smoke until he feels sick at the very thought of another cigarette) and nicotine gum are two of the most useful approaches to stop smoking altogether, says Ferguson.
There are over 250 different techniques available to help a smoker quit, he says. "We suggest that people use a half dozen or a dozen different techniques." The important thing, he adds, is that the smoker chooses the methods that are best for him.
Ferguson's book also includes an appendix for non-smokers that shows them how to be supportive without nagging. Nonsmokers need to remember, he points out, that "it's not their goal to get a person to quit." Quitting is the responsibility of the smoker.