YOU Docs: Q&A on Overcoming a Tobacco Addiction

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Say No to Smoking

Q: What are some helpful tips to overcome a tobacco addiction?

A: Don't say no. Just say yes to a healthier option. Here's what we mean: when you read a sign that says "No Smoking," your brain could actually register just the word "smoking," subtly reinforcing the message to smoke. It's like a reminder: "Smoking! Yes! I like it!" It's your brain backfiring.

Focus on other cues instead of fixating on how you can't smoke. Try thinking about how delicious chewing gum is instead of constantly telling yourself "no cigarettes, just gum." Or come up with another positive phrase, such as "I'm getting healthy" instead of "I can't smoke."

Use distraction. When you are most tempted to give in to the habit, call a friend, read a book, do some homework, finish a few household chores or shovel a neighbor's walk. (The last suggestion doesn't work in Florida, but it's great for denizens of northern climates.) Random acts of kindness can be particularly helpful—you're doing good for yourself and others!

Find a hobby. If you relied on smoking to keep your hands occupied or to keep yourself from (__fill in the blank__) (overeating, gambling, etc.), find other ways to keep your hands and brain engaged. For instance, when you're tempted to reach for a cigarette, try origami, make a paper airplane, do the dishes or play with Silly Putty. Find a means of keeping your hands busy.

Think big money. Figure out how much your smoking has cost you, and keep a running tab of the money you are saving by conquering your addiction.

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Michael F. Roizen, MD, is Professor of Internal Medicine and Anesthesiology, Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of the Wellness Institute at the Cleveland Clinic. He has co-founded 12 companies, including the popular websites and

Mehmet C. Oz, MD, is Vice-Chair and Professor of Surgery at Columbia University and director of the Cardiovascular Institute and Complementary Medicine Program at New York Presbyterian Hospital. His TV show—The Dr. Oz Show— recently won its third Emmy, with Dr. Oz his second as the best daytime talk show host.

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