A Harm Reduction Approach to Quitting Smoking

I just wanted to tell my story about getting off nicotine and how I used elements of harm reduction and use-extinction to do so.


I started by taking Chantix (which is a partial nicotine agonist). I chose Chantix over the patch or gum because it has the best success rate–up to 50% total abstinence.


However I totally rejected the idea of doing the Chantix plan. I needed to make my own plan, When I make my own plans I succeed with them because I am personally involved with them. When others impose plans upon me I am not interested.


This is the first Harm Reduction principle applied: When people are involved in creating their own plans then they are invested in completing those plans.


My insurance would not pay for Chantix–so I had to pay out of pocket. This is another principle which is universal rather than harm reductionist: people put value on what they pay for—whether they pay with money or effort.


One part of the Chantix plan online is a calculator which tells you how much money you save by not smoking. This would definitely be backfiring in my case. I only smoke Bugler rolling tobacco–and it costs me $50 a month to smoke. The Chantix alone costs $150 a month so smoking is much cheaper than Chantix for me.


The second harm reduction element which I worked into my quit cigarettes plan is charting. I started keeping a detailed record of every single cigarette I smoked and within a week of starting the Chantix I was down to half of what I usually smoked.


The third harm reduction technique I used was to stop keeping a supply on hand. I have always bought my Bugler tobacco by the can which is enough for a week or more. Now I started buying it only by the pouch so I would only have enough available for a day or so.


The fourth harm reduction technique I used was to get nicotine gum and chewing tobacco so that I would never have to feel deprived of nicotine any time that I chose not to smoke. I have never opened either the gum or the pack of chew–but I take great psychological comfort in knowing that they are in my backpack handy to me at any time.


I had some withdrawal a few days after starting the Chantix but it soon passed and my cigarettes started tasting really bad. I was hardly smoking at all except in certain situations such as staying at home and reading when the environmental cues would trigger chain-smoking behavior. So after two weeks on the Chantix I decided to buy nicotine-free cigarettes (Quest was the brand I found in New York) and stop inhaling nicotine entirely. I still had the gum and the chew if I felt a need for nicotine–I just would not inhale it anymore.


This illustrates a fifth harm reduction technique: Break the bad habit (undesired behavior–or what the steppers call “addiction”) into component parts and work on one piece at a time.


I have been smoking the nicotine free cigarettes for two days now and I have absolutely NO desire to use the gum or the chewing tobacco–the thought of either makes me nauseous as I type. I have no desire for my Buglers either–now that is a change since I have been smoking Bugler about 20 years now–and I have been smoking something or other every single day for the past 35 years.


Yesterday was my first nicotine free day in 35 years and today is my second.


So I have taken one step towards the final change–I have gotten free of the nicotine addition. I only had some withdrawal about 12 hours after going nicotine free.


Now the thing is to stop the smoking part of the habit. I have cinnamon sticks and I have been chewing on them sometimes instead of a cigarette for the past couple of weeks–it is not a bad substitute. I have also been sucking on Hall’s cough drops. These two techniques comprise a sixth harm reduction technique–substitute a less problematic behavior.


And what is the final goal? Total abstinence? I think not. I would still like to enjoy an occasional cigar now and then. And I think that is okay–because cigars were never a habit for my like the cigarettes. I smoked only pipes and cigars from age 15 to 20–only when I went to college did I start the cigarettes.


 Following the Chantix plan instead of using Chantix with my own plan would not have worked for me at all. When people tell me how bad smoking is then I want to smoke. It is only when people tell me that they want me to stick around for a long time because they like me that I want to quit, And total abstinence after one week of Chantix like Pfizer says? That would not work for me. And the money calculator? Hell–taking Chantix and buying nicotine free cigs is costing me roughly nine times as much as smoking Bugler.


So that is why My Own Plan works for me.


About Kenneth Anderson

Kenneth Anderson is the author of the book How to Change Your Drinking: a Harm Reduction Guide to Alcohol. He is also the founder and CEO of The HAMS Harm Reduction Network.
This entry was posted in hams harm reduction network, harm reduction, nicotine addiction, nicotine harm reduction, quit smoking, tobacco harm reduction and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to A Harm Reduction Approach to Quitting Smoking

  1. Pingback: Is it ok to smoke herbal (tobacco-free) cigarettes? | Herbal Smoke Blog

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