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People who succeed in keeping their resolutions choose ambitious goals that enhance their self-esteem.
The fourth most common New Year's resolution is usually the hardest to keep. Most people don't manage to quite smoking on their first try. But there is a single golden rule for success in smoking cessation.

If you can't quit smoking for good, quit smoking for at least one day .
quit_smoke.jpgAlmost no smoker is able to quit smoking cold turkey. Nearly every smoker makes multiple attempts to kick the habit before actually succeeding. And there is no one-plan-fits-all approach to quitting smoking short of having yourself dropped off on a desert island with no convenience stores and no tobacco shops.

But nearly every smoker can quit for at least one day by sheer willpower. You don't need a patch or gum or a pill. You don't need to have your family, friends, and co-workers on board. You really have it in right this very minute to make 24 hours without lighting up. Those 24 hours may not be very pleasant, and you may want to light up 24 hours and two seconds after you quit, but the accomplishment of reaching your goal makes it easier to use all the various aids for quitting smoking that are available for you over the long haul.

There's probably no place on earth where it's harder to quit smoking than it is for a man in South Korea. Smoking is a highly ingrained feature of male Korean culture. Every year, however, hundreds of thousands of Koreans kick the habit for good, and researchers at the Korean National Cancer Center and the Dankook University School of Medicine wanted to find out what made their efforts succeed. Here's what the scientists learned.

Men who manage to kick the smoking habit don't harbor self-exempting beliefs.

  • Part and parcel of successful smoking cessation is a belief that smoking has real consequences that apply to the self. In the Korean survey, smokers who managed to quit were less likely to harbor beliefs on the lines of "You have to die of something, so why not die of lung cancer?" or "The evidence that smoking causes disease is exaggerated" or "Smoking is no riskier than skydiving or mountain climbing, and you almost never hear of anyone dying of those activities, so why not smoke?"
  • Men who quit smoking believed that quitting smoking was hard, but they also tended to have confidence in their ability to quit smoking.
  • Gaining the consequence one can quit smoking is acquired one day at a time. This may be why so many people have to try to quit smoking more than once.
  • Men who quit smoking either chose not to or were not allowed to smoke at home.
  • The evidence on whether bans on smoking in public places really make a difference for men in Korea were equivocal, but the results were clear that it is easier to quit smoking when it is banned in one's own home. Finally,
  • Men who quit smoking were more likely to be university-educated, tended to consume two or fewer alcoholic beverages per week, and to have religious beliefs. All over the world, for both men and women, the ability to quit smoking is more common among people who drink less alcohol. In other parts of the world, however, people of all education levels and who have all kinds of religious beliefs or none at all tend to be able to quit smoking with equal success.
What does this study tell men and women in the rest of the world who want to smoke? Know that you really can't quit any time you want. You'll probably have to try more than once .

Don't suppose that the "rules" don't apply to you. Your personal health is at risk.

And if at first you don't succeed, try, try again . Every time you try to quit you gain more confidence for the long haul leading to your eventual success.

  • Myung SK, Seo HG, Cheong YS, Park S, Lee WB, Fong GT. Association of Sociodemographic Factors, Smoking-Related Beliefs, and Smoking Restrictions With Intention to Quit Smoking in Korean Adults: Findings From the ITC Korea Survey. J Epidemiol. 2011 Dec 17. [Epub ahead of print]
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