For people who spend a majority of their waking hours in the seat of a vehicle, habits are hard to break. This is especially true for truckers. Though we drive all over the country, we develop routines and rituals just like everyone else does. If a cigarette has accompanied our morning coffee for the better part of a decade, those two items are as good as joined at the hip. Those routines, combined with a lack of meaningful support systems, means it’s extra hard for a trucker to quit smoking. There’s hope, of course, but it takes extra discipline. It also requires you to understand why you’re quitting, when the right time for quitting is and how to reach your goal. The best way to achieve this that I have found is to transition from smoking to vaping, which has proven very effective for me.
A 2006 study conducted by the American Journal of Industrial Medicine found that well over 50% of long haul truck drivers smoke cigarettes. Those are bad numbers. We all know the dangers of smoking, and when you couple it with a sit-down lifestyle and sometimes-unhealthy eating habits, things get even worse. Smoking makes it harder to pass our mandatory physical exams. It also means we’re likely to have health problems on the road. It might be hard to get to a hospital, but it could get even worse than that—what if we cause a wreck? Or what if we’re the only ones hurt? Our families suffer in either case. Truckers work hard to provide for their families—we need to consider them in all of our choices.
‘Why?’ becomes the easiest question to answer.
The obvious answer is “right now!” but we both know it’s not that simple. Smoking is both physically and mentally addictive. If you still like smoking then it’s not a good time to quit. You have to like the idea of not smoking more than the idea of smoking. The importance of that desire can’t be overstated. If you still enjoy the act of smoking much more than you enjoy the thought of quitting then you probably don’t have a chance. There are many ways to quit smoking cigarettes, but everyone who successfully quits has one thing in common—they really, really want to quit. It can’t just be a halfhearted “oh, I guess I should quit for my health.” It has to be an ardent “I need to quit—for my health and for my family!”
If you really want to quit, then let’s move on to the next step.
This is the toughest question to answer when it comes to breaking the smoking habit. No two people are alike, and what works for someone else won’t necessarily work for you. There are plenty of tutorials and testimonials on the internet, so I’ll spare you a lengthy diatribe. Think about your habits. Think about how you accomplish things. Think about how you react to stress and to change. Write those reactions and feelings down if you have to. Think about all of them. Keeping them in mind, let’s take a look at these four options.
- Cold Turkey – If you’re the kind of person that just sets your mind to something and does it without a fuss, this is the best method for you. It requires tenacity and patience because smoking is a tough habit to break. It’s not just the physical withdrawals that are bad. Replacing the ritual with something else, and figuring out how to ease your mind are equally difficult. That being said, if you’re the kind of person that prides yourself on “toughing it out,” then this is a good and simple method. I’ve met people who smoke a ton of cigarettes one after another until they’re completely sick of them or keep switching cigarette types until they find something they hate. Sometimes that’s the right jumpstart, because both of those people have stayed cigarette-free for a long time.
- Medical – Not quitting cold turkey doesn’t mean you’re weak or less of a person, it just means that method won’t work for you. There are some medical and pharmaceutical items that have been helping smokers for year, but be warned that your insurance might not cover any of them. It also bears mentioning that Chantrix (varenicline tartrate) is not something truckers are generally allowed to take. Gum and patches, however, are just fine. The gum can help with the ritual of smoking a cigarette, and it can also be replaced with normal gum some time down the road. Be warned, however, that there’s the danger of simply exchanging cigarettes for the patch and the gum and keeping on with your habits as usual. Your doctor can help you come up with a plan.
- Alternative – Not everyone believes in prescription products and pharmaceuticals, so if you need a little bit of help in your quest to quit but don’t want to use the patch or the gum, there are some other methods available. Exercise helps release endorphins and replaces habits; though building a regular routine can be tough on the road. If you can find a way to take a run or job every night, bring some small weights or find a road gym, those are all great ways of fighting the addiction. Some alternative medicine specialists also recommend both acupuncture and hypnosis. Consult those professionals for more information and see if they can fit into your schedule.
- Classes/Support Groups – Classes and support groups work very well for people with substance addictions. Unfortunately, being on the road sometimes means you can’t regularly attend certain classes. Some hospitals and healthcare groups offer relatively short ‘succession’ classes that you can attend over a break or vacation, or you can take classes when the opportunity presents itself. Even if you’re not taking a class, it’s always helpful to have a support system. Call a friend or talk to him on the CB radio. Call your family. Write a text message. Post on a trucker forum. Write a blog post or make a video. Sometimes that support (and catharsis) is the extra push you need to quit smoking for good.
The most important thing for you to remember when you’re trying to quit smoking is that your habits and thought patterns need to change. If you’re not willing to change that routine, or if you only kind of want to quit smoking, you’re going to fail. Making a new routine and changing the way you do things is tougher than the act of just not smoking cigarettes, so you need to plan around that fact. If you’re tenacious and pink a method that works well with your personality type, your morning cup of coffee will soon be free of the burden of your morning cigarette.