11/06/2014 01:36 pm ET Updated Jan 08, 2015

Quitting Smoking: You CAN Do It!

What if the best thing you could do for your health was to stop doing something? You probably already know where I'm headed with this! November is both National Lung Cancer Awareness Month and COPD Awareness Month -- the perfect two-in-one reminder that the best way to reduce your risk of these and other serious illnesses is to quit smoking. And since Thursday November 20th is the Great American Smoke Out, this is the perfect time to say goodbye to tobacco and hello to a healthier you.

Let's be honest -- quitting smoking isn't easy. But every smoker can quit, there are proven tools available to help, and you're not alone. The first thing is to believe you can succeed. If you've tried to quit in the past, don't be discouraged. Research shows that most tobacco users try several times before quitting for good. The secret is to look at each past attempt, not as a failure, but as a learning experience on your path to becoming smoke free! Different things work for different people, so each time you try, you get closer to finding what works for you.

What things should you try? Well, we know "cold turkey" doesn't work for most people. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the most effective way to quit is by participating in a behavior modification program (such as our Freedom From Smoking® program) and combining that with an FDA-approved medication. It sounds simple, but that doesn't mean it's easy. So here are five time-tested tips to help you on your path to becoming smoke free:

  1. Learn from past experiences. Quitting often takes several tries. Don't get discouraged. Learn from past attempts and treat them as stepping stones to success.
  2. You don't have to quit alone. Enlist the support of friends and family. Expert help is also available from the American Lung Association and other groups. Find a friend who wants to quit and do it together.
  3. Medication can help. FDA-approved medications like nicotine patches or gum have helped many people quit. Talk to your doctor and follow the directions.
  4. It's never too late to quit. Quitting smoking at any age will enhance the length and quality of your life.
  5. Every smoker can quit. You can do it! Each person needs to find what works for them, and above all, keep trying!

And if you ever find yourself asking "What's this all for?" remind yourself of the many benefits of quitting. You'll reduce your risk of lung cancer, heart disease, COPD and stroke. You'll save all that money that you've been spending on tobacco products. You'll be a great example to your children and grandchildren. And won't it be nice to stay with your friends inside instead of having to go outside for a smoke break this winter?

If you're ready to make your first attempt at quitting smoking, want to try again, or want to help someone quit, the American Lung Association has tools and tips to help. Our Freedom From Smoking® program works in a group setting, or online. Our Quitter in You campaign recognizes that each quit attempt is a step towards success. And our Lung HelpLine is staffed with smoking cessation experts who can also answer your questions and help you on the path to becoming tobacco-free. Calls are toll-free at 1-800-LUNG-USA. When you're ready to quit, we're ready to help.

Quitting isn't easy, but you're not alone, there's help available and you CAN do it.