2007_5_health_butts.jpgThough more than half of all New York CIty smokers tried to quit smoking in the past year, 80% of them (about half a million people) lit up again within three months. While the average smoker tries to quit about 8-9 times before actually succeeding, nicotine replacement therapy has been shown to double one's chances.

To help, the Department of Health has been giving away free nicotine patches and gum since last week, already having given away over 5,000 patches and 700 packs of gum. If you're one of the 80% of City smokers who want to quit, you're encouraged to call 311 to get a supply of your own (hurry! the offer ends on May 15th). Along with the Ronaldo Martinez campaign, the free nicotine offer is part of the health department's "two-pronged" approach to help motivated New Yorkers quit.

A Health Department survey of 2,400 attempted quitters found a stressful situation as the top cause for relapse. Other reasons given included alcohol use, driving, the end of pregnancy and the smell of cigarette smoke (we would have thought the opposite about this last one). As the top preventable cause of death in NYC, cigarettes will kill 25 New Yorkers today and will send 100 City kids to their doctors today to deal with the sequelae of second hand smoke. Read on for the Health Department's tips to make quitting easier.

Prepare yourself. Make a list of your reasons for quitting and read it often.

Pick a quit date. Get rid of ashtrays and lighters, and all cigarettes.

Have a smoke-free car and home. It is healthier for others and will help you resist smoking.

Get support and encouragement. Tell your family, friends, and coworkers that you are quitting and ask for their support.

Get a quit buddy. Ask a smoker to quit with you, or find someone who has already quit who you can talk to for support.

Notice what triggers cravings. Alcohol, coffee, and stress can make you feel like smoking—so can seeing others smoke.

Consider using medications. The nicotine patch or gum and medications can double your chance of success.

Help yourself cope. Drink a lot of water to help with cravings. Exercise to relieve stress.

Get your mind off smoking. Get busy with a simple task, talk to a friend or take a walk.

Avoid places and situations you associate with smoking.

Stay away from that first cigarette! Having even one can make you start back up.

Cravings will lessen the longer you resist them.