New Year, New Me: Quitting Smoking for Good Is the Hardest Resolution to Achieve

January 5th 2017
Lauren Santye, Assistant Editor
Lauren Santye, Assistant Editor

Three of 5 individuals who resolved to quit smoking picked up the habit again by the end of January.

At the start of the New Year, many individuals make New Year’s resolutions. But each year,42.4% of people fail to meet their resolution. And although quitting smoking is 1 of the top 10 resolutions year after year, it’s the hardest one to keep, according toCNN.

Currently there are more than 1 billion smokers around the globe. A new study by the Royal Society of Public Health found that 3 of 5 individuals in the UK who resolved to quit their habit, began smoking again by the end of January.

At the end of 2016, more than 2000 individuals were surveyed about their resolutions, according toCNN. The results of the survey showed that of the 175 (8%) participants who had chosen to quit smoking, only 41% kept their resolution going until January. Furthermore, only 13% remained smoke-free at the end of the year.

“One of the main challenges of smoking is that it’s a chemical addiction,” said Duncan Stephenson, director of external affairs, Royal Society of Public Health. “(Quitting) takes huge amounts of willpower.”

Due to the challenges ofquitting smoking, Stephenson said it’s important to remember that individuals should not give up when it gets hard or if they slip up. Stephenson recommends quitting aids and support services to improve the chances of success.

“Rather than setting unrealistic goals and making huge changes to lifestyle, we suggest people make small changes using a step-wise approach. During the new year, lots of people want to reinvent themselves … but people shouldn’t set themselves up to fail,” Stephenson said, as reported byCNN.

Additional findings from the survey revealed that dieting was the second from last regarding resolution success. Sixty-five person of individuals lasted 1 month on a diet, and only 16% made it to the end of the year.

One of the main reasons individuals fail to meet their resolutions is that they set unrealistic targets or goals, attempting a total overhaul of their life. According to Stephenson, the challenges in quitting smoking is similar for individuals who go on a diet.

“Christmas is one of the most calorific periods of the year, and then you put yourself in a straitjacket when you go on a crash diet,” Stephenson said. “In most cases, 95% of diets fail.”

John Norcross, professor of psychology at the University of Scranton, author of the bookChangeology, recommends that individuals choose resolutions that they can realistically meet.

“The most difficult resolutions to keep were the consumptive, addictive behaviors, such as smoking and dieting,” Norcross said. “The easiest ones are the realistic, attainable resolutions that can be accomplished permanently in the first 3 or 4 weeks.

Below is a list of successful New Year’s Resolutions that individuals reported still doing by the end of January:

  1. Improve relationships with friends/family: 86%
  2. Starting playing more sports, or other forms of exercise: 77%
  3. Get a healthier work-life balance: 75%
  4. Start going to the gym: 68%
  5. Go on a diet: 65%
  6. Take part in “Dry January”: 63%
  7. Reduce alcohol intake: 61%
  8. Cut down on social media use: 61%
  9. Get more sleep: 59%
  10. Quit smoking: 41%

Below are New Year’s resolutions individuals were still following after a year:

  1. Improve relationships with friends/family: 58%
  2. Get a healthier work-life balance: 43%
  3. Starting playing more sports, or other forms of exercise: 36%
  4. Get more sleep: 32%
  5. Reduce alcohol intake: 31%
  6. Cut down on social media use: 31%
  7. Start going to the gym: 23%
  8. Go on a diet: 19%
  9. Quit smoking: 13%

“It’s not so much the topic, it’s how realistic the goal is,” Norcross said. “It doesn’t say ‘fix,’ it says ‘improve’ … so they will have a much higher success rates.

One limitation to the study was the successes were self-reported so, inevitably, can come with some bias, and individuals had to recall things from earlier in the year.

“We don’t know how people characterize their success rates,” Norcross said. “We don’t have a sense of magnitude for improvement.”

The next survey the Royal Society of Public Health will conduct will ask participants for more detail, as well as inquire further about what caused them to stop their resolutions.

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