Stop smoking 101
1. Why should I quit smoking?
Quitting smoking is the single most important thing you can do to improve your quality and quantity of life, according to the U.S. Surgeon General. The life expectancy for smokers is at least 10 years shorter than that of nonsmokers.
Smoking increases your risk for heart attack, stroke, about a dozen types of cancer, lung infections, chronic lung diseases, eye disease and premature skin aging.
Your smoking could also harm others. Secondhand smoke causes thousands of deaths from lung cancer and heart disease every year—in people who don't smoke. When pregnant women smoke, they have a higher risk for miscarriage and premature labor. Their babies are more likely to be born at a dangerously low weight, and more likely to die of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Babies exposed to cigarette smoke after they're born are also at higher risk for SIDS. Children who live with smokers have more ear infections, lung infections and lung diseases. And children whose parents smoke are more likely to start smoking too.
Smoking is also an extremely expensive habit. You can find out how much you've spent on smoking already, and how much you can save by quitting, using this calculator.
2. Will quitting be hard?
Many people find it difficult to quit smoking. The reason, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS), is nicotine. This highly addictive drug is found in all forms of tobacco, and when people become smokers their bodies and minds become dependent on it. Both forms of dependence must be overcome to successfully quit smoking.
3. What does withdrawal feel like?
Withdrawal symptoms can include:
- A strong urge to smoke.
- Trouble sleeping.
- Trouble concentrating.
- Increased appetite.
4. Can medicines help ease withdrawal?
Several medicines can help with nicotine withdrawal. Some give you controlled doses of nicotine, while others affect your brain's response to nicotine. Your doctor can help you choose the medicine or medicines that will work best for you.
5. Are there other ways to cope with withdrawal?
Support groups, telephone hotlines and the support of family, friends, co-workers and healthcare providers can all be helpful during nicotine withdrawal.
It can also help to change routines. For example, if you usually smoke while drinking coffee, switch to tea. If you smoke after dinner, try taking a walk instead.
When you feel like having a cigarette, think about why you decided to quit. Carry a written list to refer to. Take a few deep breaths, and remind yourself that the urge will pass. Distract yourself with a chore, a hot bath, needlework, a puzzle or exercise. Carry sugarless gum, hard candy, raw vegetables or sunflower seeds to keep your mouth busy.
6. Will I gain weight?
Maybe. Many factors can contribute to weight gain when people stop smoking. Your metabolism may slow down because it isn't being hit with regular doses of nicotine (it's a stimulant). Food may taste better as your senses of smell and taste return to normal. And some people use food to cope with nicotine cravings, so they're eating more calories than they need.
To prevent or minimize weight gain, stock up on filling, low-calorie foods such as fruits and vegetables and whole grains, drink plenty of water and get regular exercise.
And remember that if you do gain a few pounds, you can lose them later. Focus on stopping smoking first.
Right away. Your heart rate and blood pressure drop within 20 minutes of your last cigarette. The oxygen level in your blood increases in 12 hours. Circulation and lung function improve in as little as two weeks. Significant drops in heart disease, stroke and lung cancer risk are seen at 1, 5 and 10 years after quitting, respectively.
Immediately after you quit, your clothes, hair, hands and breath will start smelling better. Your abilities to taste and smell sharpen within days. In one to nine months, you'll be breathing easier during daily activities such as housework and during exercise.
In addition, you won't have to leave meals or parties to get your "fix." You'll also save money every day. And though you may feel tense when you first quit, research shows that people report a reduction in feelings of stress after they've quit smoking.
The first step in quitting is making the decision. Commit yourself to becoming a nonsmoker. Next, pick a quit date. The ACS recommends choosing a day within the next month. Then talk to your doctor about medicines and local support groups that can help.
You should also make a personalized plan. Think about why you smoke, the parts of quitting that are most likely to be difficult, and how you'll handle the urge to smoke when it hits. If you've tried to quit before, think about what helped you in the past and what tripped you up.
9. What if I have a relapse?
10. Where can I go to learn more?
To find out more about quitting smoking, visit the Smoking health topic center.
You can also find more information and resources on these websites: