Quitting Smoking

Basic Facts

  • Smokers can greatly improve their health and prevent illness and disease by quitting smoking at any age.
  • More than 5 methods have been scientifically proven to help smokers quit. Quitting may require a combination of methods.
  • The benefits of quitting smoking begin as soon as 20 minutes after the last cigarette.
  • Smoking is a physical and psychological addiction that can create serious health problems.
  • Cigarette smoking is the leading preventable cause of illness and death in the United States and is known to affect all parts of a person’s body.
  • Smoking is the primary cause of cardiovascular diseases such as heart disease, stroke, and peripheral artery disease. Additionally, smoking is known to cause one-third of all cancer deaths in the United States.
  • Because smoking narrows blood vessels, smoking negatively affects a person’s sex and reproductive health, causing erectile dysfunction and infertility.
  • Once a person starts smoking and becomes a regular smoker, quitting can be difficult. People attempt to quit many times before they successfully stop smoking permanently. Fortunately, people can quit smoking and prevent or slow the progression of many illnesses and conditions. A physician can help a smoker through the quitting process by recommending one or more smoking cessation methods.

Positive Impact of Proper Management

Quitting smoking helps to prevent and/or slow the progression of many (if not all) conditions affected by smoking. Additionally, it reduces a person’s risk for cancer and may also reduce chances for developing one or more of the following conditions:

  • Coronary artery disease
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Peripheral artery disease
  • Carotid artery disease
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or other lung diseases

Getting Started

Quitting requires planning. The first and most important step that a person can take to quit smoking is to decide to stop. The person should also set a deadline to quit smoking. Finally, he or she should contact his or her physician to get support and recommendations for quitting programs.

Quitting smoking is made more difficult by withdrawal symptoms that may include:

  • Nervousness
  • Anxiety
  • Headaches
  • Frustration
  • Irritability
  • Anger
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Increased appetite
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Frequent urges to smoke

Withdrawal symptoms usually peak after 2 days of quitting, then disappear during the following weeks.

Before the quit date, the smoker should plan activities to occupy the time when he or she usually smokes. Some examples of replacement activities may include:

  • Taking a short walk after meals
  • Snacking on fruits and vegetables
  • Chewing gum (preferably sugarless)
  • Practicing breathing exercises (inhaling and exhaling slowly and deeply)

Just prior to the quit date, the smoker should throw out all smoking-related items, such as cigarettes, ashtrays, matches, and lighters.

What Risks are Involved?

The benefits of quitting smoking strongly outweigh the few risks. However, some possible risks include:

  • Weight gain
  • Increased stress
  • Side effects to smoking cessation medications

Most studies show that smokers do not gain a large amount of weight after quitting. The average weight gain in most cases is only 5 pounds. For dealing with stress, the best approach is to be prepared for stressful situations when they arise. Consider breathing exercises, exercising, a stress-management program, meditation or prayer as ways to alleviate stress. Smoking cessation aids have a variety of side effects, although the side effects are mostly minor.

Management Options

Quitting smoking may take several attempts before a person is able to completely and successfully stop. The more a person attempts quitting, the better his or her chances are for successfully quitting.

The steps to successfully quit smoking include:

  1. Decide to quit
  2. Set a quit date
  3. Select a smoking cessation method
  4. Cope with withdrawal
  5. Maintain the cessation by not smoking

Once a smoker decides to quit, there are a some different methods that have proven successful at helping people to stop smoking. Some different ways to quit smoking include:

  • Quitting cold turkey
    • To quit cold turkey means to stop smoking completely (and often abruptly) without using any smoking cessation aids.
  • Using nicotine replacements
    • Nicotine substitutes replace the nicotine that the body gets from smoking, and can help wean people off of smoking. Substitutes for nicotine include: gum, lozenges, patches, inhalers, and nasal sprays.
  • Taking medication
    • Bupropion (Zyban) is a nicotine-free oral medication designed to decrease urges for cigarettes and alleviate withdrawal symptoms.
    • Varencline (Chantix) is another prescription medication to help people stop smoking. (The FDA has released warnings about varencline, however. People using varencline should be carefully monitored by their physician for behavior and mood changes; patients should contact their physician immediately if they notice these changes. In addition, patients should inform their physician if they have a history of mental illness, depression, or kidney problems.)
  • Calling a “quit-line”
    • A quit-line is a free telephone support service. A quit-line provides a smoker with access to information on smoking cessation, advice on how to quit, and support for smokers going through the quitting process. Quit-lines often work well in combination with other smoking cessation programs.
  • Joining an in-person support group
    • Many organizations, hospitals, and state programs offer free classes or support groups that are led by trained smoking cessation counselors.
  • Joining an online support group
    • Online smoking cessation programs offer guidelines on quitting smoking, online discussion groups, and access to a smoking cessation counselor.

Timeline of Effectiveness

The benefits of quitting smoking begin immediately. The body begins healing as soon as 20 minutes after quitting!

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Medical Review Date: July 23, 2008 / Copyright © 2012 NorthPoint Domain, Inc. All rights reserved. This material cannot be reproduced in digital or printed form without the express consent of NorthPoint Domain, Inc. Unauthorized copying or distribution of NorthPoint Domain’s Content is an infringement of the copyright holder’s rights.