The US Surgeon General has stated, "Smoking cessation
(stopping smoking) represents the single most important step
that smokers can take to enhance the length and quality of
Quitting smoking is not easy, but you can
do it. To have the best chance of quitting successfully, you
need to know what you’re up against, what your options
are, and where to go for help. You'll find this information
Why Is It So Hard to Quit Smoking?
Mark Twain said, "Quitting smoking
is easy. I've done it a thousand times." Maybe
you've tried to quit, too. Why is quitting and staying quit
hard for so many people? The answer is nicotine.
Nicotine is a drug found
naturally in tobacco. It is highly addictive -- as addictive
as heroin or cocaine. Over time, a person becomes physically
and emotionally addicted to, or dependent on, nicotine. Studies
have shown that smokers must deal with both the physical and
psychological dependence to be successful at quitting and
Where Nicotine Goes and How Long it Stays
When you inhale smoke, nicotine
is carried deep into your lungs, where it is absorbed quickly
into the bloodstream and carried throughout your body. Nicotine
affects many parts of the body, including your heart and blood
vessels, your hormonal system, your metabolism, and your brain.
Nicotine can be found in breast milk and even in cervix mucus
secretions of smokers. During pregnancy, nicotine freely crosses
the placenta and has been found in amniotic fluid and the
umbilical cord blood of newborn infants.
Several different factors can affect how
long it takes the body to remove nicotine and its by-products.
In general, a regular smoker will have nicotine or its by-products,
such as cotinine, in the body for about 3 to 4 days after
How Nicotine Hooks Smokers
Nicotine produces pleasant
feelings that make the smoker want to smoke
more. It also acts as a kind of depressant by interfering
with the flow of information between nerve cells. As the nervous
system adapts to nicotine, smokers tend to increase the number
of cigarettes they smoke, and therefore the amount of nicotine
in their blood. After a while, the smoker develops a tolerance
to the drug, which leads to an increase in smoking over time.
Over time, the smoker reaches a certain nicotine level and
then smokes to maintain this level of nicotine. In fact, nicotine,
when inhaled in cigarette smoke, reaches the brain faster
than drugs that enter the body intravenously (IV).
When smokers try to cut back or quit, the
lack of nicotine leads to withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal
is both physical and mental. Physically, the body reacts to
the absence of nicotine. Mentally, the smoker is faced with
giving up a habit, which calls for a major change in behavior.
Both must be addressed in order for the quitting process to
If a person has smoked regularly for a few
weeks or longer and suddenly stops using tobacco
or greatly reduces the amount smoked, they will have withdrawal
symptoms. Symptoms usually start within a few hours of the
last cigarette and peak about 2 to 3 days later. Withdrawal
symptoms can last for a few days to up to several weeks.
Withdrawal symptoms can include any of the following:
dizziness (which may only last 1-2 days after quitting)
feelings of frustration, impatience, and anger
sleep disturbances, including having trouble falling asleep
and staying asleep, and having bad dreams or even nightmares
Why Should I Quit?
Health concerns usually top the list of reasons
people give for quitting smoking. This is a very real concern:
About half of all smokers who continue to smoke will end up
dying from a smoking-related illness.
Nearly everyone knows that smoking can cause
lung cancer, but few people realize it is also a risk factor
for many other kinds of cancer as well, including cancer of
the mouth, voice box (larynx), throat (pharynx), esophagus,
bladder, kidney, pancreas, cervix, stomach, and some leukemias.
Pneumonia has been included in the list of
diseases caused by smoking since 2004. Smoking also increases
your risk of getting lung diseases such as emphysema and chronic
bronchitis. These diseases are grouped together under the
term COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). COPD causes
chronic illness and disability, and worsens over time - sometimes
becoming fatal. Emphysema and chronic bronchitis can be found
in people as young as 40, but are more commonly diagnosed
later in life, when the symptoms are more severe. Long term
smokers have the highest risk of developing severe COPD.
Heart Attacks, Strokes, and Blood Vessel Diseases
Smokers are twice as likely to die from heart
attacks as are non-smokers. And smoking is a major risk factor
for peripheral vascular disease, a narrowing of the blood
vessels that carry blood to the leg and arm muscles. Smoking
also affects the walls of the vessels that carry blood to
the brain (carotid arteries), which can cause strokes. Men
who smoke are more likely to develop erectile dysfunction
(impotence) because of blood vessel disease.
Blindness and Other Problems
Smoking also causes premature
wrinkling of the skin, bad breath, bad smelling clothes and
hair, yellow fingernails, and an increased risk of macular
degeneration, one of the most common causes of blindness in
Special Risks to Women and Babies
Women have some unique risks linked to smoking.
Women over 35 who smoke and use birth control pills have a
higher risk of heart attack, stroke, and blood clots of the
legs. Women who smoke are more likely to have a miscarriage
or a lower birth-weight baby. Low birth-weight babies are
more likely to die or have learning and physical problems.
Years of Life Lost Due to Smoking
Based on data collected in the late 1990s,
the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated
that adult male smokers lost an average of 13.2 years of life
and female smokers lost 14.5 years of life because of smoking.
And given the diseases that smoking can cause, it can steal
your quality of life long before you die. Smoking-related
illness can limit your activities by making it harder to breathe,
get around, work, or play.
No matter how old you are or how long you've
smoked, quitting will help you live longer. People who stop
smoking before age 50 cut their risk of dying in the next
15 years in half compared with those who continue to smoke.
Ex-smokers enjoy a higher quality of life with fewer illnesses
from cold and flu viruses, better self-reported health, and
reduced rates of bronchitis and pneumonia.
Quitting smoking has major
and immediate health benefits for men and women of all ages.
Benefits apply to people with and without smoking-related
Former smokers live longer than people who
Quitting smoking decreases the risk of lung
cancer, other cancers, heart attack, stroke, and chronic lung
Women who stop smoking before pregnancy or
during the first 3 to 4 months of pregnancy reduce their risk
of having a low birth-weight baby to that of women who never
Immediate Rewards of Quitting
Kicking the tobacco habit offers some benefits
that you'll notice right away and some that will develop over
time. These rewards can improve your day-to-day life a great
The prospect of better health is a major
reason for quitting, but there are other
Smoking is expensive. It isn't hard to figure
out how much you spend on smoking: multiply how much money
you spend on tobacco every day by 365 (days per year). The
amount may surprise you. Now multiply that by the number of
years you have been using tobacco and that amount will probably
Smoking is less socially acceptable now than
it was in the past.
Almost all workplaces have some type of smoking
rules. Some employers even prefer to hire non-smokers. Studies
show smoking employees cost businesses more to employ because
they are out sick more. Employees who are ill more often than
others can raise an employer’s need for expensive short-term
replacement workers. They can increase insurance costs both
for other employees and for the employer, who often pays part
of the workers’ insurance premiums. Smokers in a building
also can increase the maintenance costs of keeping odors down,
since residue from cigarette smoke clings to carpets, drapes,
and other fabrics.
Smokers may also find their prospects for
dating or romantic involvement, including marriage, are largely
limited to other smokers, who make up only about 21% of the
Health of Others
Smoking not only harms your health but it hurts the health
of those around you. Exposure to secondhand smoke (also called
environmental tobacco smoke or passive smoking) includes exhaled
smoke as well as smoke from burning cigarettes.
Studies have shown that secondhand smoke causes thousands
of deaths each year from lung
cancer and heart disease in healthy non-smokers.
Setting an Example
If you have children, you probably want to set a good example
for them. When asked, nearly all smokers say they don't want
their children to smoke, but children whose parents smoke
are more likely to start smoking themselves. You can become
a good role model for them by quitting now.
Help Is Available
With the wide range of counseling services, self-help materials,
and medicines available today, smokers have more tools than
ever to help them quit smoking for good.
Remember, tobacco addiction has both a psychological and
a physical component. For most people, the best way to quit
will be some combination of medicine, a method to change personal
habits, and emotional support. The following sections describe
these tools and how they may be helpful to you.Help
With Psychological Addiction