“I’ve smoked a pack a day for 40 years — what’s the use of quitting now?”
No matter your age, quitting smoking improves your health. If you quit smoking, you are likely to add years to your life, breathe more easily, and save money. You will also:
- Lower your risk of cancer, heart attack, stroke, and lung disease
- Have better blood circulation
- Improve your sense of taste and smell
- Stop smelling like smoke
- Set a healthy example for your children and grandchildren
Smoking shortens your life. It causes about 1 of every 5 deaths in the United States each year. Smoking makes millions of Americans sick by causing:
Lung disease. Smoking damages your lungs and airways, sometimes causing chronic bronchitis. It can also cause a disease called emphysema that destroys your lungs, making it very hard for you to breathe.
Heart disease. Smoking increases your risk of heart attack and stroke.
Cancer. Smoking can lead to cancer of the lung, mouth, larynx (voice box), esophagus, stomach, liver, pancreas, kidney, bladder, and cervix.
Respiratory problems. If you smoke, you are more likely than a nonsmoker to get the flu (influenza), pneumonia, or other infections that can interfere with your breathing.
Osteoporosis. If you smoke, your chance of developing osteoporosis (weak bones) is greater.
Nicotine Is a Drug
Nicotine is the drug in tobacco that makes tobacco products addictive. People become addicted to nicotine. That’s one reason why the first few weeks after quitting are the hardest. Some people who give up smoking have withdrawal symptoms. They may feel grumpy, hungry or tired. Some people have headaches, feel depressed or have problems sleeping or concentrating. These symptoms fade over time. Some people have no withdrawal symptoms.
Breaking the Addiction
Many people say the first step to stop smoking is to make a firm decision to quit and pick a definite date to stop. Then make a clear plan for how you will stick to it.
Your plan might include:
- Talking with your doctor
- Setting a quit date, when you stop smoking completely
- Developing a plan for dealing with urges to smoke
- Reading self-help information
- Going to individual or group counseling
- Asking a friend for help
- Taking medicine to help with symptoms of nicotine withdrawal
- Calling your state quitline (800.784.8669 or 800.QUITNOW)
Find what works best for you. Using many approaches to quitting may be the answer.
Help With Quitting
When you quit, you may need support to cope with your body’s desire for nicotine. Nicotine replacement products help some smokers quit. You can buy gum, patches or lozenges over-the-counter.
There are also products that require a doctor’s prescription. A nicotine nasal spray or inhaler can reduce withdrawal symptoms and make it easier for you to quit smoking.
Other drugs may also help with withdrawal symptoms. Talk to your doctor about what medicines might be best for you.
Some people think smokeless tobacco (chewing tobacco and snuff), pipes, and cigars are safe. They are not. Smokeless tobacco causes cancer of the mouth and pancreas. It also causes pre-cancerous lesions known as oral leukoplakia, gum problems and nicotine addiction. Pipe and cigar smokers may develop cancer of the mouth, lip, larynx, esophagus and bladder. Those who inhale are also at increased risk of getting lung cancer.
Good News About Quitting
The good news is that after you quit:
- Your lungs, heart, and circulatory system will begin to function better.
- Your chance of having a heart attack or stroke will drop.
- Your breathing will improve.
- Your chance of getting cancer will be lower.
No matter how old you are, all of these health benefits are important reasons to make a plan to stop smoking.