Smoking Cessation Facts

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Semko, Laura

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Quit Smoking

Smoking cessation is used to describe the combination of medicine and aids, changes in personal habits, and emotional support that help smokers quit smoking.

If you’ve tried quitting smoking before without success, you may feel unsure about whether you can quit for good. You are in good company. It is common for people to make multiple attempts to become completely smoke-free—all the more reason to get started now!  You may also wonder how to prepare for such a big change. Start by learning everything you can about the health risks of smoking as well as the available resources to end this deadly habit.

Cigarette smoking harms nearly every organ of the body. Smoking-related illnesses cause nearly one of every five deaths each year in the U.S. When you smoke, toxins are carried by your blood to every organ in your body. At the same time, the carbon monoxide in cigarette smoke keeps red blood cells from carrying as much oxygen as normal. As a result, the cells throughout your body are deprived of the oxygen that they need to work properly.

Smoking increases the risk for these health problems: weakened bones and hip fractures in older women; cancers of the blood, cervix, pancreas, stomach, kidneys, and bladder; cataracts; gum disease and tooth loss; damage to the immune system and increased risk for infection; fertility problems in women; peptic ulcers; pregnancy complications and premature birth.

In the long run, cigarettes rob many smokers of life itself. People who smoke lose an average of 13 to 14 years from their life. Half of all lifetime smokers die early from smoking-related causes.

Despite these grim statistics, there’s good news, too. For one thing, it’s never too late to stub out that last cigarette. Benefits start as soon as you quit. Within 20 minutes of quitting, your heart rate drops. Within 12 hours, the carbon monoxide level in your blood returns to normal. The longer you stay quit, the more benefits you’ll see. Within one year, your added risk for coronary heart disease will fall to half that of a smoker’s. Within 15 years, your risk is that of a nonsmoker.

If you're a smoker, stopping smoking is the most important step you can take to increase the length and improve the quality of your life. Below is a summary of the latest smoking cessation techniques. Your doctor can help you decide what will work best for you.

Nicotine-replacement therapy (NRT) helps many people quit smoking. NRT gives you nicotine without the other harmful parts of tobacco smoke. NRT allows you to focus on changing your behavior. You can then wean your body off the nicotine. Five types of NRT products are available. Nicotine gums, patches, and lozenges can be bought over the counter. Nicotine sprays and inhalers are available by prescription. If you’re pregnant or have heart disease, be sure to talk with your doctor before using one of these products.

Two non-nicotine medications have also been shown to help smokers quit. Bupropion (Zyban) affects brain chemicals involved in the craving for nicotine. Varenicline (Chantix) acts on parts of the brain that are affected by nicotine. This cuts the pleasurable effects of smoking and reduces withdrawal symptoms.

Also ask about counseling and support programs. Quit-smoking programs that work best combine medication with counseling and support. Aside from your doctor, other sources for referrals include your local hospital, health department, or the American Cancer Society.

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Medical Reviewers: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Apr 5, 2017

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Medical References

  1. Fact Sheets: Tobacco and Smoking Cessation. National Cancer Institute http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Tobacco
  2. Guide to Quitting Smoking. American Cancer Society. http://www.cancer.org/healthy/stayawayfromtobacco/guidetoquittingsmoking/index
  3. Quit Day: 5 Steps. Smoke Free.gov http://www.smokefree.gov/qg-quitting-quitday.aspx

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