Quitting Smoking

Overview

Is this topic for you?

In this topic, you'll find strategies for quitting smoking and staying smoke-free. Find where you want to go now:

Are you ready to quit?

Maybe you have already taken your last puff or are ready to quit today. That's great. This information will help you stick to your resolve to kick the habit for good.

Or maybe you want to plan ahead before you quit. How ready are you to quit? To find out, use the Interactive Tool: Are You Ready to Quit Smoking?

It's okay if you aren't ready now. But you may want to quit at some point. So keep learning and preparing yourself. Many smokers do quit. You can too.

Why do you want to quit?

Think about why you want to quit. Maybe you want to protect your heart and your health and live longer. Or maybe you want to be a good role model for your kids or spend your money on something besides cigarettes. Your reason for wanting to change is important. If your reason comes from you—and not someone else—it will be easier for you to try to quit for good.

Use these tools to find your risk of heart attack based on how much you smoke and to find out how smoking affects your lifespan:

How can you quit?

You don't have to quit alone. Ask your family, friends, and doctor to help you. Quitting is hard, but it can be done. Many people like you are able to quit for good. Knowing what helps can make it easier.

  • Get ready. If you're ready to quit right now, go ahead. Medicines and support can help you stay on track. But if you want to plan ahead, you don't have to stop right away. Set a date to quit. Pick a time when you won't have a lot of stress in your life. Get rid of ashtrays, lighters, or spit cups before you quit. Don't let people smoke in your house.
  • Change your routine. For example, if you smoke after eating, take a walk instead.
  • Use medicine. It can help with cravings and stress, and it doubles your chances of quitting smoking.1 You can buy nicotine gum, lozenges, or patches without a prescription. See a picture of how to use patches to help you quit smoking. Your doctor may also prescribe medicine, such as bupropion (Zyban) or varenicline (Chantix).
  • Get support. Seek help from:
    • The national tobacco quitline: 1-800-QUIT NOW (1-800-784-8669).
    • Stop-smoking programs, such as the American Lung Association's Freedom from Smoking program or your state health department.
    • Doctors, nurses, or therapists for counseling.

After you quit, try not to smoke at all—not even one puff. Prevent a slip (smoking one or two cigarettes) or relapse (returning to regular smoking) by avoiding smoking triggers, at least at first. These triggers can include alcohol and stress. Don't keep cigarettes in your house or car. If you do slip or relapse, stay calm. Remind yourself that you have a plan, and think about how hard you've worked to quit for good.

Why is it so hard to quit?

Quitting is hard because your body is addicted to the nicotine in tobacco. Giving it up is more than just kicking a bad habit. Your body has to stop craving the nicotine. Nicotine gum, lozenges, patches, and other medicines can help reduce the cravings without the harmful effects of smoking.

You also have to change your habits. You may not even think about smoking. You just do it. You may smoke when you are stressed. Or maybe you have a cigarette with coffee. Before you quit, think of new ways to handle these things. For example, call a friend or practice deep breathing when you feel stressed. Try chewing sugarless gum instead of smoking. Go for a walk when you have a break at work. Stay around nonsmokers.

What if you feel bad when you are trying to quit?

You are likely to crave cigarettes and may feel grouchy, restless, or sad for the first 2 to 3 weeks after you quit. It may be hard to focus on tasks. Or you may have trouble sleeping and want to eat more. But you won't feel bad forever, and medicine can help. Using medicines and products like nicotine gum or patches can help with cravings and make it easier to resist smoking.

Will you gain weight?

You may worry about gaining weight when you stop smoking. Don't let this stop you. You have a lot more to gain by quitting than a few extra pounds. You will feel better and save money. You will also have fewer health problems.

You can take steps to lower your chance of gaining weight:

  • Try to be active. Exercise can also improve your mood.
  • Eat more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and eat fewer high-fat foods.
  • Try not to substitute food for cigarettes. Instead, chew on a drinking straw or a coffee stirrer.

Don't worry about going on a diet now. It may get in the way of your efforts to quit smoking. Think about taking medicines or using products like nicotine gum or patches. They will help you get through the tough times and may help you avoid putting on weight.

What if you start smoking again?

Most people quit and restart many times (about 8 to 10 times) before they stop smoking for good.2 If you start smoking again after you quit, don't give up. Each time you quit, even if it is just for a short time, you get closer to your long-term goal.

Remind yourself that by quitting you may avoid serious health problems and live longer. Remember your reasons for quitting. Maybe you want to protect your heart and your health and live longer.

Each time you quit, you learn more about what helps and what gets in the way. Think about why you started smoking again and about what you will do differently next time. If you tried to quit without medicines or a program, think about trying them next time. Medicines and nicotine replacement (gum, patches, lozenges) can double your chances of success.1 You can do it!

Frequently Asked Questions

Deciding to quit:

How to quit:

Ongoing concerns:

Health Tools Health Tools help you make wise health decisions or take action to improve your health.

Health Tools help you make wise health decisions or take action to improve your health.


Decision Points focus on key medical care decisions that are important to many health problems. Decision Points focus on key medical care decisions that are important to many health problems.
  Depression: Should I take an antidepressant?
  Quitting smoking: Should I use medicine?

Actionsets help people take an active role in managing a health condition. Actionsets are designed to help people take an active role in managing a health condition.
  Depression: Using positive thinking
  Quitting smoking: Coping with cravings and withdrawal
  Quitting smoking: Dealing with weight gain
  Quitting smoking: Getting support
  Quitting smoking: Helping someone quit
  Quitting smoking: Preventing slips or relapses
  Substance abuse: Dealing with teen substance use

Interactive tools help people determine health risks, ideal weight, target heart rate, and more. Interactive tools are designed to help people determine health risks, ideal weight, target heart rate, and more.
  Interactive Tool: Are You Ready to Quit Smoking?
  Interactive Tool: How Does Smoking Affect Your Lifespan?
  Interactive Tool: How Does Smoking Increase Your Risk of Heart Attack?
  Interactive Tool: How Much Is Smoking Costing You?

Why Do You Smoke?

Most people don't think about when or why they smoke. They just do it. But knowing when and why you smoke can help you choose the quitting strategy that is most likely to work. Perhaps you smoke:

  • To relieve tension, especially after arguments or during stressful times, or when you feel angry, depressed, or upset.
  • To control your weight, either by keeping it down or because you're afraid of weight gain if you quit.
  • For stimulation, to perk yourself up, improve your concentration, or boost your energy when you have low energy.
  • To be part of the group, by joining your friends in having a cigarette.

Use this form to find your reasons(What is a PDF document?) for smoking.

Photo of a woman

One Woman's Story:

"I went to nursing school, and it [smoking] was the thing to do." Smoking helped relieve the stress.—Nancy, 54

Read more about Nancy and how she quit smoking.

For parents: Why children and teens smoke

Many children and teens use cigarettes, cigars, and spit tobacco because their friends do. Movies and TV shows can make smoking seem glamorous and attractive. Teens, especially girls, often use smoking to try to control their weight.

Teens may think that smoking is a way to look more mature, independent, and self-confident to their peers. They may smoke to rebel against their parents. But most teens do not know how addictive cigarettes are. If your child smokes, it might help to talk with him or her about some of the reasons to stop smoking. If you smoke or have quit, talk with your teen about how hard it can be to quit after you've started smoking.

Children and teens are more likely to smoke if their parents smoke. And they are more likely to quit if their parents quit. For more information and help, see:

Click here to view an Actionset. Substance abuse: Dealing with teen substance abuse.

Thinking About Quitting?

When you're craving tobacco, it's hard to focus on quitting. Preparing yourself before you quit can help. Before you quit, get ready for a life without nicotine.

Photo of a man

One Man's Story:

Planning was key to John's success. “The [stop-smoking] class taught me how to get ready to quit.”—John, 39

Read more about John and how he quit smoking.

Think about your reasons for quitting

What would motivate you to quit smoking? Think about it. It's important to have your own reasons for quitting.

Use this self-test to help you discover what might motivate you to quit smoking(What is a PDF document?) .

Staying healthy is a common reason to want to quit smoking. Or maybe you want to feel more in control of your life, instead of feeling controlled by tobacco. Teens may have other reasons to quit smoking.

Talk to your family and friends about quitting. Their support might help you decide to quit.

Click here to view an Actionset. Quitting smoking: Getting support

Know the risks of smoking

What worries you about smoking? Make a list. Talk about it with your doctor. You may worry about:

  • Health problems. Are you out of breath when you walk up the stairs? Are asthma symptoms getting worse? Are you coughing a lot?
  • Long-term health risks. Are you afraid of having a heart attack or stroke? How about lung disease or cancer?
  • Risks to others. Do you worry about family members getting lung cancer and heart disease? Are you afraid that your children might start smoking because you do? Are you concerned that your baby may die of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) if you smoke? Maybe your children have frequent ear infections or asthma.
Photo of a young man

One Man's Story:

It was throat pain that helped Nate give up smoking for good. Dealing with a sore throat all the time just wasn't worth it anymore. "In the end, I made up my mind and quit."—Nate, 27

Read more about Nate and how he quit smoking.

Look forward to the rewards

What do you gain by quitting? You can:

  • Feel better and be able to do more.
  • Have a younger-looking and healthier body.
  • Set a good example for others (especially children).
    • If you smoke, your child is more likely to smoke.
    • If your teen smokes, he or she is more likely to quit smoking if you quit.3
    • If your child never smokes during the teen years, he or she is less likely to start smoking in the future.
  • Save money by getting rid of the cost of smoking. To find out how much you spend on cigarettes, see the Interactive Tool: How Much Is Smoking Costing You?
  • Be in control of your habits.

Prepare for roadblocks

What could make you start smoking after you stop? Triggers could be events, places, or even people. Alcohol, stress, and being around other smokers are major triggers for many people. You may always have a smoke after lunch or during happy hour on Fridays. Does your best friend smoke? You can't always avoid these challenges. But you can plan for how to deal with them.

Possible roadblock

What you need to know

Cravings and nicotine withdrawal. Symptoms include feeling grouchy or depressed and having trouble sleeping or concentrating.

Here are some things that can help:

  • Take medicine to help control the symptoms. Using medicine can double your chances of quitting.1
  • Get some exercise.
  • Start a new hobby or activity.
  • Get counseling and phone support.
  • Try to avoid smoking triggers.

For more help, see:

Quick Tips: What to Do When You Crave Nicotine.
Click here to view an Actionset. Quitting smoking: Coping with cravings and withdrawal.

Failure in the past

If you weren't able to quit in the past, don't lose hope. Studies show that each time you try to quit, you will be stronger and will have learned more about what helps and what makes it harder.

Most people try to quit many times—sometimes as many as 8 to 10 times—before they can quit for good.2

Weight gain

You may gain some weight when you stop smoking. Don't try to avoid this by going on a strict diet at the same time. This will make it even harder to stop smoking.

You can take steps to lower your chance of gaining weight:

  • Try to be active. Exercise can also improve your mood.
  • Eat more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and fewer high-fat foods.
  • Try not to substitute food for cigarettes. Instead, chew on a drinking straw or a coffee stirrer.
  • Try stop-smoking medicines. They can help you get through the worst of your cravings and may help you avoid putting on too much weight.
Click here to view an Actionset. Quitting smoking: Dealing with weight gain

Depression or nervousness

Medicines and counseling can help treat nervousness or depression. Talk to your doctor.

Click here to view a Decision Point. Should I take medicines to treat depression?
Click here to view an Actionset. Depression: Using positive thinking

Lack of support

Support can improve your chances of quitting. Look for people who have stopped smoking, or seek out those family and friends who support your goal to quit. Online and phone support can also help:

  • National tobacco quitline: 1-800-QUIT NOW (1-800-784-8669)
  • Stop-smoking programs, such as the American Lung Association's Freedom from Smoking program (www.lungusa.com) or QuitNet (www.quitnet.com)
  • Check with your local hospital or health department for programs to quit smoking.
Click here to view an Actionset. Quitting smoking: Getting support

Living with or being around someone who smokes

It would be easier for you to quit if those around you didn't smoke. Discuss quitting together. If this isn't an option, talk to the person(s) about not smoking around you. When you can, avoid places where others are smoking.

Alcohol

Drinking alcohol can increase your desire to smoke. Try drinking less alcohol during the first 3 weeks after you quit.

Stress

Stress can lead to smoking. Learn new ways of coping with stress. For suggestions, see the topic Stress Management.

Missing your smoking habits or not being able to avoid smoking triggers

Assess your tobacco use (What is a PDF document?) to discover your smoking triggers. For some people, morning coffee and going out with friends are common smoking triggers.

  • Drinking coffee. Change the way you have coffee: the place, the coffee mug, everything that you did when you were smoking.
  • Going out with friends. If drinking makes you want to smoke, see about going to a movie rather than going out for drinks.

Teen issues, such as fitting in with the crowd and dealing with stress

Fresher-smelling clothes and breath are just a few reasons for teens to quit smoking. They may actually improve their chances of fitting in. Also, feeling good physically may help teens deal with stress in healthier ways than by smoking. If you are worried about a teen who smokes, see:

Click here to view an Actionset. Substance abuse: Dealing with teen substance abuse.

Quitting smoking when you have other health problems

If you have depression, anxiety, or a similar problem, try to take care of that problem before you try to stop smoking. If you have an alcohol or drug use problem, it may help to take care of it before you quit smoking. But some smokers find it best to stop their alcohol or drugs at the same time that they stop smoking.

Some people who have had one of these medical problems find that the problem returns when they try to quit smoking. If you have any of these problems, talk to your doctor before you quit smoking. After you quit, seek help right away if you see signs that the problem is returning.

Smoking can also affect the level of certain medicines in your blood. If you take medicines for a health problem, talk with your doctor before you quit smoking to see whether you should change the dose of any of your medicines.

Planning Your Strategy to Quit

When it comes to quitting smoking, some people find it helpful to plan ahead. Others don't. Do what works for you. If you are ready to quit right now, see the section Ready to Quit Today?

If you prefer to plan ahead, start by asking yourself some questions. Are you a goal-setter? How confident do you feel that you will succeed at giving up smoking? Asking yourself these questions is one way to prepare yourself for quitting.

Know your reasons. Your reason for wanting to quit is important. Maybe you want to protect your heart and your health and live longer. Or maybe you want to spend your money on something besides cigarettes. If your reason comes from you—and not someone else—it will be easier for you to try to quit for good.

After you know your reasons for wanting to quit, use the U.S. Surgeon General's five keys to quitting: get ready, get support, learn new skills and behaviors, get and use medicine, and be prepared for relapse.

1. Get ready

Contact your doctor or local health department to learn about medicines and to find out what kinds of help are available in your area for people who want to quit smoking. Telephone helplines operated by your state can also help you find information and support for quitting smoking.

Check with your insurance provider to find out if medicines and counseling are covered under your health plan. Your employer may also help pay the cost of a quit-smoking program or provide help to pay for medicines, even over-the-counter ones.

Here are some other ways to get ready to quit smoking:

  • Set your goals. To achieve a long-term goal like quitting smoking, you may find it helpful to break the task into smaller goals. Every time you reach a goal, you feel a sense of pride along the path to becoming tobacco-free. Use this personal action plan(What is a PDF document?) to help you reach your goals.
    • Set your goals clearly. Write down your goals, or tell someone what you are trying to do. Goals should include "by when" or "how long" as well as "what." For example: "I will keep a smoking journal for 1 week, starting tomorrow."
    • Set a quit date, and stick to it. This is an important step. Choosing a good time to quit can greatly improve your chances of success. Avoid setting your quit date on high-stress days, such as holidays.
    • Reward yourself for meeting your goals. Quitting smoking is a tough process, and each small success deserves credit. If you don't meet a goal, don't punish yourself. Instead, hold back on a reward until you achieve your goal. For example, give yourself something special if you succeed at stopping for longer than you have before.
    • Pace yourself. You may want or need to quit slowly, over the course of several weeks. Set a comfortable pace. Certain activities won't be temptation-free for many months after you quit.
    • Be realistic. You may feel very excited and positive about your plan for change. Be sure to set realistic goals—including a timeline for quitting—that you can meet. For example, your goal could be to cut back from 20 cigarettes a day to 10.
  • Make some changes. Get rid of all cigarettes, ashtrays, and lighters after your last cigarette. Throw away pipes or cans of snuff. Also, get rid of the smell of smoke and other reminders of smoking by cleaning your clothes and your house, including curtains, upholstery, and walls. Don't let people smoke in your home. Take the lighter out of your car. Try some methods to reduce smoking before your official quit date. Use a smoking journal to keep track of what triggers urge you to use tobacco. This gives you important information on when it's toughest for you to resist.
  • If you have tried to quit in the past, review those past attempts. Think of the things that helped in those attempts, and plan to use those strategies again this time. Think of things that hindered your success, and plan ways to deal with or avoid them.

2. Get support

You will have a better chance of quitting successfully if you have help and support from your doctor, family, friends, and coworkers. You can also find online and phone support (1-800-QUITNOW) along with quit-smoking programs that you can attend. People who use telephone, group, or one-on-one counseling are much more likely to stop smoking. Counselors can help you with practical ideas about how to avoid common mistakes. All of these can help you quit and stay tobacco-free. For more information on support, see:

Click here to view an Actionset. Quitting smoking: Getting support.

If a partner or friend is quitting, you can help. For information, see:

Click here to view an Actionset. Quitting smoking: Helping someone quit.

3. Learn new skills and behaviors

Since you won't be smoking, decide what you are going to do instead. Make a plan to:

  • Identify and think about ways you can avoid those things that make you reach for a cigarette (smoking triggers), at least at first. Try to change your smoking habits and rituals. Think about situations in which you will be at greatest risk for smoking. Make a plan for how you will deal with each situation.
  • Change your daily routine. Take a different route to work, or eat a meal in a different place. Every day, do something that you enjoy.
  • Cut down on stress. Calm yourself or release tension by reading a book, taking a hot bath, or digging in your garden. See the topic Stress Management for ways to reduce stress in your life.
  • Spend time with nonsmokers and people who have stopped smoking.

4. Get and use medicine

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved several medicines to help people quit smoking. You will double your chances of quitting even if medicine is the only treatment you use to quit. Your odds get even better when you combine medicine and other quit strategies, such as counseling.1

You won't have to take medicines forever—just for as long as it takes to help you quit. Your employer or health plan may help pay the cost of a quit-smoking program or provide help to pay for medicines. And remember that no matter how much it costs to buy medicines to help you stop smoking, it's still less than the cost of smoking.

The first-choice medicines are:4

  • Nicotine replacement therapy. This includes nicotine gum, patches, lozenges, and inhalers. You can buy gum, patches, and lozenges without a prescription. See a picture of how to use a nicotine patch.
  • Bupropion SR (Zyban). This is a non-nicotine prescription medicine that you can use by itself or along with nicotine replacement products.
  • Varenicline (Chantix). This prescription medicine helps withdrawal symptoms and reduces the pleasure you feel from smoking.
Click here to view a Decision Point. Should I take medicine to quit smoking?

Other medicines you can try if those medicines do not work or you cannot take them are:

Your doctor will prescribe these medicines and explain how to use them. It is very important to take the medicines as your doctor tells you to. Don't stop taking them too soon.

Remember, taking medicines and using telephone or in-person counseling or a quit-smoking program at the same time greatly increases your chances of success.

Take this new medicine information form(What is a PDF document?) with you when you talk to your doctor.

5. Be prepared for relapse

Most people are not successful the first few times they try to quit smoking. If you start smoking again, don't feel bad about yourself. A slip or relapse is just a sign that you need to change your approach to quitting. Make a list of things you learned. And think about when you want to try again, such as next week, next month, or next spring. Or you don't have to wait. If you're still motivated to quit, you can try again as soon as you want.

You might get some ideas for things you can do differently by looking at the chart "Prepare for roadblocks" in the section Thinking About Quitting? Maybe you can try something new next time, such as a new medicine or program. You might try combining tools, such as counseling and medicine. Keep trying, and don't be fooled into thinking that smoking "light" cigarettes will help. They do not make smoking safer.

If you slip

If you slip or smoke a little, don't give up. Talk to someone who has quit smoking, or to a counselor, to get ideas of what to do. If you are taking medicine or using nicotine replacement, keep doing so unless you go back to regular smoking.

Quitting smoking is hard, but it can be done. To stay motivated, keep reminding yourself why you want to quit smoking. Make a list of your reasons to quit and the benefits you expect from quitting. Put your list of reasons on your bedroom dresser, in your wallet, or on the refrigerator. Review it whenever you are struggling with the quitting process. Add to your list whenever another reason or benefit occurs to you.

See the topic Quick Tips: What to Do When You Crave Nicotine.

If you have tried to quit smoking before, remember that most people try to quit many times before they are successful. Don't give up.

If you slip

If you slip or smoke a little, don't give up. Talk to someone who has quit smoking, or to a counselor, to get ideas of what to do. If you are taking medicine or using nicotine replacement, keep doing so unless you go back to regular smoking.

Photo of a woman

One Woman's Story:

Nancy hit upon a key that helped her quit for good. “Finally what woke me up—after 3 years of failure—was the realization of what happened when I relapsed. ... I quit drinking not because alcohol scares me, but because when I drink, I want to smoke.”—Nancy, 54

Read more about Nancy and how she quit smoking.

Ready to Quit Today?

Congratulations! You are taking a big step. You are ready to quit today. It's exciting. But it can also be scary. If you're not quite ready yet, but you think you will be soon, see the section Thinking About Quitting?

If you've been planning to quit, you may already know that when you stop smoking, you may not feel so great at first. Some people feel grouchy and have headaches or cravings. The good news is that these things are at their worst in the first 2 to 3 weeks after you quit, although they can last longer. And there are things that can help.

If you decided to quit today but haven't planned ahead, don't worry. Here are some things to consider to help you succeed:

Use medicine

Using nicotine replacement products and/or medicine doubles your chances of quitting.1 When you quit smoking, your body craves the nicotine that it was used to getting when you smoked. But the nicotine isn't the harmful part of smoking or chewing. It's all the other things in tobacco that are bad for you, such as tar and carbon monoxide. Nicotine from medicine is absorbed so slowly and at such low levels that it is rarely addictive.

Get support

Support can help you through the stress of losing this part of your life. Friends and family can provide shoulders to lean on, and they can encourage you to stay smoke-free. They can help distract you when you want to smoke, and they can understand when you're a bit grouchy.

People who use telephone, group, or one-on-one counseling are much more likely to stop smoking. Counselors can help you with practical ideas about how to avoid common mistakes. Counselors can help you succeed. Here are some ways to get support:

  • National tobacco quitline: 1-800-QUIT NOW (1-800-784-8669)
  • Counseling from a doctor, nurse, or therapist
  • Stop-smoking programs, such as the American Lung Association's Freedom from Smoking program (www.lungusa.com) or QuitNet (www.quitnet.com). In these programs you can:
    • Get help deciding which medicines may be right for you. (QuitNet)
    • Use message boards, live chat, and e-mail to talk with counselors and people who have also quit.
    • Sign up for daily e-mail messages. (QuitNet)
Click here to view an Actionset. Quitting smoking: Getting support

Make a plan

If you quit today but haven't planned ahead, now is a good time to plan your quit strategy. Think of problems or barriers you have faced. And think of ways to reward yourself for reaching specific milestones. Use this form to write out your personal action plan(What is a PDF document?) .

For more information, see the Planning Your Strategy to Quit section of this topic.

Know your reason

You are taking an important step to improve your life. Make sure that you know your reasons for quitting smoking. The most common reason to quit is to live longer. It's a gift you can give yourself and your family.

Dealing With Relapse

If you slip or smoke a little, don't give up. Talk to someone who has quit smoking, or to a counselor, to get ideas of what to do. If you are taking medicine or using nicotine replacement, keep doing so unless you go back to regular smoking.

You're not alone in going back to smoking. Most people who quit try 8 to 10 times before they quit for good.2

Don't feel bad about yourself. A relapse is just a sign that you need to try a different approach to quitting smoking. If you tried to quit without medicines or a program, think about trying them next time. Medicines and nicotine replacement (gum, patches, lozenges) can double your chances of success.1

Think about what made you start smoking again. Maybe you couldn't handle the cravings. Or maybe you didn't have enough support from family or friends. Maybe something stressful happened that triggered the urge to smoke, and then you couldn't stop.

Whatever it was, remember that help is here when you are ready to try again. You might want to read Thinking About Quitting? or Planning Your Strategy to Quit in this topic.

Photo of a younger man

One Man's Story:

Nate's struggle to quit was a constant cycle of attempts and relapses. It was hard on his self-esteem.

“It seemed like trying just made it more difficult to quit. I felt like a failure every day.”—Nate, 27

Read more about Nate and how he quit for good.

Staying Smoke-Free

Many of the changes you feel when you first quit smoking don't feel good. Nicotine withdrawal can make you feel grouchy, hungry, and nervous. You may have trouble sleeping or concentrating. These symptoms can last for a few days to several weeks. But they do go away, especially if you take medicine. You may struggle with changing your smoking habits and rituals. This is a lot to deal with, but keep at it. You will feel better.

Your worst cravings will probably pass in a week or so. But you may keep getting cravings for months. Most people who quit report that they later stop thinking about smoking.

The following tips may help you stay smoke-free:

Why Quit?

If you're reading this, you may be thinking about quitting smoking or making a plan to quit. Or maybe you have already tried to quit a few times. You probably already know that smoking is bad for your health and that quitting will reduce your risk of getting a disease related to smoking, such as heart or lung disease. Here are the facts about smoking and your health.

Tobacco use, especially smoking, is the number one preventable cause of death and disease in the United States.4 In fact, 1 out of 2 people who continue to smoke will die early because of their smoking.

Everyone who uses tobacco would benefit from quitting. When you quit smoking—no matter how old you are—you will decrease your risk of:

Photo of a woman

One Woman's Story:

Nancy was working as a nurse and was exposed to someone who had a bad case of pneumonia. As a precaution, Nancy was checked for pneumonia. The X-ray revealed that she didn't have pneumonia—but her lungs did show early signs of emphysema. “It scared the daylights out of me. ... I really made myself focus on the future of my life. I want to be skiing when I'm 70. I don't want an oxygen tank.”—Nancy, 54

Read more about Nancy and how she quit smoking.

In addition to reducing your risk of diseases in the future, you will notice some benefits right away after you stop smoking. Your shortness of breath, energy, and asthma symptoms will likely get better within the first 2 to 4 weeks after you quit. (But don't be surprised if you cough more in the first week after you quit, as your lungs try to clear themselves.)

There are other benefits to quitting:

Natural, low-tar, and low-nicotine "light" cigarettes are not any safer to smoke than regular cigarettes. Do not be misled into thinking that these products are any better for you. They are not.

Why quit using cigars, pipes, or chewing tobacco?

You can get lung cancer and cancers of the throat and mouth from using cigars, pipes, or chewing tobacco.

For teens: Why quit now?

Avoiding diseases caused by smoking and being in control of your life are good reasons for teens to quit.

If you are a teen and you smoke, chew tobacco, or use snuff, you probably already know that tobacco is bad for you. If you are like most teens, you intend to quit at some point, but you may not feel it's very important to quit now. But the longer you use tobacco, the greater your risk for becoming addicted to it. After you're hooked, it's even harder to quit.

If you are a parent who is worried about a teen who smokes, see:

Click here to view an Actionset. Substance abuse: Dealing with teen substance abuse.

Other Places To Get Help

Organizations

American Cancer Society (ACS)
Phone: 1-800-ACS-2345 (1-800-227-2345)
TDD: 1-866-228-4327 toll-free
Web Address: www.cancer.org
 

The American Cancer Society (ACS) conducts educational programs and offers many services to people with cancer and to their families. Staff at the toll-free numbers have information about services and activities in local areas and can provide referrals to local ACS divisions.


American Lung Association
61 Broadway, 6th Floor
New York, NY  10006
Phone: 1-800-LUNG-USA (1-800-586-4872)
1-800-548-8252 (to speak with a lung professional)
(212) 315-8700
Web Address: www.lungusa.org
 

The American Lung Association, along with its medical branch, the American Thoracic Society, provides programs of education, community service, and advocacy. Some of the topics available include asthma, tobacco control, emphysema, asbestos, carbon monoxide, radon, and ozone.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Tobacco Information and Prevention Source (TIPS)
1600 Clifton Road
Atlanta, GA  30333
Phone: 1-800-CDC-INFO (1-800-232-4636)
TDD: 1-888-232-6348
E-mail: cdcinfo@cdc.gov
Web Address: www.cdc.gov
 

The Tobacco Information and Prevention Source Web site provides access to many government resources for quitting smoking. These resources include data and statistics, publications, and resources for researchers and for individuals, including children and adolescents.


National Cancer Institute (NCI)
NCI Publications Office
6116 Executive Boulevard
Suite 3036A
Bethesda, MD  20892-8322
Phone: 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237) 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. EST, Monday through Friday
TDD: 1-800-332-8615
E-mail: cancergovstaff@mail.nih.gov
Web Address: www.cancer.gov (or https://cissecure.nci.nih.gov/livehelp/welcome.asp# for live help online)
 

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) is a U.S. government agency that provides up-to-date information about the prevention, detection, and treatment of cancer. NCI also offers supportive care to people with cancer and to their families. NCI information is also available to doctors, nurses, and other health professionals. NCI provides the latest information about clinical trials. The Cancer Information Service, a service of NCI, has trained staff members available to answer questions and send free publications. Spanish-speaking staff members are also available.


National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), National Institutes of Health (NIH)
6001 Executive Boulevard, Room 5213
Bethesda, MD  20892-9561
Phone: (301) 443-1124
E-mail: information@nida.nih.gov
Web Address: www.drugabuse.gov
 

This organization provides information for the public on drugs. It contains information about how certain drugs affect the brain.


Smokefree.gov
Phone: 1-800-QUITNOW (1-800-784-8669)
TDD: 1-800-332-8615
E-mail: NCISmokeFreeTeam@mail.nih.gov
Web Address: www.smokefree.gov
 

This Web site provides free information and professional assistance to help support people who are trying to quit smoking. The information provided is for both the immediate and long-term needs of people who are trying to quit and for friends and family who care about them.

The resources at this Web site include an online guide to quitting smoking, local and state telephone quitlines, the National Cancer Institute's national telephone quitline and instant messaging service, and publications that can be ordered or downloaded and printed.


References

Citations

  1. Stead LF, et al. (2008). Nicotine replacement therapy for smoking cessation. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (1).
  2. American Cancer Society (2008). Prevention and Early Detection: Guide to Quitting Smoking. Atlanta: American Cancer Society. Available online: http://www.cancer.org/docroot/PED/content/PED_10_13X_Guide_for_Quitting_Smoking.asp?sitearea=&level=.
  3. Sunday SR, Folan P (2004). Smoking in adolescence: What a clinician can do to help. In VC Reichert et al., eds, Medical Clinics of North America, 88(6): 1495–1515. Philadelphia: Saunders.
  4. Fiore MC, et al. (2000). Clinical Practice Guideline: Treating Tobacco Use and Dependence. Rockville, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Also available online: http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/tobacco/treating_tobacco_use.pdf.

Other Works Consulted

  • West R (2004). ABC of smoking cessation: Assessment of dependence and motivation to stop smoking. BMJ, 328 (7435): 338–339.
  • Fiore MC, et al. (2002). Effective tobacco dependence treatment. JAMA, 288(14): 1768–1771.
  • Mohsen A, Norris S (2005). Changing behaviour, search date May 2005. Online version of Clinical Evidence (14): 1–20.
  • Shiffman S, et al. (2002). Efficacy of a nicotine lozenge for smoking cessation. Archives of Internal Medicine, 162(11): 1267–1276.

Credits

Author Bets Davis, MFA
Editor Susan Van Houten, RN, BSN, MBA
Associate Editor Pat Truman, MATC
Primary Medical Reviewer Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer John Hughes, MD - Psychiatry
Last Updated July 22, 2009

Last Updated: July 22, 2009

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