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Cigarette Smoking: Health Risks and How to Quit (PDQ®): Prevention - Patient Information [NCI] - Health Risks of Smoking and Ways to Quit

Quitting smoking improves health in smokers of all ages.

The risk of most health problems from smoking, including cancer and heart and lung disease, can be lowered by stopping smoking. People of all ages can improve their health if they quit smoking. Quitting at a younger age will improve a person's health even more. People who quit smoking cut their risk of lung cancer by 30% to 50% after 10 years compared to people who keep smoking, and they cut their risk of cancer of the mouth or esophagus in half within 5 years after quitting.

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The damage caused by smoking is even worse for people who have had cancer. They have an increased risk of cancer recurrence, new cancers, and long-term side effects from cancer treatment. Quitting smoking and stopping other unhealthy behaviors can improve long-term health and quality of life. See the PDQ summary Smoking in Cancer Care for more information.

The Public Health Service has a set of guidelines called Treating Tobacco Use and Dependence. It asks health care professionals to talk to their patients about the health problems caused by smoking and the importance of quitting smoking.

Different ways to quit smoking have been studied. The following are the most common methods used to help smokers quit:

Counseling

People who have even a short counseling session with a health care professional are more likely to quit smoking. Your doctor or other health care professional may take the following steps to help you quit:

  • Ask about your smoking habits at every visit.
  • Advise you to stop smoking.
  • Ask you how willing you are to quit.
  • Help you plan to quit smoking by:
    • setting a date to quit smoking;
    • giving you self-help materials;
    • recommending drug treatment.
  • Plan follow-up visits with you.

Childhood cancer survivors who smoke may be more likely to quit when they take part in programs that use peer-counseling . In these programs, childhood cancer survivors are trained in ways to give support to other childhood cancer survivors who smoke and want to quit. More people quit smoking with peer-counseling than with self-help programs. If you are a childhood cancer survivor and you smoke, talk to your doctor about peer-counseling programs.

Drug treatment

Treatment with drugs is also used to help people quit smoking. These include nicotine replacement products and non-nicotine medicines. People who use any type of drug treatment are more likely to quit smoking after 6 months than those who use a placebo or no drug treatment at all.

Nicotine replacement products have nicotine in them. You slowly reduce the use of the nicotine product in order to reduce the amount of nicotine you take in. Using a nicotine replacement product can help break the addiction to nicotine. It lessens the side effects of nicotine withdrawal, such as feeling depressed or nervous, having trouble thinking clearly, or having trouble sleeping. Nicotine replacement products that have been shown to help people quit smoking include:

  • Nicotine gum.
  • Nicotine patches.
  • Nicotine nasal spray.
  • Nicotine inhalers.
  • Nicotine lozenges.
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WebMD Public Information from the National Cancer Institute

Last Updated: February 25, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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