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Smoking Cessation Health Center

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10 Persistent Myths About Smoking

Have you bought into these smoking myths? Experts set the record straight.

Myth: I've smoked for so long; the damage is already done.

The damage caused by smoking is cumulative, and the longer a person smokes, the greater his/her risk for life-threatening ailments. But quitting smoking at any age brings health benefits.

"Your health will improve even if you quit at 70," says Norman H. Edelman, MD, chief medical officer of the American Lung Association.

The benefits of quitting start the day you stop. "Within a month, you will feel like you have more air, because you do," Fiore says. "Within a year, your risk of having a heart attack will be cut by 50%."

According to the American Cancer Society, smokers who quit before age 35 prevent 90% of the risk of health problems from smoking. A smoker who quits before age 50 halves his/her risk of dying within the next 15 years compared to someone who continues to smoke.

Myth: Trying to quit smoking will stress me out -- and that's unhealthy.

True, tobacco withdrawal is stressful. But there's no evidence that the stress has negative long-term effects.

In fact, research shows that smokers who quit begin eating better, exercising more, and feeling better about themselves. "They're in a better mental place," Fiore says. "So many smokers today hate the fact that they are addicted, and that they are taking money out of the family budget and putting it toward deadly cigarettes."

On average, a pack-a-day smoking habit costs $2,000 a year, Edelman says.

Myth: The weight gain that comes with quitting is just as unhealthy as smoking.

Smokers who quit gain an average of 14 pounds, Malarcher says. But the risk posed by carrying the extra pounds "is miniscule compared to the risk of continuing to smoke," Fiore says.

Myth: Quitting "cold turkey" is the only way to go.

Some smokers think that quitting abruptly is the best approach and that willpower is the only effective tool for curbing tobacco cravings. They're partly right: Commitment is essential. But smokers are more likely to succeed at quitting if they take advantage of counseling and smoking cessation medications, including nicotine (gum, patches, lozenges, inhaler, or nasal spray) and the prescription drugs Zyban (buproprion) and Chantix (varenicline), Malarcher says.

Counseling increases the odds of success by 60%, and taking medication doubles the odds, Malarcher says. For information on ways to quit smoking, visit WebMD's smoking cessation health center.

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