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10 Persistent Myths About Smoking

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

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.

Myth: Nicotine products are just as unhealthful as smoking.

Nicotine is safe when used as directed. Even using nicotine every day for years would be safer than smoking, Fiore says. After all, nicotine products deliver only nicotine. Cigarettes deliver nicotine along with 4,000 other compounds, including more than 60 known carcinogens, according to the American Lung Association. Nicotine replacement therapy versus smoking? "It's a no-brainer," Fiore says. 

Myth: Cutting back on smoking is good enough.

"Cutting down on the number of cigarettes is not an effective strategy," Malarcher says. "Smokers who cut back draw more deeply and smoke more of each cigarette." So even though they smoke fewer cigarettes, they get the same dose of toxic smoke. "The data suggest that the only [smoking cessation strategy] that works consistently is getting to the point of not even a single puff," Fiore says.

Myth: I'm the only one who is hurt by my smoking.

Tobacco smoke also harms the people around you. In the U.S., secondhand smoke causes about 50,000 deaths deaths a year, the American Lung Association estimates. It's been estimated that a waiter or waitress who works a single eight-hour shift in a smoky bar inhales as much toxic smoke as a pack-a-day smoker, Fiore says.

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