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10 Persistent Myths About Smoking

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

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.

Myth: I tried quitting once and failed, so it's no use trying again.

Most smokers try several times before quitting for good. So if you've failed previously, don't let that deter you from trying again.

"Each time people quit, they learn things that could be useful for their next attempt at quitting," Malarcher says. Edelman says, "We like to say the first time you try to quit is practice, the second time is practice, and the third or fourth time, you get it right. You have to keep trying."

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Reviewed on January 05, 2010

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