Your Quit-Smoking Fears Debunked
Dreading the weight gain, bad mood, or chance of failure? Think again.
Fear: I’ll Be in a Chronic Bad Mood
“Nicotine is clearly a very powerful brain drug that gets into the brain quickly and results in dopamine release,” Eriksen says.
In other words, smoking makes you feel calm and content once you’re addicted.
One of the known nicotine withdrawal symptoms is depressed mood. It’s a physical response to taking tobacco smoke and nicotine out of your system and your brain.
“The good news is that for those who do suffer blue mood as a result of quitting, using FDA-approved nicotine replacement therapies to treat the withdrawal symptoms improves mood.
“Since depressed mood is a withdrawal symptom, we do stress that people seek some type of treatment, whether it’s their primary care doctor, a tobacco treatment program, or a telephone quit line,” Steinberg says. That way if you do become depressed when quitting, you can discuss it with a professional.
By the time you’re smoke-free six weeks to two months, most of the physiological symptoms, including depressed mood, are history.
Fear: The Damage Is Already Done
It’s never too late to quit smoking. The benefits start within hours of your last cigarette and they continue for years down the road.
For example, Steinberg says that quitting smoking today reduces your risk of heart attack starting tomorrow -- and by the first year your risk is cut in half. “It’s a lame excuse to say you’ve smoked too long, you already did the damage, or you have to die from something,” Eriksen says.
If you continue to smoke, Steinberg says, your risk of dying from lung cancer over your lifetime is about 17%. Someone who quits at 50 years old, who has smoked 30-35 years, reduces their risk of lung cancer down to 5%. If you quit earlier, at age 30, your risk of dying of lung cancer is almost that of a never smoker. The results are similar across the board with many diseases.
In fact, people who quit have fewer complications from their medical problems, have fewer additional medical problems, and their response to treatment for medical problems improves if they’re not smoking.
“The earlier you quit the better off you are. But it’s never too late. Even if you’ve already been smoking for 30 years,” Steinberg says.
More people have quit than continue to smoke.
Fear: I’ll Fail
No one likes to fail. Quitting smoking is one of the hardest things someone can do.
“We see people come to our program who have successfully quit heroin addiction, cocaine addiction, alcohol addiction, and they come in and say, ‘I’ve given up all these things but I can’t get rid of my cigarettes,’” Steinberg says.