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Frequently Asked Questions About Quitting Smoking

  • What's in the cigarettes I smoke?
  • Answer:

    Your body gets more than nicotine when you smoke a cigarette.

    There are more than 4,000 chemicals in cigarette smoke. Some of them are also in wood varnish, the insect poison DDT, arsenic, nail polish remover, and rat poison.

    The ashes, tar, gases, and other poisons in cigarettes harm your body over time. They damage your heart and lungs. They also make it harder for you to taste and smell things and fight infections.

  • Why is quitting smoking so hard?
  • Answer:

    Many ex-smokers say quitting was the hardest thing they ever did. Do you feel hooked on cigarettes? You're probably addicted to nicotine. Nicotine is in all tobacco products. It temporarily makes you feel calm and satisfied. At the same time, you feel more alert and focused. The more you smoke, the more nicotine you need to feel good. Soon, you don't feel "normal" without nicotine. It takes time to break free from nicotine addiction. It may take more than one try to quit for good. So don't give up too soon. You will feel good again.

    Quitting is also hard because smoking is a big part of your life. You enjoy holding cigarettes and puffing on them. You may smoke when you are stressed, bored, or angry. After months and years of lighting up, smoking becomes part of your daily routine. You may light up without even thinking about it.

    Smoking goes with other things, too. You may light up when you feel a certain way or do certain things. For example:

    • Drinking coffee, wine, or beer
    • Talking on the phone
    • Driving
    • Being with other smokers

    You may even feel uncomfortable not smoking at times or in places where you usually have a cigarette. These times and places are called "triggers." That's because they trigger, or turn on, cigarette cravings. Breaking these habits is the hardest part of quitting for some smokers.

    Quitting isn't easy. It may take several tries. But you learn something each time you try. It takes willpower and strength to beat your addiction to nicotine. Remember that millions of people have quit smoking for good. You can be one of them!

  • Why should I quit smoking cigarettes?
  • Answer:

    You should quit smoking cigarettes so you may live longer and can feel better. Quitting will lower your chances of having a heart attack, stroke, or cancer. The people you live with, especially children, will be healthier is you quit smoking. If you are pregnant, you will improve your chances of having a healthy baby. And you will have extra money to spend on things other than cigarettes.

  • What are the health consequences of smoking cigarettes?
  • Answer:

    Smoking cigarettes harms nearly every organ of the body, causing many diseases and reducing the health of smokers in general. The list of diseases caused by smoking has been expanded to include abdominal aortic aneurysm, acute myeloid leukemia, cataracts, cervical cancer, kidney cancer, pancreatic cancer, pneumonia, periodontitis, and stomach cancer. These are in addition to diseases previously known to be caused by smoking, including bladder, esophageal, laryngeal, lung, oral, and throat cancers, chronic lung diseases, coronary heart and cardiovascular diseases, as well as reproductive effects and sudden infant death syndrome.

  • What is the first thing I need to do once I’ve decided to quit smoking?
  • Answer:

    You should set a quit date -- the day when you will quit smoking and break free of your tobacco addiction. Then, consider visiting your doctor or other health care provider before the quit date. She or he can help by providing practical advice and recommending any tobacco replacement or medication that may work best for you.

  • I’ve tried to quit smoking before and it didn’t work. What can I do?
  • Answer:

    Remember that most people have to try to quit smoking at least two or three times before they are successful. Review your past attempts to quit. Think about what worked and what didn’t and try to use your most successful strategies again.

  • What steps can I take to help me quit smoking for good?
  • Answer:

    A) Get ready and set a date to stop smoking. Change your environment by getting rid of ALL cigarettes and ashtrays in your home, car, and place of work and don't let people smoke around you.

    B) Get support and encouragement. Studies have shown that you have a better chance of being successful if you have help. Tell your family, friends, and co-workers that you are going to quit smoking and want their support. Ask them not to smoke around you or leave cigarettes out where you can see them. Get individual, group, or telephone counseling.

    C) Learn new skills and behaviors, and so something to reduce your stress.

    D) Get medication that can help you quit smoking. The FDA has approved seven drugs to help you quit smoking:

    1. Bupropion SR (Zyban) -- Available by prescription.
    2. Nicotine gum -- Available over-the-counter.
    3. Nicotine inhaler -- Available by prescription.
    4. Nicotine nasal spray -- Available by prescription.
    5. Nicotine patch -- Available by prescription and over-the-counter.
    6. Nicotine lozenge -- Available over-the-counter.
    7. Varenicline (Chantix) -- Available by prescription.

    The gum, lozenges, and patches are available at your local pharmacy, or you can ask your health care provider to write you a prescription for one of the other medications. The good news is that all seven drugs have been shown to be effective in helping smokers who are motivated to quit.

  • How will I feel when I quit smoking? Will I gain weight?
  • Answer:

    Many smokers gain weight when they quit, but it is usually less than 10 pounds. Eat a healthy diet, stay active, and try not to let weight gain distract you from your main goal -- quitting smoking. Some of the medications to help you quit smoking may help delay weight gain.

  • Some of my friends and family are smokers. What should I do when I’m with them?
  • Answer:

    Tell them that you are quitting, and ask them to assist you in this effort. Specifically, ask them not to smoke or leave cigarettes around you.

  • What kinds of activities can I do when I feel the urge to smoke a cigarette?
  • Answer:

    If you have the urge to smoke a cigarette, talk with someone, go for a walk, drink water, or get busy with a task. Reduce your stress by taking a hot bath, exercising, or reading a book. Talk to your doctor before increasing your activity level if you have not been active.

  • How can I change my daily routine, which includes smoking a cigarette with my breakfast?
  • Answer:

    When you first try to quit smoking, change your routine. Eat breakfast in a different place, and drink tea instead of coffee. Take a different route to work.

  • I like to smoke when I have a drink. Do I have to give up both?
  • Answer:

    It’s best to reduce or avoid drinking alcohol for the first three months after quitting smoking because drinking lowers your chances of success at quitting. It helps to drink a lot of water and other nonalcoholic drinks when you are trying to quit.

  • What should I do if I need more help to quit smoking?
  • Answer:

    Get individual, group, or telephone counseling to help you quit smoking. The more counseling you get, the better your chances are of quitting for good. Programs are given at local hospitals and health centers. Call your local health department for information about programs in your area. Also, talk with your doctor or other health care provider.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on July 27, 2012

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