Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Smoking Cessation Health Center

Font Size

How to Quit Smoking

Want to quit smoking? Great!

Within hours of stopping cigarettes, your body starts to recover from the effects of nicotine and additives. Blood pressure, heart rate, and body temperature -- all of which are elevated because of the nicotine in cigarettes -- return to healthier levels. Your lung capacity increases and the bronchial tubes relax, making breathing easier. Poisonous carbon monoxide in your blood decreases, allowing the blood to carry more oxygen.

For many reasons, quitting smoking is one of the best things you can do -- for your short- and long-term health.

Is It Hard to Quit Smoking?

It's a challenge to quit smoking. How much difficulty you will have depends on several factors, including:

  • The number of cigarettes you smoke daily
  • The number of people you spend time with who smoke (parents, friends, and co-workers)
  • The reasons you smoke (weight control, social situations, peer pressure)

Why Is Smoking So Addictive?

Blame nicotine, the main drug in tobacco, for your smoking addiction. Your brain quickly adapts to nicotine and develops a tolerance for it, meaning you need to smoke more to get the same rush you used to get with just one cigarette. Did you know that nicotine acts on some of the same brain pathways as cocaine?

Tolerance happens when your brain tries to keep itself balanced. Chemicals from the cigarette make the brain release chemicals called norepinephrine and dopamine. If the brain releases too much of these two chemicals, the brain chemistry gets unbalanced and releases its own "anti-nicotine" chemicals when you smoke. These "anti-nicotine" chemicals would make you feel down, depressed, and tired if you were not smoking.

Over time, the brain learns to predict when you are going to smoke a cigarette -- and releases the "anti-nicotine" chemicals. These chemicals make you feel depressed and tired, so you think, "I need a cigarette!"

A "trigger" is anything your brain has connected with smoking. Everyone's triggers are different. Yours might include the smell of cigarette smoke, having an ashtray next to you, seeing a carton of cigarettes at the store, having certain food or drinks, ending a good meal, or talking with someone with whom you normally smoke cigarettes. Sometimes just the way you feel (sad or happy) is a trigger. One of the biggest keys to quitting smoking is understanding the triggers that make you crave smoking.

But I Really Want to Quit Smoking!

There are different ways to quit smoking. Some work better than others. The best strategy is to choose a method that will challenge you to quit, but also one that you can achieve.

Here are some suggestions for ways to stop smoking:

1. Cold turkey (no outside help). About 90% of people who try to quit smoking do it without outside support -- no aids, therapy, or medicine. Although many people try to quit this way, it is not the most effective and successful method. Only about 10% of people who try to quit this way succeed on their first try.

WebMD Medical Reference

Today on WebMD

hands breaking a cigarette
Is quitting cold turkey an effective method?
ashtray
14 tips to get you through the first hard days.
 
smoking man
Surprising impacts of tobacco on the body.
cigarette smoke
What happens when you kick the habit?
 

Filtered cigarettes
ARTICLE
an array of e cigarettes
ARTICLE
 
human heart
ARTICLE
Woman experiencing withdrawal symptoms
ARTICLE
 

man smoking cigarette
ARTICLE
no smoking sign
VIDEO
 
Woman ashing cigarette in ashtray
ARTICLE
chain watch
ARTICLE