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Quitting Smoking - Overview

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Why is it so hard to quit?

Quitting is hard because your body depends on the nicotine in tobacco. Giving it up is more than just kicking a bad habit. Your body has to stop craving the nicotine. Nicotine gum, lozenges, patches, and other medicines can help reduce the cravings without the harmful effects of smoking.

You also have to change your habits. You may not even think about smoking. You just do it. You may smoke when you are stressed. Or maybe you have a cigarette with coffee. Before you quit, think of new ways to handle these things. For example, call a friend or practice deep breathing when you feel stressed. Try chewing sugarless gum instead of smoking. Go for a walk when you have a break at work. Stay around nonsmokers.

What if you feel bad when you are trying to quit?

You are likely to crave cigarettes and may feel grouchy, restless, or sad for the first 2 to 3 weeks after you quit. It may be hard to focus on tasks. Or you may have trouble sleeping and want to eat more. But you won't feel bad forever, and medicine can help. Using medicines and products like nicotine gum or patches can help with cravings and make it easier to resist smoking.

Will you gain weight?

You may worry about gaining weight after you stop smoking. Don't let this stop you. If you do gain weight, you can focus on losing it after you have successfully quit smoking.

You can take steps to lower your chance of gaining weight:

  • Try to be active. Exercise can also improve your mood.
    • If you haven't been getting much exercise, start walking every day, gradually increasing how far you walk. Or take a beginning yoga class.
    • If you are already active, see about joining others for a sport you enjoy, such as biking, hiking, or playing volleyball.
  • Eat more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and eat fewer high-fat foods.
  • Try not to substitute food for cigarettes. Instead, chew on a drinking straw or a coffee stirrer.

Use quit-smoking medicines or nicotine replacement. They may make gaining weight less likely while you are quitting smoking.

What if you start smoking again?

Most people quit and restart many times before they stop smoking for good. If you start smoking again after you quit, don't give up. Each time you quit, even if it is just for a short time, you get closer to your long-term goal.

Remind yourself that by quitting you may avoid serious health problems and live longer. Remember your reasons for quitting. Maybe you want to protect your heart and your health and live longer.

Each time you quit, you learn more about what helps and what gets in the way. Think about why you started smoking again and about what you will do differently next time. If you tried to quit without medicines or a program, think about trying them next time. Medicines and nicotine replacement (gum, patches, lozenges) can double your chances of success.1 And using medicines and counseling is even more effective. You can do it!

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: November 12, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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