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Are your beliefs about smoking keeping you from becoming a quitter? Some long-held ideas are fiction -- not fact. Learn the truth about quitting smoking and kick those cigarettes to the curb for good.  

Myth #1: Smoking Is a Choice

It’s true, you choose to smoke the first time. After a few more times, you’re hooked. Nicotine from cigarettes raises the pleasure hormone dopamine. That’s why you feel good when you smoke.

Myth #2: An Occasional Smoke Won’t Hurt Me

Oh, yes it can. Cigarettes contain hundreds of harmful chemicals -- over 70 of them can cause cancer. Every puff harms your lungs, blood vessels, and cells all over your body. Smoking a few a week can even trigger a heart attack.

Myth #3: I Can Be a Healthy Smoker

No, nope, and no way. A heart-healthy diet and exercise is great for you. But the damage smoking does can’t be undone by other healthier habits. The toxins in tobacco smoke boost your risk for cancer, heart disease, and other health problems. In fact, smoking interferes with fitness. It lowers your endurance and makes activities like jogging, dancing, or swimming harder.

Myth #4: Filtered or Light Cigarettes Are Safer

Filtered or light cigarettes are not safer and don’t change how much nicotine you get.  Your brain subconsciously changes your smoking patterns, so you get the same amount of nicotine. In fact, the U.S. government made tobacco companies take the words “light” or “extra light” off cigarette packaging. Now, people buy packs by the color. But some studies have shown people still think “gold” and “silver” cigarettes are less harmful.

Myth #5: E-Cigarettes Are a Healthier Alternative

Nicotine is in most electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes, vape pens, etc.) so you can get hooked. E-cigarette users inhale an aerosol that looks like water vapor, but it isn’t harmless. Some contain chemicals, like formaldehyde and diacetyl, which put you at risk of lung disease, heart disease, and cancer.

Myth #6: Medicine Won’t Help Me Quit

Many people say quitting smoking was the most difficult thing they’ve had to do. Don’t depend on your willpower alone. The best way to quit is to see a tobacco coach and use medications to help you quit:  

  • Controllers help you lose interest in tobacco. These include the nicotine patch and other drugs.
  • Relievers treat cravings when you have them. These include nicotine gums, lozenges, and nasal sprays.

Use them for at least 3-6 months to prevent a relapse.

Myth #7: It’s Dangerous to Use the Patch and Smoke

Studies show no additional dangerous side effects from smoking while wearing a patch. It’s actually recommended you smoke with it on so your brain can slowly turn you off the cigarettes. Generally, people wearing a patch cut back their smoking because they need less and less nicotine from cigarettes.

Myth #8: I’ll Put on Weight if I Quit

When you stop smoking, the part of the brain in charge of addictive behavior tends to switch focus to other addictive behaviors, like eating. This is why some people gain a little weight after they stop smoking. But that’s not set in stone. Use the two tobacco treatment medicines to help you keep your weight steady. Carry a water bottle and take a sip when you feel the need to puff.

Myth #9: Secondhand Smoke Doesn’t Hurt Others

You might think secondhand smoke just annoys other people. But the truth is, your smoke affects their health in serious ways. Tens of thousands of nonsmokers die each year because they’re breathing other people’s smoke.

  • In adults, secondhand smoke can cause immediate harm to the heart and blood vessels.
  • It’s linked to premature births, low-weight babies, and sudden infant death.
  • Kids who are exposed get more ear infections, bronchitis, and pneumonia.
  • Children with asthma have more serious and more frequent attacks.

Myth #10: Smoking Calms Me Down

When you take a drag on a cigarette, you get a “fix” of nicotine and relieve withdrawal symptoms like anxiety and irritability. So, it does relieve the stress -- stress brought on by craving a cigarette. Nicotine treatment medicines can help relieve cravings without hurting your body.

Over time, tobacco use can worsen your mental health. Exercise and meditation are more effective at managing stress.

Myth #11: It’s Too Late for Me to Quit

It’s never too late. Even if you have smoking-related conditions like cancer or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), quitting smoking can help your treatments work better. You will likely see your energy, breathing, and mental health get better, too.

© 2022 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

Show Sources

Photo Credit: Mac99 / Getty Images


CDC: “Is What You Know About Smoking Wrong?” “Secondhand Smoke (SHS) Facts.”

Janaki Deepak, MD, pulmonologist and critical care physician, University of Maryland Medical Center, Baltimore.

Chrishelle Stipe, MPH, NCTTP (National Certificate in Tobacco Treatment Practice), cessation manager, Louisiana Campaign for Tobacco-Free Living, New Orleans.

Steven Rosenberg, PhD, psychotherapist and behavioral specialist, Philadelphia.

American Cancer Society: “What Do We Know About E-cigarettes?”

New South Wales Health Service (Australia): “10 Common Myths About Smoking and Quitting.”