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How to Stop Smoking


Why should I quit smoking?

  • You should quit smoking to reduce your risk of dying from smoke-related health problems. If you use tobacco, you have a higher risk of heart problems and many types of cancer. This includes cancers of the lip, mouth, throat, esophagus, pancreas, lung, cervix, bladder, and kidney. You have a higher risk of lifelong breathing problems, such as COPD. You are also at higher risk for other health problems, such as ulcers, cataracts, and osteoporosis.

  • Smoking creates secondhand smoke (SHS) that harms people around you. Exposure to SHS increases the risk of SIDS, pneumonia, asthma, and bronchitis in children. It may be harder for a woman to get pregnant if she or her partner smokes. If you smoke and are pregnant, your baby has a greater chance of being born too early, not weighing enough at birth, and even dying. After birth, your baby will be exposed to harmful chemicals if he breathes cigarette smoke. Nicotine also goes into breast milk when you smoke.

How do I quit smoking? Ask your caregiver for help. Therapies that have been found to help people quit smoking include counseling and behavior change therapy. Frequent one-to-one, group, and telephone counseling are helpful if you are trying to quit smoking. It is important to seek support and encouragement from others, and learn new ways to deal with stress. Nicotine replacement products can help to decrease cravings and withdrawal symptoms. There are also prescription medicines that can help you quit smoking. Ask your caregiver if you are interested in these prescription medicines.

What do I need to know about nicotine replacement products?

  • Nicotine replacement products contain a safe form of nicotine. They do not contain the harmful gases in smoke or the cancer-causing elements in tobacco. These products help relieve nicotine withdrawal symptoms, such as irritability, anxiety, and insomnia. They are available in the form of gum, skin patches, lozenges, nose spray, and inhalers. These products are most helpful when they are used as part of a complete program to help you stop smoking.

  • Most nicotine replacement products are not meant to be used over long periods of time. If you begin smoking again, or keep smoking while using these products, talk to your caregiver. Talk to your caregiver before using these products if you are pregnant, have heart disease, or have any other medical condition. Always read information about side effects and follow the directions. Certain products can cause stomach upset and other more serious problems if they are used incorrectly.

What are some steps I can take to stop smoking?

  • Write down the reasons you want to quit: Review these every night before you go to bed.

  • Pick a quit day: Pick a date to quit and mark it on a calendar.

  • Ask for support: Ask a friend or spouse to quit with you. Talk about it, and plan how you will support each other.

  • Decrease the number of cigarettes you smoke each day: Try smoking only half a cigarette instead of a whole one. Limit smoking to only certain times of day. Switch to a brand of cigarettes you do not like as much.

  • Avoid the things that cause you to smoke: Be aware of why you smoke each cigarette. Then practice avoiding the things that cause you to smoke.

  • Throw away smoking supplies: Throw out your ashtrays, lighters, and cigarettes.

  • Make plans for your quit day: Keep yourself busy on the day you quit. Change your normal routine on that day. For example, sit in a different place at the table during meals, drink tea instead of coffee, and hold your cup in the other hand. Treat yourself to something special to celebrate your decision to quit. Celebrate with other people who have supported you.

How do I cope with the urge to smoke? After you quit smoking, there may be moments when you really want to smoke. The following may help you manage these urges:

  • Delay: Do not act on the urge to smoke. It will pass in a few minutes.

  • Take deep breaths: Breathe in slowly and deeply, then breathe out slowly. Keep breathing until you relax and forget about the urge to smoke.

  • Drink water: Drink the water slowly and hold it in your mouth a little while.

  • Distract: Take your mind off smoking. Think about something else or focus on what you are doing. Get up and move around. Do anything that will take you away from thoughts of smoking.

How can I avoid going back to smoking?

  • Avoid common triggers: Avoid old activities that trigger the urge to smoke. Avoid being around other people who smoke, being in places where smoking is allowed, or drinking alcohol. Try new activities, such as cycling and swimming.

  • Remind yourself why you quit smoking: Keep your list of reasons that you quit handy, and review it often.

  • Find healthy ways to manage stress: You may have used smoking as a way to manage stress. Stress will always be there, but now you must find other ways to cope with it. Notice and write down the things that cause stress for you. Listen to music, go for a walk, take a bath, call a friend, or go to a quiet place by yourself for a few minutes.

  • Keep your hands busy: Find ways to keep your hands busy. Do things such as knitting, writing letters, doing crossword puzzles, or gardening.

  • Keep healthy snacks on hand: When you smoked, you were used to having a cigarette in your mouth. Use healthy snacks as a substitute. Carrot or celery sticks, sunflower seeds, apples, and raisins are examples of healthy snacks. You can also chew sugarless gum as a substitute.

  • Reward yourself: Each time you fight the urge to smoke, reward yourself. Mark every successful day on your calendar. Praise yourself for your willpower and courage. It can help you stay positive and feel successful. Choose healthy rewards. Examples are taking a long bath, or trying a new exercise or craft class.

  • Keep track of the money you are saving: Start saving the money that you would have spent on cigarettes. Spend the money on a gift for yourself or someone special.

  • Do not give up: If you do smoke a cigarette, do not give up. Stop and think of how many hours, days, or weeks you have already managed to get through. Try to identify what caused you to smoke, and add it to your list of things to avoid. If you cannot avoid the trigger, practice how you will deal with it next time. Review all of the health problems that are caused by smoking. Review all of the reasons why you stopped smoking.

What should I know about weight gain after I quit? Some people may gain a few pounds after they quit smoking. Remember that quitting helps decrease your risk for serious health problems caused by smoking. The following may help you avoid weight gain:

  • Eat healthy, well-balanced meals. Decrease the amount of high-calorie foods that you eat. Foods that are high in calories are also high in fat and sugar. Some examples include potato chips, pastries (such as doughnuts), fried foods (such as French fries), and candy.

  • Drink water before, during, and between meals. Ask your caregiver how much liquid to drink each day and which liquids are best for you.

  • Get up from the table as soon as you have finished your meal to avoid eating extra servings.

  • If you get hungry between meals, eat healthy snacks, such as fruit, vegetables, and low-fat yogurt. Chew sugarless gum.

  • Take a walk or do some kind of exercise every day. Exercise will also help you cope with stress.

Where can I find support and more information?

  • American Lung Association
    1301 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
    Washington , DC 20004
    Phone: 1- 202 - 785-3355
    Phone: 1- 800 - 548-8252
    Web Address:

  • American Cancer Society
    250 Williams Street
    Atlanta , GA 30303
    Phone: 1- 800 - 227-2345
    Web Address:


You have the right to help plan your care. To help with this plan, you must learn about how smoking affects your health and how to stop. You can then discuss treatment options with your caregivers. Work with them to decide what care will be used to treat you. You always have the right to refuse treatment.

© 2013 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of the Blausen Databases or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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