Smoking causes changes in your body and in the way you act. The changes in your body are caused by an addiction to nicotine. The changes in the way you act developed over time as you bought cigarettes, lit them and smoked them. These changes have become your smoking habit.
When you have a smoking habit, many things seem to go along with having a cigarette. These might include having a cup of coffee or an alcoholic drink, being stressed or worried, talking on the phone, driving, socializing with friends or wanting something to do with your hands.
Cigarettes contain substances that you would never think about putting in your body. For example, cigarettes contain tar, carbon monoxide and chemicals like DDT, arsenic and formaldehyde (a gas used to preserve dead animals).
The tobacco in cigarettes also contains nicotine--the drug that makes smoking addictive. All of these things are bad for your body. Nicotine raises your risk of heart attack and stroke. Tar and carbon monoxide cause serious breathing problems. And you know tobacco smoke causes cancer.
Even a few cigarettes a day are bad for your health. Once you start smoking, it can be very hard to stop. The nicotine in cigarettes is poisonous and very addictive. Once you start using it, your body will feel like it cannot function without it. Most adult smokers started when they were teenagers, and later realized that they couldn't stop smoking.
Yes. Both cigarettes and chewing tobacco are toxic to your body. You may hear more about the harm cigarettes do to the body, but chewing tobacco can also hurt your health. Chewing tobacco can cause sores and white patches in your mouth, as well as diseases and cancers of the mouth, gums and throat. Chewing can give you bad breath, discolor your teeth and cause tooth loss. And one chew contains 15 times the nicotine of a cigarette (meaning the risk of addiction is much higher).
You'll have the best chance of stopping if you do the following:
Nicotine replacement products are ways to take in nicotine without smoking. These products come in several forms: gum, patch, nasal spray, inhaler and lozenge. You can buy the nicotine gum, patch and lozenge without a prescription from your doctor. Nicotine replacement works by lessening your body’s craving for nicotine and reducing withdrawal symptoms. This lets you focus on the changes you need to make in your habits and environment. Once you feel more confident as a nonsmoker, dealing with your nicotine addiction is easier.
Prescription medicines such as bupropion and varenicline help some people stop smoking. These medicines do not contain nicotine, but help you resist your urges to smoke.
Talk to your doctor about which of these products is likely to give you the best chance of success. For any of these products to work, you must carefully follow the directions on the package. It's very important that you don't smoke while using nicotine replacement products.
Tell your family and friends what kind of help you need. Their support will make it easier for you to stop smoking. Also, ask your family doctor to help you develop a plan for stopping smoking. He or she can give you information on telephone hotlines, such as 1-800-QUIT-NOW (784-8669), or self-help materials that can be very helpful. Your doctor can also recommend a stop-smoking program. These programs are often held at local hospitals or health centers.
Give yourself rewards for stopping smoking. For example, with the money you save by not smoking, buy yourself something special.
Remember, you will need some help to stop smoking. Nine out of 10 smokers who try to go "cold turkey" fail because nicotine is so addictive. But it is easy to find help to quit.
You may have a habit of using cigarettes to relax during stressful times. Luckily, there are good ways to manage stress without smoking. Relax by taking a hot bath, going for a walk, or breathing slowly and deeply. Think of changes in your daily routine that will help you resist the urge to smoke. For example, if you used to smoke when you drank coffee, drink hot tea instead.
You may feel edgy and irritable. You also may get angry or upset faster, have trouble concentrating and feel hungrier than usual. You may have headaches and cough more at first (while your lungs are clearing out). All of these can be symptoms of withdrawal from nicotine. Keep in mind that the worst symptoms will be over in a few days. However, you may still have cravings for tobacco. Those cravings have less to do with nicotine addiction and more to do with the habit of smoking.
Some people gain a few pounds. Other people lose weight. The main reason some people gain weight is because they eat more food as a substitute for smoking. You can avoid gaining weight by watching how much you eat, staying busy and working out.
You can quit. Most people try to quit more than once before they succeed. So don't give up if you slip. Remind yourself of why you want to quit. Think about what happened to make you slip. Figure out how you'll handle that situation differently next time. Then recommit yourself to quitting. You can do it!
Smoking can shorten your life by as much as 14 years. Smoking can cause many diseases, including lung cancer, mouth cancers and heart disease. It can also cause a cough that won't go away, and it may make it hard for you to breathe.
There are several reasons to quit smoking now:
Smoking causes many adverse health conditions, including an increased risk of:
Smoking can also cost you time lost working or having fun because you're sick.
Television and radio make it sound easy to "Just say no" to drugs, alcohol and tobacco. But it may not be so simple. You may be facing pressures from friends who smoke, you may be stressed out at home, school or work, or you may think smoking is going to make people like you. Don't let anyone or anything, whether it's friends or cigarette ads, convince you that it's okay to smoke. If you need help to say no, there are people who can help you. Talk to someone you can trust, like a teacher, a school counselor or your family doctor.
Hear first-hand advice from former smokers on what helped them to say "no" to tobacco.
Videos used with permission from U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff