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NIH MedlinePlus the Magazine, Trusted Health Information from the National Institutes of Health

Quit Smoking

5 Steps to START

A photo of a calendar

The National Cancer Institute recommends that these five steps be a part of every successful plan to quit smoking:

  • Set a quit date.
  • Tell family, friends, and coworkers you plan to quit.
  • Anticipate and plan for the challenges you will face while quitting.
  • Remove cigarettes and other tobacco products from your home, car and workplace.
  • Talk to your doctor about getting help to quit.

Quitting is Hard

Many ex-smokers say quitting was the hardest thing they ever did. Do you feel hooked? You're probably addicted to nicotine.

Nicotine is in all tobacco products. It makes you feel calm and satisfied, yet also alert and focused. But the more you smoke, the more nicotine you need to feel good. Soon, you don't feel"normal" without nicotine. This is nicotine addiction.

It takes time to break free from nicotine addiction. It may take more than one try to quit for good. So, don't give up too soon. You will feel good again.

Another reason that quitting is hard for most smokers is because smoking is a big part of their lives. You may enjoy holding a cigarette and puffing on it. You may smoke when you are stressed, bored, or angry. You may light up when you drink coffee or alcohol, talk on the phone, drive, or are with other smokers. After months and years, smoking has become part of your daily routine. You may light up without even thinking about it.

You may try to quit several times before you're finally done with cigarettes. But you will learn something each time you try. It takes willpower and strength to beat your addiction to nicotine.

Remember, millions of people have quit smoking for good. You can be one of them.

Free Counseling to Help You Quit

Free one-to-one counseling is available over the phone by calling the National Cancer Institute's Smoking Quitline (1-877-44U-QUIT).

Fast Facts

  1. Cigarette smoking is an addiction. Tobacco contains nicotine, an addictive substance that makes quitting difficult.
  2. Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. More than 440,000 Americans die of smoking-related illnesses every year.
  3. Some 38,000 deaths are caused by exposure to secondhand smoke.
  4. Smokers are up to six times more likely to have a heart attack than nonsmokers. Smoking can also cause chronic obstructive pulmonary (lung) disease (C.O.P.D.), including bronchitis and emphysema, as well as numerous forms of cancer.
  5. Quitting smoking, also called smoking cessation, will greatly reduce your risk of developing and dying from cancer, improve circulation, lower your heart rate and blood pressure, and enhance your sense of taste and smell, as well as a number of other health benefits.
  6. While quitting can be difficult, there are many products, services, and organizations available to help you stop smoking. Medications can help with cravings and withdrawal. Professionals, such as your healthcare provider and pharmacist, can offer advice.

Winter 2011 Issue: Volume 5 Number 4 Page 5