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

Quit Smoking

Keep Trying!

Becca Mendelson

Photo courtesy of Becca Mendelson

Quitting was not easy for Becca Mendelson. But it was worth it.

Becca Mendelson was born in Washington, D.C., and grew up in Northern Virginia. She earned a writing degree from the University of Pittsburgh. Becca currently lives on the island of St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands and works as a classic rock DJ.

Why did you start smoking?

I started smoking when I was 18. I was past the peer pressure age, but my boyfriend smoked, and smoking was part of the whole college atmosphere. I smoked about half a pack to a pack a day.

Why did you want to quit?

My mom got cancer. I was coming home for Thanksgiving. I was going to be in airports and airplanes with no smoking, no one smoked at home, and I didn't want to smoke around my mom. It was the perfect time to quit.

How many times have you tried to quit?

Probably once a year for the last 10 years. I once quit for over a year when I was getting ready to join the Peace Corps. But when that fell through, I moved to St. Croix and became a bartender. In that environment, it was easy to start again.

What methods have you used to try to quit?

This time I went cold turkey. I have felt annoyed at times, but it's not unbearable. I have tried the patch previously, but didn't like the side effects.

What benefits do you see from quitting?

Well, I don't smell like smoke, and it's definitely healthier. I no longer have a deep raspy voice.

How long have you quit this time?

Two weeks! And when I go back to St. Croix, I won't be bartending, so I won't be surrounded by smokers. I think that will help!

Benefits of Quitting

  • 20 minutes after quitting: Your heart rate drops.
  • 12 hours after quitting: The carbon monoxide level in your blood returns to normal.
  • 2 weeks to 3 months after quitting: Your heart attack risk begins to drop, and lung function improves.
  • 1 to 9 months after quitting: Your coughing and shortness of breath decrease.
  • 1 year after quitting: Your added risk of coronary heart disease is half that of a smoker's.
  • 5 years after quitting: Your stroke risk is reduced to that of a nonsmoker's.
  • 10 years after quitting: Your lung cancer death rate is about half that of a smoker's.
  • 15 years after quitting: Your risk of coronary heart disease returns to normal.

To Find Out More

Additional information is available at:

Free Guide Helps You Quit

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) offers a free, 38-page guide– Clearing the Air: Quit Smoking Today –to help smokers take the right steps to quit successfully. Included in the guide are helpful tools and strategies, including:

  • A nicotine addiction test to determine how much you depend on nicotine
  • A checklist of smoking triggers to help you understand the addiction
  • A sample smoking journal to record your smoking habits Information on how to set a Quit Date
  • A quitting worksheet
  • Strategies to help avoid slips and ways to have a healthier lifestyle

A PDF of the guide can be downloaded from Enter "Clearing the Air" in the Search box. Or, call 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237) for a printed guide.

Fall 2010 Issue: Volume 5 Number 3 Page Inside Cover