Tobacco use is the single most preventable cause of disease, disability, and death in the United States. Every year, more than 440,000 lives are lost due to tobacco use. Nicotine—the drug in all tobacco products—is as addictive as heroin. The good news is that you can quit.
Cigarette smoke has more than 4,000 chemicals, including insect poison (DDT), arsenic, nail polish remover, and rat poison. The materials in cigarettes damage both heart and lungs, and affect your sense of taste and smell. They also stop your body's ability to fight infections.
Benefits of Quitting
- Lower your risk for cancer, heart attack, and stroke
- Breathe easier, and more fully
- Improve the health of those around you
- Have more energy and focus
- Improve your teeth, breath, and skin
- Regain your sense of smell and taste
- Save a lot of money
- The first step is to decide why you want to quit. Write them down on a note and put it in a place where you will see it: where you keep your cigarettes, for example.
- The next step is to decide when you will quit, a Quit Date. Once you have this in mind, tell your family, friends, co-workers, and other people in your life that you plan to quit. It helps when you tell others. They can support you and encourage you to keep on track.
- Next, think of all the things that you might come across when you quit. You will have cravings. Think of ways you can change your routine to help you avoid your triggers and stay on target. For example, when you crave a cigarette:
- Take a walk
- Go exercise
- Talk to someone who knows you’re trying to quit
- Eat a healthy snack
- Talk to your doctor about your plan to quit. He or she may offer some treatment suggestions to help your transition.
- Finally, remove cigarettes and other tobacco products from your home, car, and work.
Will I Gain Weight?
Many people worry that they will gain weight if they quit smoking. Smoking does burn calories—up to 200 per day in a heavy smoker. The truth is a lot of people don’t gain any weight when they quit. If they do, the average weight gain is about 5 to 10 pounds—quite small considering the benefits. You can easily lose these pounds if you add 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day.
How can I prevent weight gain when I quit?
- Start or increase your exercise routine
- Drink plenty of water
- Eat healthy snacks, like vegetable sticks, low-fat yogurt, and nuts or berries instead of fattening snacks when you eat a snack as an alternative to a cigarette
- Avoid foods with transfat
- Limit your alcohol intake
- Talk to your doctor about nutrition, diet, and exercise
How can I manage my cravings?
- Keep your hands busy: do a crossword puzzle or Sudoku, learn to knit, or other hand-intensive activity
- Take up a new hobby or activity to help keep you busy and your mind off smoking Keep a supply of healthy snacks available
- Learn breathing techniques to help you relax
- Smoking is a habit: think up new activities to do instead of smoking
Coping with Stress
Stress is a part of life for many of us. You may have dealt with stress in your life by smoking. As you quit, at times you will find yourself cranky, irritated, and you may experience some anxiety. Try to create some "downtime" for you in your daily schedule:
- Take a hot bath or watch a sunset or sunrise
- Go for a walk in a park Have a cup of herbal tea
- Learn some relaxation techniques like those found in Yoga, Tai Chi, or other low-impact exercises
Addiction takes time and patience to overcome. Many people relapse (start smoking again). If this happens to you, be patient. Remember your goal and try again. Re-examine your triggers and determine why it was so hard for you to quit this time. Renew your commitment with your family and friends. Talk to your doctor about medicines as options to help you quit.