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Smoking and How To Quit

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How to quit

woman applying a nicotine patch
Nicotine products that are not FDA-approved, like e-cigarettes, nicotine water, or spit-free tobacco products, have never been tested to see if they really can help people quit smoking and may even be harmful. If you are serious about quitting, talk to your doctor about products and methods that have been proven to help people quit for good.

Make the decision to quit and feel great!

If you have made the decision to quit smoking, congratulations! Not only will you improve your own health, you will also protect the health of your loved ones by no longer exposing them to secondhand smoke.

We know how hard it can be to quit smoking. Did you know that many people try to quit two or three times before they give up smoking for good? Nicotine is a very addictive drug — as addictive as heroin and cocaine. The good news is that millions of people have given up smoking for good. It's hard work to quit, but you can do it! Freeing yourself of an expensive habit that threatens your health and the health of others will make you feel great!

Many women who smoke worry that they will gain weight if they quit. In fact, nearly 80 percent of people who quit smoking do gain weight, but the average weight gain is just 5 pounds. Keep in mind, however, that more than half of people who keep smoking will gain weight too. Plus, the health benefits of quitting far exceed any risks from the weight gain related to quitting.

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How to quit

Quitting during pregnancy

If you are pregnant and quitting smoking, congratulations! You have two reasons to celebrate: your health and your baby’s health. Ask your doctor about ways to help you quit during pregnancy. Intensive counseling has been shown to increase a pregnant woman's chances of quitting success. We don't know whether the drugs used to help people quit are safe to use during pregnancy. But we do know that continuing to smoke during pregnancy threatens your and your baby's health.

Research has shown that these steps will help you to quit for good:

  • Pick a date to stop smoking. Before that day, get rid of all cigarettes, ashtrays, and lighters everywhere you smoke. Do not allow anyone to smoke in your home. List the reasons why you want to quit and keep this list with you, so you can refer to it if you have an urge to light up. It will remind you why you want to stop.
  • Talk to your doctor or nurse about medicines to help you quit. Many people have withdrawal symptoms when they quit smoking. These symptoms can include depression, trouble sleeping, feeling irritable or restless, and trouble thinking clearly. Medicines work well at relieving these symptoms and can boost your chances of quitting for good. Your chances of quitting are even better when medicine and counseling are used together. Most medicines help you quit smoking by giving you small, steady doses of nicotine, the drug in cigarettes that causes addiction. Also, for some people, certain combinations of medicine work better than using one medicine alone. Talk to your doctor or nurse to see if one of these medicines may be right for you:
    • Nicotine patch: worn on the skin and supplies a steady amount of nicotine to the body through the skin
    • Nicotine gum or lozenge: releases nicotine into the bloodstream through the lining in your mouth
    • Nicotine nasal spray: inhaled through your nose and passes into your bloodstream
    • Nicotine inhaler: inhaled through the mouth and absorbed in the mouth and throat
    • Bupropion (Zyban): a medicine that reduces nicotine withdrawal symptoms and the urge to smoke
    • Varenicline (Chantix): a medicine that reduces nicotine withdrawal symptoms and the pleasurable effects of smoking
  • Seek counseling. You can improve your chances of quitting for good with professional help. Counseling can provide you with practical skills to overcome nicotine addiction, as well as support and encouragement. Many forms of counseling and support can help, whether alone, in a group, or through a telephone "quit line." Your chances of success are best with in-person, intense counseling and when all forms are used. Seeking frequent counseling, at least once a week, especially in the first months after quitting, also will boost your chances of success.
  • Get support from your family, friends, and coworkers. You will be more likely to quit for good if you have help. Let the people important to you know the date you will be quitting and ask them for their support. Ask them not to smoke around you or leave cigarettes out. Get more support ideas.
  • Find substitutes for smoking and vary your routine. When you get the urge to smoke, do something to take your mind off smoking. Talk to a friend, go for a walk, or go to the movies. Find ways other than smoking to reduce stress, such as exercise, meditation, hot baths, or reading. Try sugar-free gum or candy to help handle your cravings. Drink lots of water. You might want to try changing your daily routine as well. Try drinking tea instead of coffee, eating your breakfast in a different place, or taking a different route to work.
  • Be prepared for relapse. Most people relapse, or start smoking again, within the first three months after quitting. Don't get discouraged if you relapse. Remember, many people try to quit several times before quitting for good. Think of what helped and didn't help the last time you tried to quit. Figuring these out before you try to quit again will increase your chances for success. Certain situations can increase your chances of smoking. These include drinking alcohol, being around other smokers, gaining weight, stress, or becoming depressed. Talk to your doctor or nurse to learn ways to cope with these situations.

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Where to get help

Get more help if you need it. Join a quit-smoking program or support group to help you quit. These programs can help you handle withdrawal and stress and teach you skills to resist the urge to smoke. Contact your local hospital, health center, or health department for information about quit-smoking programs and support groups in your area. Call the National Cancer Institute at 877-44U-QUIT to talk to a counselor. To get live, online assistance from the National Cancer Institute's LiveHelp service, go to http://www.smokefree.gov. LiveHelp for smoking cessation assistance is available Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.

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Content last updated: May 19, 2010.

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