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Why is it so hard to stop smoking?

Smoking is hard to stop because your body becomes addicted to nicotine, the drug found naturally in tobacco. Also, you've probably developed habits related to smoking, such as smoking when you drink a cup of coffee. These habits can be hard to break.


Why should I stop smoking?

Your health is the main reason. Smoking increases the risk of many types of cancer, including some leukemias and cancer of the lungs, mouth, voice box (larynx), throat (esophagus), bladder, kidney, pancreas, cervix, and stomach. Smoking may also cause chronic lung diseases, such as emphysema, and greatly increases your risk of a heart attack or stroke. Women who smoke are more likely to have a miscarriage or give birth to a low-weight baby with health problems. Smokers are more likely to get colds, the flu, and pneumonia. Smoking also damages your skin and can cause premature wrinkles.


Former smokers live longer than people who continue to smoke, save money by not buying cigarettes, and don't expose friends and family to secondhand smoke.


How do I start?

When you're ready to quit, pick a stop date 2 to 4 weeks away and write down your reasons for quitting. Keep this list with you so you can look at it when you feel the urge to smoke. Keeping a diary of when and why you smoke also can help you quit. By knowing what makes you want to smoke, you and your healthcare provider can plan other ways to deal with the reasons you smoke. For example, instead of lighting up, try going for a walk or meditating.


Get support and encouragement from family, friends, or telephone-based counseling. The American Cancer Society (ACS) Quitline (877-YES-QUIT; offers trained counselors who can help you plan how to quit, avoid common pitfalls, and find support when you need it. The American Lung Association has an online program, Freedom from Smoking Online, with information and support ( Various organizations sponsor smoking cessation classes; call the ACS Quitline for more information.


Your healthcare provider may suggest a medicine to help you quit. These can be in the form of patches, gum, pills, lozenges, sprays, or inhalers. Your healthcare provider can help you decide which one is right for you.


Right before your quit day, get rid of all your cigarettes and ashtrays-at home, at work, and in your car. Buy oral substitutes such as sugar-free gum, hard candy, or carrot sticks. At first, stay away from places where you used to smoke until you feel you can resist temptation.


How will I feel when I stop smoking?

Depending on how much and how long you smoked, you may have nicotine withdrawal symptoms. For example, you may crave a cigarette, feel anxious or hungrier than usual, or have trouble concentrating. These symptoms usually are strongest in the first few days after you stop smoking, and most go away within a few weeks.


To help stay on course, put the money you would have spent on cigarettes into a jar and buy yourself a small non-food reward once a week-or save the money for a larger reward later. You've earned it!


Will I gain weight?

Most people who stop smoking gain a few pounds, but this is a minor health risk compared with smoking. Don't try to diet while you're trying to stop smoking-it's too stressful. Instead, keep healthful, low-fat snacks on hand and stay physically active. Other ways to occupy your hands include reading, writing, and knitting or other crafts.


What if I start smoking again?

If you slip, don't use it as an excuse to go back to regular smoking. Few people quit on the first attempt, so don't get discouraged. Use what you've learned to help you next time.