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How to Quit Smoking

Smoking is a hard habit to break. About 50% of all people who have ever smoked have been able to quit. Most people who still smoke want to quit. Here are some of the best ways to stop smoking.

Quit smoking

Keep in mind the health benefits of quitting

The health benefits of quitting start right away. They keep improving the longer you go without smoking. Knowing this can help inspire you to stay on track. These benefits occur at any age. If you are 17 or 70, quitting is a good choice. Some of the health benefits after your last cigarette include:

  • After 20 minutes: Your blood pressure and pulse return to normal.

  • After 8 hours: Your oxygen levels return to normal.

  • After 2 days: Your ability to smell and taste start to improve as damaged nerves regrow.

  • After 2 to 3 weeks: Your circulation and lung function improve.

  • After 1 to 9 months: Your coughing, congestion, and shortness of breath decrease. Your tiredness decreases.

  • After 1 year: Your risk of heart attack decreases by 50%.

  • After 5 years: Your risk of lung cancer decreases by 50%. Your risk of stroke becomes the same as a nonsmoker’s.

Go cold turkey

Most former smokers quit cold turkey. This means stopping all at once. Trying to cut back slowly often doesn't work as well. This may be because it continues the habit of smoking. Also you may inhale more smoke while smoking fewer cigarettes. This leads to the same amount of nicotine in your body.

Get support

Support programs can be a big help, especially for heavy smokers. These groups offer lectures, ways to change behavior, and peer support. Here are some ways to find a support program:

  • Free national quitline 800-QUIT-NOW (800-784-8669)

  • Hospital quit-smoking programs

  • American Lung Association 800-586-4872

  • American Cancer Society 800-227-2345

Support at home is important too. Family and friends can offer praise and reassurance. If the smoker in your life finds it hard to quit, encourage them to keep trying.

Try over-the-counter medicine

Nicotine replacement therapy may make it easier to quit. Some aids are available without a prescription. These include a nicotine patch, gum, and lozenges. But it's best to use these under the care of your healthcare provider. The skin patch gives a steady supply of nicotine. Nicotine gum and lozenges give short-time doses of low levels of nicotine. Both methods reduce the craving for cigarettes. If you have nausea, vomiting, dizziness, weakness, or a fast heartbeat, stop using these products. See your provider.

Ask about prescription medicine

After reviewing your smoking patterns and past attempts to quit, your healthcare provider may offer a prescription medicine such as bupropion, varenicline, a nicotine inhaler, or nasal spray. Each has advantages and side effects. Your provider can review these with you.

Keep trying

Most smokers make many attempts at quitting before they succeed. It’s important not to give up.

To learn more

For more on how to quit smoking, try these resources: 

Online Medical Reviewer: Eric Perez MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Kenny Turley PA-C
Online Medical Reviewer: L Renee Watson MSN RN
Date Last Reviewed: 12/1/2019
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