Quitting Smoking

On Thursday, November 20, 2003, approximately 17 million people will quit smoking, at least for one day. Why? Because it's the Great American Smokeout®, an annual event sponsored by the American Cancer Society to encourage people to stop smoking and lower their risk for cancer.


If you are looking for a reason to quit smoking, consider these points:

  • • People who quit smoking, regardless of their age, live longer than people the same age who continue to smoke.

  • • Smokers who quit before the age of 50 are twice as likely to survive the next 15 years as those who continue to smoke. Smokers who quit before the age of 35 avoid 90% of the health risk linked to smoking.

  • • By quitting smoking, you reduce your risk for developing cancer of the lung, mouth, nasal cavities, pharynx (throat), larynx, esophagus, stomach, pancreas, liver, kidney, bladder, cervix, and some types of leukemia.

  • • You also reduce your risk for developing heart disease, stroke, emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and stomach ulcers.

  • • Smoking is expensive. A one-pack-a-day habit usually costs $2,000 to $3,000 per year.

  • • Parents can set a good example for their kids by quitting. Parents and pregnant women who quit can protect their children and fetus from secondhand smoke.

  • • So now you want to quit smoking? CONGRATULATIONS! That is your first step down the road to a healthier life. The information below can help double your chances of completing the journey.


Nicotine, found naturally in tobacco, is a drug. You can't really see, smell, or taste it, but it is addictive, just like cocaine or heroin!

Taken in small amounts, nicotine makes you feel good, which in turn makes you want to smoke more. The problem is, as your body gets used to having nicotine, it becomes dependent on it. Then, when you stop smoking and your body doesn't get the nicotine it has come to expect, you suffer withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal is different for everyone. You might experience any or all of the following symptoms:

  • • Depression

  • • Feelings of frustration and anger

  • • Irritability

  • • Trouble sleeping

  • • Difficulty concentrating

  • • Restlessness

  • • Headache

  • • Tiredness

  • • Increased appetite

  • • Coughing

  • • Cravings

  • • Mood swings

  • • Dizziness

  • • Nervousness

But don't worry because these symptoms are short term, and you will soon begin to enjoy the positive effects of quitting—reduction in your blood pressure, greater lung capacity, lower dry cleaning bills, and many other benefits.

Using nicotine patches, gum, a nasal spray or inhaler, or the non-nicotine prescription medication bupropion (Zyban) can help you cope with these symptoms and double your chances of quitting smoking successfully. Talk to your doctor or health care provider about which one is right for you.

Smoking is a mental addiction as well as a physical addiction. You might smoke for many different reasons—to relax, to feel good, or purely out of habit. Because smoking has become your response to certain situations, nicotine replacement medicine or Zyban is only one part of the actions you need to take to stop your desire to smoke. To successfully quit, you need to identify these situations and find alternative solutions.


Research has shown that these five steps will help you quit for good. They work best if you adapt them to your own personalized quitting plan.

1. Get Ready

Make a list of your reasons for wanting to quit. Put copies of this list in places where you are likely to see it at times when you are tempted to smoke. It will help keep you motivated to quit.

Plan ahead. Pick a quit date somewhere within the next month. You might want to pick a day that is significant to you, such as your birthday or anniversary or the Great American Smokeout®. Avoid choosing a day that you know will be very stressful. Tell your family, friends, and coworkers when you plan to quit. They can encourage you in your resolution, which will make you more likely to stick to your quit date.

Decide ahead of time how you will deal with cravings. Choose the medication you will use and determine how you will reward yourself for not smoking.

Have alternatives to smoking available, such as peppermints, carrot sticks, or cinnamon sticks.

2. Get Support

A number of resources are available to you when you are quitting smoking. These include motivational tapes and books, toll-free telephone quitlines, and support groups. Take a look at the list of resources at the end of this page. Although all of these are helpful, often what is most important is the support of the people around you. You might want to ask someone at home, a close friend, and someone at work to be your “quit buddies,” people you can go to when the urge to smoke is too strong to resist alone.

3. Learn New Skills and Behaviors

Learning new skills will help break the mental addiction of smoking. By changing your daily routine and habits, you will eliminate some of your smoking triggers. Also, if you know there are certain places or people with whom you are more likely to smoke, find ways to avoid them or different ways to spend time with them, particularly right after you quit when the cravings will be strongest.

4. Get Medication and Use It Correctly

Discuss the different medicines available with your health care provider and decide which one is right for you. Make sure you understand how to use the medicine because you might otherwise get either too little nicotine to satisfy your body's need for it, or too much.

5. Be Prepared for Relapse or Difficult Situations

Know that very few people quit successfully the first time. This does not mean you shouldn't keep trying. Even if it takes several tries for you to break the addiction, none of them is wasted. You always learn something about methods that do or don't help you quit.

About half of Americans who ever smoked have quit. If these 46 million Americans can quit smoking for good, so can you!


If you want to quit smoking and need help, several organizations and books will help you find it.


American Cancer Society 1-800-ACS-2,345 www.cancer.org

American Lung Association 1-800-LUNG-USA www.lungusa.org

National Cancer Institute Cancer Information Service 1-800-4-CANCER www.cancer.gov

Nicotine Anonymous 415-750-0328 www.nicotine-anonymous.org


Kicking Butts: Quit Smoking and Take Charge of Your Health by American Cancer Society 106 pp, $8.95, ISBN 0-944235-42-5 American Cancer Society, Atlanta, GA, 2003

The Last Puff: Ex-Smokers Share the Secrets of Their Success by John W. Farquhar, MD and Gene A. Spiller, PhD 252 pp, $12.95, ISBN 0-393308-03-0 WW Norton & Company, New York, NY, Reproduction Edition 1991

American Lung Association 7 Steps to a Smoke-free Life by Edwin B. Fisher 240 pp, 14.95, ISBN 0-471247-00-6 John Wiley & Sons, New York, NY, 1st Edition, 1998