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Quit Smoking

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The Basics

Quitting smoking is one of the most important things you can do for your health. The sooner you quit, the sooner your body can begin to heal. You will feel better and have more energy to be active with your family and friends.

Smoking is the most preventable cause of death and disease in the United States. Smoking causes:

  • Lung cancer
  • Many other types of cancer
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Pregnancy problems
  • Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
  • Lung disorders
  • Gum disease
  • Vision problems (cataracts)

How can I quit smoking?
Start by thinking about why you want to quit. If you’ve tried to quit before, think about what worked and what didn’t. This will help you find the right quitting strategies.

Here are some things you can try to help you quit:

  • Make a quit plan.
  • Change your routine. For example, go for a walk instead of having a cigarette.
  • Eat healthy snacks instead of smoking.
  • Get medicine from your doctor or pharmacy.
  • Get support from family, friends, and coworkers.

Nicotine is a drug in cigarettes that’s just as addictive as heroin or cocaine. It’s the nicotine in cigarettes that causes the strong feeling (craving) that you want to smoke. Quitting is hard, but it can be done.

You will feel better.
Your body begins to heal as soon as you quit smoking. Here are some ways you will feel better:

  • You will breathe more easily.
  • Your senses of taste and smell will get better.
  • You will have more energy.
  • Your lungs will become stronger, making it easier for you to be active.
  • You will cough and wheeze (struggle to breathe) less. 

What else will quitting do for me?
Quitting smoking will help you live a longer, healthier life. After you quit smoking:

  • Your chances of having a heart attack or stroke goes down.
  • Your lungs can fight off infection better.
  • Your chance of dying from cancer goes down.
  • Your blood pressure goes down.
  • Your pulse and blood oxygen level return to normal.
  • If you have kids, they will be healthier. Kids whose parents smoke around them are at higher risk for lung and ear infections. 

Plus, quitting smoking will save you money. Use this savings calculator to see how much money you can save after you quit.

Will quitting make me gain weight?
Some people worry about gaining weight when they quit smoking. The average weight gain is small – less than 6 to 8 pounds. Some people may gain more, but many people don’t gain any weight when they quit.

To help control your weight as you quit smoking:

  • Be active. Aim for 2 hours and 30 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity, like walking fast or dancing.
  • Eat healthy snacks, like vegetables or fruit.
  • Talk with your doctor about ways to control your weight.

Get more tips to control your weight as you quit smoking.

Take Action!

Follow these steps to quit:

  1. Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669) for free support and to set up your quit plan.
  2. Talk with your doctor about medicines to help you quit.
  3. Set a quit date within the next 2 weeks.
  4. Make small changes, like:
    • Throw away ashtrays in your home, car, and office so you aren’t tempted to smoke.
    • Make your home and car smoke-free.
    • If you have friends who smoke, ask them not to smoke around you.
  5. Plan for how you will handle challenges like cravings.

Here are some more tips to help you quit.

Write down your reasons to quit.
Make a list of all the reasons you want to quit. For example, your reasons to quit might be to set a healthy example for your kids and to save money. Keep the list with you to remind yourself why quitting is worth it.

Change your routine.
Changing your routine can help you break the smoking habit.

  • Try taking a different route to work.
  • Sing along to your favorite music while you are in the car.
  • For the first few weeks, avoid activities and places you connect with smoking.
  • Do things and go places where smoking isn’t allowed.
  • Make getting active and eating healthy part of your quit plan. Go for walks and try different foods.

Quitting may be hard, so prepare yourself.
Remember, the urge to smoke will come and go. Here are some ways to manage cravings:

  • Do something else with your hands, like washing them, taking a shower, or washing the dishes. Try doing crossword or other puzzles.
  • Have healthy snacks ready, like carrots, nuts, apples, or sugar-free gum.
  • Distract yourself with a new activity.
  • If you used to smoke while driving, try something new. Take public transportation or ride with a friend.
  • Take several deep breaths to help you relax.

Take this withdrawal quiz every day to see your progress.

Break the connection between eating and smoking.
Many people like to smoke when they finish a meal. Here are some ways to break the connection:

  • Get up from the table as soon as you are done eating.
  • Brush your teeth and think about the fresh, clean feeling in your mouth.
  • Try going for a walk after meals.

Deal with stress.
Manage stress by creating peaceful times in your daily schedule. Try relaxation methods like deep breathing or lighting candles.

Check out these tips on dealing with stress as you quit.

Stick with it.
When you stop smoking, you may feel:

  • Irritable
  • Anxious
  • Hungry

You may even have trouble sleeping.

Don’t give up! It takes time to overcome addiction. Check out these tips on staying quit.

Learn from the past.
Many people try to quit more than once before they succeed. Most people who start smoking again do so within the first 3 months after quitting. If you’ve tried to quit before, think about what worked for you and what didn’t.

Drinking alcohol, depression, and being around other smokers can make it harder to quit. If you are finding it hard to stay quit, talk with your doctor about what medicines might help you. Remember, quitting will make you healthier.

If you’ve tried to quit before, check out this booklet about how to commit to quitting again [PDF - 797 KB].

If you want help, talk with your doctor.
A doctor or nurse may be able to help you quit smoking. The doctor can help you choose the strategies that are likely to work best for you. She can also tell you about medicines to help make quitting easier.

Get more information about the different types of medicines that can help you quit.

What about cost?
You can get free help with quitting by calling 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669) or by visiting

Also, some services to help people quit smoking are covered under the Affordable Care Act, the health care reform law passed in 2010. Depending on your insurance plan, you may be able to get these services at no cost to you.

Check with your insurance provider to find out what’s included in your plan. For information about other services covered by the Affordable Care Act, visit

If you are a smoker, it's a good idea to get your blood pressure checked.

Start Today: Small Steps

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Content last updated on: September 27, 2012

National Health Information Center

P.O. Box 1133, Washington, DC 20013-1133