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Stamp Out Your Relationship
With Tobacco Today


How Quitting Smoking Leads To Good Health

Health Timeline: What Happens When You Quit

How To Stop Smoking: Creating Your Quit Plan 

Your Quit Day

Today & Tomorrow: Cope Without A Smoke

Looking Ahead


Stopping tobacco use—whether you smoke cigarettes, cigars or a pipe or use chewing tobacco—may very well be the hardest lifestyle change you can make to prevent serious diseases. That’s because the nicotine in tobacco is addictive. Add in the force of an ingrained habit, and you need a very stronger amount of determination to overcome it.

It’s hard to wake up one day and decide to stop if you don’t have a plan in place that accounts for all the types of resistance you’re likely to encounter. The following information will help you first see how quitting will improve your health in so many ways and then find out about the many options you have for achieving this important health goal.

How Quitting Smoking Leads To Good Health

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According to the website, smoking harms nearly every organ of the body, and secondhand smoke is dangerous to anyone who breathes it in—even secondhand smoke has over 7,000 harmful chemicals, at least 250 of which are known to damage your health. Quitting can undo a lot of the damage done to the smoker and can safeguard loved ones in their home. Take this tour of your body to learn more.





When you smoke
Nicotine from cigarettes is an addictive drug—that’s why it’s so hard to stop. Your brain develops extra nicotine receptors in response to the nicotine you inhale and then wants more and more.

When you quit
When you cut off the supply, the brain goes through withdrawal and sends out messages you feel as cravings. Despite the urge to smoke that you will feel at first, you can re-wire your brain. In just a few weeks, those extra nicotine receptors will be gone, making it easier to stick to your quit plan.


When you smoke
Smoking attacks your heart and circulatory system on many fronts. It raises blood pressure and stresses your heart, which over time can weaken it and make it less able to pump needed blood to other parts of your body. It makes your blood thick and sticky, which also makes it harder to pump. You’re also more likely to develop clots that block blood flow to your heart, brain and legs. Add in blood vessel damage, and your risk for a heart attack or stroke increases. In fact, smoking is the leading cause of heart attacks and heart disease.

And there’s more. Smoking increases levels of unhealthy cholesterol and other fats circulating in your blood. Over time, this plaque can build up and narrow the walls of your arteries. This, too, blocks normal blood flow to your heart, brain and legs. Finally, the carbon monoxide in cigarette smoke robs you of oxygen, further taxing your heart.

When you quit
Many of these heart risks can be reversed when you quit. Your blood pressure and heart rate should lower almost immediately. Your risk of a heart attack declines within 24 hours. Your blood will become thinner and less likely to form clots, and your heart won’t have to work as hard. Although quitting can’t remove plaque, you will lower the levels of cholesterol and fats circulating in your blood and slow the buildup of new fatty deposits.


When you smoke

lungsSmoking causes inflammation in your lungs. You’re likely to first feel tightness in your chest, wheezing and shortness of breath. As inflammation progresses, you develop permanent scar tissue and other changes to your lungs and airways that can make breathing more and more difficult.

Smoking also permanently destroys the tiny air sacs, or alveoli, in the lungs that allow for oxygen exchange. This damage leads to the lung disease called emphysema, which causes severe shortness of breath and even death. Smoking is also the top risk factor for lung cancer. 

Years of lung irritation can give you a chronic cough with mucus. Because smoking also harms the cilia, or tiny hairs lining your airways meant to clear lungs of mucus and debris, it also raises your risk for colds and respiratory infections. 

When you quit
There is no cure for emphysema, so the sooner you quit—before years of damage has occurred—the better your chances of protecting against this lung disease. Within two weeks of quitting, you should feel less shortness of breath. Cilia do grow back and can regain normal function very quickly after you quit—coughing more than usual when you first quit is often a sign of cilia regrowth. Soon, you’ll be better able to fight off colds and other infections.


When you smoke
Smoking damages DNA, the genetic material that directs cell growth and function. After enough damage, cells can grow out of control and create a cancerous tumor. A third of all cancer deaths are caused by tobacco. And lung cancer isn’t the only type—bladder cancer is a risk and, in female smokers, there’s also an elevated risk of cervical cancer, among others.

When you quit
Quitting smoking will stop DNA damage and help repair damage already done. It’s also the best way to lower your cancer risk. 







When you smoke
Smoking harms your skin in ways you can easily see. Skin can lose elasticity, become dry, dull and gray and show wrinkles early in life—as early as your 30s, giving you an aged appearance.

When you quit
When you quit smoking, you stop further skin damage.


When you smoke
Your risk of type 2 diabetes increases and, once you develop diabetes, smoking makes it harder to control—uncontrolled diabetes puts you at risk for very serious complications, such as blindness, heart disease, kidney failure and nerve damage, which can lead to amputations.

When you quit
Quitting lowers your risk of diabetes. If you already have diabetes, quitting will make it easier for you to manage the disease.


When you smoke
In women, smoking lowers estrogen levels, which can lead to dry skin and thin hair as well as cognitive issues, like memory problems. In childbearing years, smoking makes it harder to get pregnant and have a healthy baby. It can also cause you to start menopause early, in turn increasing your risk of developing heart disease, among other illnesses.

In men, smoking increases the risk of ED (erectile dysfunction), the inability to get or keep an erection. It can also damage sperm, leading to infertility or even genetic defects in your baby.

When you quit
In a woman, estrogen levels will slowly return to normal along with the chances of a healthy pregnancy in the future. In men, the chances of erectile dysfunction will go down as the chances of having a healthy sexual life go up. 


When you smokeManSmoking
Your white blood cell count rises because your body is fighting theinflammation and damage from the tobacco. A count that stays high for a long period of time has been linked with an increased risk of heart attacks, strokes and cancer.

Wounds take longer to heal because of changes to your blood vessels, and slow healing increases your risk of infection after an injury or surgery and of painful skin ulcers that can cause tissue to slowly die. The increased infection risk is one reason some surgeons won’t operate on a smoker.

The high levels of tar and other chemicals in cigarette smoke also weaken your immune system, meaning that you’re more likely to get sick. Over time, this makes you more vulnerable to serious chronic autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis.

When you quit
Over time, your white blood cell count will return to normal. Blood flow will improve and allow nutrients and oxygen to reach any wound that needs healing. Once your immune system is no longer exposed to tar and nicotine, it will become stronger and better able to protect you from illnesses.


When you smoke
Less blood and oxygen flow to your muscles, which then tire more easily. You may have more aches and pains than people who don’t smoke.

Smoking also affects the normal bone rebuilding process. You’re less able to make healthy new bone tissue, and existing bone tissue breaks down more rapidly. Over time, you’re likely to experience bone thinning and a loss of bone density—osteopenia and osteoporosis. When bones become weak and brittle, they’re more likely to fracture—and take longer to heal.

When you quit
Quitting smoking brings more oxygen to your muscles, making them stronger and healthier. You’ll also reduce your risk of bone fractures, both now and later on.


When you smoke
Smoking can lead to both sight and hearing losses. Smoking causes eye changes that can threaten your vision in general and your night vision in particular—nicotine limits production of a chemical necessary to see at night. It also raises your risk of cataracts and macular degeneration, both of which can progress to blindness.

In terms of hearing, smoking reduces the oxygen supply to the cochlea, the snail-shaped organ in the inner ear. This can lead to permanent damage to the cochlea and mild to moderate hearing loss.

When you quit
Quitting will improve your night vision, preserve your overall vision and keep your hearing sharp.







When you smoke
Smokers have more oral health problems than non-smokers, like mouth sores, ulcers, gum disease and cavities, not to mention stained teeth. You risk losing teeth at a younger age and, more seriously, have a greater risk of mouth and/or throat cancer.

When you quit
Your oral health risks will start declining and your teeth will be brighter.

HEALTH TIMELINE: What Happens When You Quit

The effects of quitting start almost immediately and continue for decades.

In 20 minutes: Your heart rate and blood pressure drop.

In 12 hours: The carbon monoxide level in your blood drops to normal.

In 2 to 12 weeks: Your circulation improves and your lung function increases.

In 1 to 9 months: Coughing and shortness of breath decrease as the cilia in your lungs start to regain normal function to clear mucus and reduce the risk of infection.

In 1 year: Your risk of coronary heart disease drops to half that of someone who smokes.

In 5 years: Your risk of mouth, throat, esophagus and bladder cancers is cut in half. Your cervical cancer risk is about equal to that of a non-smoker. Within 2 to 5 years, your stroke risk should fall to that of a non-smoker.

In 10 years: Your risk of dying from lung cancer is about half that of a smoker. Your larynx (voice box) and pancreatic cancer risks decrease.

In 15 years: Your risk of coronary heart disease is now equal to that of a non-smoker.

Long-term: Quitting also lowers your risk of diabetes and boosts heart and lung health in many ways. The younger you are when you quit, the greater the benefits to your health, but quitting at any age can give you years of life that will be lost if you continue to smoke.


How To Stop Smoking: Creating Your Quit Plan

Overcome the difficulty of quitting with a careful plan that you personalize. A quit plan takes all the challenges of quitting into account. By identifying and choosing strategies to keep you focused, confident and motivated, you’ll have the best chance of quitting success. Here are ideas to tailor a plan to your needs.


10 Days To Go: Pick A Quit Date

While you want to quit as soon as possible, it’s important to give yourself time to plan for it. Aim for a date one to two weeks from today. You might want to choose a Saturday or Sunday when you can focus on yourself, free of temptations and work stress. Ink in the date everywhere possible, from a printed datebook to your cellphone calendar. Write the date on a big sheet of paper and affix it to your fridge to remind yourself.

9 Days To Go: Tell The Important People In Your Life

Quitting is easier with support from those closest to you. Let them know about your plans and tell them how they can help, whether it’s to distract you, maybe be your exercise buddies, or simply not to smoke around you. Let them know that the first few weeks will likely be when you need the most support.

8 Days To Go: Write Out Your Reasons For Quitting

Whether it’s for better health, the desire to stop your loved ones’ exposure to secondhand smoke, to put money spent on cigarettes to better use or all of the above, everyone has their own reasons for quitting smoking. Seeing the advantages you’ll gain in black and white will provide you with great motivation. On quit day, you may want to read this list at the start and at the end of that day and every day thereafter as well as any time you get a craving.

7 Days To Go: Identify Your Smoking Triggers

One important aspect of successful quitting is being able to recognize situations that trigger your desire to smoke, whether it’s an activity, like after dinner at a restaurant; an emotion, like stress; or even a person, like a friend who lights up. Write down all such situations, along with alternatives to smoking. After dinner, you might have an espresso instead of a smoke. A short walk is a good way to reduce stress. And enjoying an activity where smoking is prohibited can be a way to socialize with a friend who still smokes. Keep your list with you to use as a roadmap when obstacles to quitting pop up.

6 Days To Go: Understand The Effects Of Withdrawal

Breaking a nicotine addiction involves a period known as withdrawal. This is when your body learns to adjust to no longer having nicotine in your system. The adjustment period can be rough at first. You may experience seemingly insurmountable cravings for a cigarette, but it’s possible to fight them. Many people aren’t able to go cold turkey on their own, and you don’t have to. Put strategies in place before your quit day to cope with withdrawal and the craving for nicotine. From nicotine replacement products to support groups, you can outline a path to behavior changes to handle the unpleasant symptoms. See below for specifics. And rest assured that withdrawal symptoms will ease a little bit each day.  

5 Days To Go: Pick Out Quit Smoking Products If Needed

There are many over-the-counter and prescription items that can help you wean off nicotine. Talk to your healthcare provider about the best option for you, especially if you were unsuccessful quitting in the past, and to be sure there aren’t any contraindications to the option you choose. 

 Whatever you choose, be sure to have a supply on hand before your quit day. Here are the leading options available according to

  • Nicotine Patch (Nicoderm CQ®)

The patch, which is placed on your body, delivers a steady, but gradually lower amount of nicotine. This helps reduce withdrawal symptoms, including the urge to smoke.

  • Nicotine Gum (Nicorette®)

Chewing this gum releases nicotine that gets absorbed into your body to help reduce withdrawal symptoms, including the urge to smoke. You’ll gradually reduce the dose over time. 

  • Nicotine Lozenge (Nicorette®)

The lozenge, which looks like hard candy, releases nicotine as it dissolves in your mouth to help reduce nicotine withdrawal symptoms, including the urge to smoke. You’ll gradually reduce the dose over time.

  • Nicotine Inhaler (Nicotrol® Inhaler)

This is a cartridge that, through a mouthpiece, delivers a specific amount of nicotine to help reduce nicotine withdrawal symptoms, including the urge to smoke.

  •  Nicotine Nasal Spray (Nicotrol®)

A squeeze of this spray in the nose delivers a specific amount of nicotine to help reduce nicotine withdrawal symptoms, including the urge to smoke.

  •  Varenicline (Chantix®)

This is a prescription medication that eases nicotine withdrawal symptoms and blocks the effects of nicotine from cigarettes if you do smoke.

  • Bupropion SR (Wellbutrin® or Zyban®)

This is a prescription medication that helps lessen withdrawal symptoms, including the urge to smoke. It’s nicotine-free, so you can take it if you’re using nicotine replacement products.

Combining Options

Some products can be used together to increase your chances of success. For instance, you can use the patch with other nicotine replacement products or with buproprion pills.

A Note About E-Cigarettes

Though electronic or e-cigarettes have gotten a lot of attention, there haven’t been any studies supporting their effectiveness as a quit aid. More importantly, they are as yet unregulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and when the FDA did tests on some products in recent years, it uncovered nicotine in some products marked nicotine-free as well as carcinogens and even a chemical used in anti-freeze. 

4 Days To Go: Choose A Support System

Person-to-person support can be invaluable when you’re trying to quit smoking. The help can be from a professional counselor, a support group of others trying to quit or both. You can choose from in-person meetings, telephone talks and online or a combination. Also know that combining counseling with medication is more effective than either counseling or medication by itself.

Discover resources available to you by calling your healthcare provider’s office for recommendations for cessation counseling classes and by checking out your local clinics, hospitals and health department. 

Quit lines are telephone-based support. The government offers a free one at 1-800-QUIT-NOW for information to stop smoking or quit other forms of tobacco use. The program was developed in collaboration with and is sponsored by the states and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Counselors offer advice on ways to quit and support while you’re prepping to quit as well as while you’re quitting. Calling this toll-free number will connect you directly to trained coaches at your state’s quit line and to cessation services and other resources offered in your area (services and hours of operation vary from state to state). 

The National Cancer Institute also has trained counselors available to provide information and help with quitting by telephone in English or Spanish, Monday through Friday, 8 am to 8 pm, Eastern Time at 1-877-44U-QUIT (1-877-448-7848).

3 Days To Go: Set Up Your Smartphone For Success

Smartphone apps offer tips and tricks that can help you any time you need a boost. Here are free ones to download and test out before your quit day:

NCI QuitPal was developed by the National Cancer Institute and incorporates the latest evidence-based smoking cessation methods and behavior changes. It supports you as you work to become tobacco-free. With this interactive app, you can set a quit date, financial goals and reminders; track daily smoking habits with a calendar; see all the money you’re saving from all the packs you’re not smoking; get health milestones notices and cravings tips to stay motivated; connect with social network; create a video diary and watch personalized video messages from loved ones; and access NCI’s Cancer Information Service by toll-free phone line or live chat. For more, go to

The QuitGuide was developed by MMG, Inc. for the Tobacco Control Research Branch of the National Cancer Institute. Written by tobacco control professionals and cessation counselors with the help of ex-smokers and experts, the app helps you prepare to quit smoking and provides support you in the days and weeks after you quit by providing insights into what to expect when you quit and how to deal with challenges that may come up along the way. Search for content using keywords, save specific pages as favorites and share information via Facebook, Twitter and email. Staying connected to a larger online community through QuitGuide can help get you through the hard times. For more, go to

QuitSTART was created by Smokefree Teen, part of the Tobacco Control Research Branch at the National Cancer Institute in collaboration with tobacco control professionals and smoking cessation experts and with input from ex-smokers. It was developed with teens in mind, but anyone can use it. Track cravings and moods, monitor your progress in reaching milestones, identify triggers and upload personalized “pick me ups” and reminders to use when cravings strike. For more, go to and Smokefree Teen Facebook or

SmokefreeTXT is a mobile text messaging service that provides 24/7 encouragement, advice and tips to help you quit smoking and stay quit. To sign up, complete a simple form and click “Subscribe” at 

2 Days To Go: Set Up Rewards For Milestones

Quitting smoking happens one minute, one hour, one day at a time, starting with your quit day. Plan on rewarding yourself at regular steps throughout the experience to help move you to the next milestone. Milestones to celebrate including being 24 hours tobacco-free, one week tobacco-free and one month tobacco-free and every month thereafter. Plan ways that you’ll reward yourself as you reach each one and set aside at least some of the money you’ll be saving from not buying tobacco products to pay for them. You might shop for a new piece of clothing or enjoy a night at the movies, an afternoon of skating or any other tobacco-free activity or activity that won’t trigger a craving.

1 Day To Go: Remove All Tobacco Paraphernalia

Throw out everything associated with tobacco—cigarettes, cigars, matches, ashtrays and lighters. Since the smell of cigarettes can cause a craving, freshen up your home and office, even your car. Don’t save anything “just in case.” Get plenty of rest and eat healthy—a lack of sleep and too much sugar can trigger you to smoke.

Your Quit Day

Structure a plan to stay busy, one of the best ways to stay tobacco-free on your quit day. It is especially important to get out of the house whenever you can:

Your a.m. routine: If nicotine replacement therapy, such as the patch or gum, is part of your plan, make sure to start using it first thing in the morning. Consider skipping caffeine, which can make you feel jittery—try a soothing herbal tea instead. Shake up your morning ritual by getting in some early exercise. Any kind of activity can help, from taking a short walk to hitting the gym.

During the day: Pick from a substitution list every time you find yourself reaching for tobacco. Chew gum or hard candy, keep your hands busy with a pen or toothpick, doodle or draw with markers, relax with deep breathing, drink a glass of water. Build pleasant moments into your day to compensate for not lighting up. Try reading a magazine or listening to music. Need instant motivation? Try a live chat helpline. “LiveHelp,” for instance, is available in English, Monday through Friday, 8 am to 11 pm, eastern time, at; for help in Spanish, go to

In the evening: Go to dinner at your favorite smoke-free restaurant, go to a movie or plan a game night with non-smoking friends. Make sure that, whenever you go, smoking isn’t allowed by law, so you and those with you won’t light up.


Today & Tomorrow: Cope Without A Smoke

Expect—and plan for—mood changes once you quit. You might feel irritable, restless, blue or even depressed from giving up smoking itself or from other sources of stress in your life. But you can—and should—take steps to lift your mood.

The first thing to know is that smoking doesn’t actually do anything to help you deal with difficult emotions. Even though a hit of nicotine might have seemed to make you feel better in the moment, any sense of relief was more likely from escaping whatever was bothering you. Here are 10 tips from to brighten your outlook, no matter what’s causing you to feel stressed:

Talk to and do things with friends and loved ones. Contact with other people will help lift your mood.

Take a timeout. A short break from a stressful or upsetting situation can help you think more clearly and make healthier decisions about what to do. 

Express yourself. 
Call or text a friend you can talk to candidly.

Distract yourself.
 Do a crossword puzzle, play a game or read a book.

Get moving.
 Take a walk or a jog around the block. Exercise releases feel-good hormones called endorphins that lift your mood naturally.

Deal directly with stressful situations. 
If your go-to response to is to pretend they’re not there, it may be time to try to address them. When you bury or deny feelings, they can build up to the point where you might explode at the slightest provocation.

Break up large tasks into manageable segments. 
If you’re stressed because of overwhelming responsibilities at home or work, divide them into small steps on a to-do list. Cross off each step as you reach it to see your progress.

Don’t let negative thoughts take over.
 Whenever you feel down, make a list of things you’re grateful for.

Give yourself a break.
 Instead of demanding perfection, allow yourself to be happy with doing a good job. Aim to do your best and be satisfied with the effort.

Try the stop-think-breathe approach.
 When you’re feeling overwhelmed, stop what you’re doing and center yourself. Think about the big picture—sometimes problems that seem big in the moment lose their importance in the bigger scheme of things. Then count to 10, breathe deeply and focus on calming down. 

Looking Ahead

Quitting smoking happens one minute, one hour and one day at a time, so it’s important to focus on each day, in the moment, without worrying about the next day until you reach it. Quitting smoking is difficult, and your quit day is likely to be the greatest hurdle, but all that matters is that you don’t smoke, not even one puff.

 On each day that follows, review the strategies you planned when you were preparing to quit and use them in whatever combination works. Keep in mind that your plan can evolve as needed to help you meet your goal. Remember…



Share your experiences about becoming a QUITTER 

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One Comment to “Stop Smoking”

  1. Mike D.

    When I entered my teenage years my sport was boxing. I also started the habit of smoking. Can you imagine — boxing and smoking. I boxed for just a few years but smoked for 32 years. When I was about to have my third child I decided to quit. I wanted to see my children grow into adulthood. Now, I have not smoked in 24 years. I believe this child saved my life and kept me healthy to have more children and enjoy them all. Knowing what I do now I would never, ever touch another cigarette and hope to stay healthy and live for many more years. Smoke free. If Self chec had existed back then it would have made my decision easier. To anyone who can benefit from my experience I urge you to learn more from Self chec and sign up for their important reminders about staying healthy.

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