Smoking Cessation: Putting Out the Fire

  • man's hands breaking cigarette
    Knowledge Isn't the Answer
    In an ideal, non-addictive world, the idea that each year, smoking accounts for nearly one in every five deaths in the United States would make smokers want to quit. Or, the knowledge that smoking causes everything from cancer and heart disease to reproductive issues and breathing problems would be enough to make anyone refrain from ever lighting up again. The fact is, tobacco use is the most common preventable cause of death. Even so, quitting isn’t easy.

  • Broken cigarette
    Why Nicotine Wins
    It really comes down to the nicotine. Don't fool yourself—nicotine is a drug. Nicotine is highly addictive and it is found in all tobacco products. It’s no wonder so many ex-smokers say giving up cigarettes was one of the hardest things they’ve ever done. Smoking can make you feel calm and satisfied—but that’s where the cycle starts. The more you smoke, the more nicotine you’ll need to feel that way. It becomes a normal part of your everyday routine.

  • Sizing Up Side Effects
    Sizing Up Side Effects
    Then there are those unpleasant, short-term side effects of nicotine withdrawal that can make getting psyched up to quit even more daunting: weight gain, irritability, headaches, depression, tiredness, and anxiety. These symptoms can drive people right back to smoking.

  • Address Emotions and Addiction
    Address Emotions and Addiction
    Quitting smoking isn’t a one-size-fits-all task, but some methods have been shown to help smokers join the smoke-free world. Addressing the emotional and social ties you have to lighting up while battling the physical withdrawal symptoms from nicotine is a tough task. You may find it’s a combination of efforts that finally helps you put down those cigarettes for good.

  • Woman Applying a Nicotine Patch
    Patch Things Up
    One thing that can help take the edge off is a nicotine patch. Or gum. Or an inhaler—whatever works for you. Many types of nicotine replacement therapy are available. They deliver the nicotine your body craves without the harmful chemicals in tobacco. They can help relieve your body of some of those nagging physical withdrawal symptoms, so you can face the psychological reasons behind your smoking habit.

  • Get Support
    Get Support
    Tell family and friends you’re quitting, and let them know how they can help keep you on track. Find a smoking cessation support group in your area, or even an online chat room where you can talk with others who know what you’re going through. Support can help people quit, and even a little of it can increase your chances of kicking those butts for good.

  • Woman walking stairs
    Know Your Triggers
    Maybe it’s smoking after dinner or while you’re driving. Is it a cigarette with a cocktail that tempts you? Go for a walk instead or take public transportation if it’s an option. Go places where smoking isn’t allowed. Identifying your triggers will help you avoid them, especially in your early quitting days.

  • people sitting in circle during support group
    Get with a Program
    There are programs designed to help you cope with the challenges that arise when you’re quitting. Some communities have nicotine anonymous meetings. Often your local chapter of the American Cancer Society or American Lung Association may sponsor quit-smoking classes.

  • Talk with Your Doctor
    Talk with Your Doctor
    Remember, your doctor is a resource, too. He or she can prescribe medications that have been approved to reduce the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal. These drugs work by acting on chemicals or nicotine receptors in the brain to curb nicotine cravings. By chemically blocking the physical and psychological 'rewards' of smoking, these FDA-medications cause smokers to lose interest in the habit.

  • Happy couple on the lawn
    Think of the long-term health benefits
    This may be difficult to do when you are feeling tired and headachy from nicotine withdrawal and know that just a quick puff will ease those pangs. But ultimately, you'll cut your risk of dying prematurely and live a life with fewer colds and bouts of the flu. Plus, you’ll get your full sense of smell back, you’ll have whiter teeth and fresher breath, and food will taste better.

  • Do the Math
    Do the Math
    If you’ve tried every method and nothing seems to be working, consider your wallet. In 2015, the average retail price—including all taxes—of a pack of cigarettes in the U.S. was $5.51.

  • make-your-calculation
    Don't Keep Paying
    How much have you spent? Want to calculate it? Simply multiply what you spend on a pack every day by 365. Even if you only buy one pack a day, at $5.51 per pack, you’ll be spending an average of $2,011 each year just on smoking. Want to know an even scarier number? Multiply that figure by the number of years you have been smoking. If you’ve smoked that one pack a day for 10 years, you’ve spent an average of $20,111. What would you rather have spent that money on?

  • father embracing his child
    Keep Learning and Trying
    Quitting smoking is hard, but you certainly aren’t the first person to go through it. It may even take several tries to quit, but at least you’ll learn something new with each attempt you make!

Smoking Cessation: Putting Out the Fire
  1. Smoking Cessation - The Economic Benefits. American Lung Association.
  2. American Cancer Society. Guide to Quitting Smoking.
    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Economic Facts about U.S. Tobacco Use and Tobacco Production.
    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 
  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Health Effects of Cigarette Smoking.
    U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health. 
  5. U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health. Quitting Smoking. 
  6. Online Guide to Quitting: Quitting. 
  7. Online Guide to Quitting: Preparing to Quit. 
  8. Online Guide to Quitting: Thinking About Quitting.
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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2019 Jul 9
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.