Every smoker who is ready to quit has a different motivation for trying to kick the habit.
According to the U.S. Surgeon General, quitting smoking is the single most important step a smoker can take to improve the length and quality of his or her life. And, while it's best to quit as early as possible, even someone who quits smoking later in life can improve their health.
With guidance from the American Lung Association, Nicholas Cahoj, MD, a family medicine physician at Manhattan’s Ascension Medical Group, supports the following answers to five of the most common questions about quitting smoking:
1. I've cut back significantly on smoking. It's not so bad for me if I only smoke a little, right?
The most important thing any smoker can do to improve his or her health is to quit smoking completely – not even "once in a while" or "when hanging out with family and friends." It may take a few tries, but you can stop using tobacco for good.
2. What are the health benefits of quitting smoking?
Soon after you quit smoking, you will have more energy and less stress. Your smoker's cough will go away, although for some it may take weeks as your lungs clean themselves by bringing up mucus. Your eyes and throat won't be irritated, and your senses of taste and smell will improve. Your risk of heart attack and stroke drop quickly. Over time, you'll have fewer colds and respiratory infections, and your body will repair some of the damage caused by smoking.
3. I've tried to quit smoking before and it didn't work. What can I do differently to quit for good this time?
Smoking is very addictive and quitting "cold turkey" generally isn't effective. It usually takes everyone several tries before they’re able to quit for good. You can boost your odds by seeking support from people close to you, signing up for a program like Freedom from Smoking® and taking a medication that may help you quit. Also, think about your previous quit attempts and build on those to plan your next quit. If you keep trying and keep learning from your experiences, you will be able to quit for good.
4. Which medications can I take to help me quit smoking?
There are seven FDA-approved medications that can help you break your nicotine addiction. There are over-the-counter nicotine replacement therapies such as nicotine patches, lozenges and gum, and prescription nicotine replacement therapies, the nicotine inhaler and nicotine nasal spray. There are also two non-nicotine prescription drugs that can help you quit: bupropion (Zyban®) and varenicline (Chantix®).
5. Will I gain weight if I quit smoking?
Some people do gain a few pounds when they quit smoking. But following a healthy eating plan and increasing physical activity will help you manage your weight. Even if you gain some weight after quitting, you'll still be healthier than when you were smoking.
If you’re interested in speaking with a doctor to learn more about quitting smoking or lung cancer screening options, contact a physician at one of our primary care locations: