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What’s Stopping You?

Overcome your barriers and take that healthy step to quit smoking.

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Why can it be so hard for some people to give up tobacco? The evidence that supports quitting is clear: Smoking can harm your health, shorten your life and sicken the people around you. Yet millions of Americans still smoke and use other forms of tobacco.

When you think about giving up tobacco, you may come up with reasons or excuses not to make that healthy choice to quit. But it might be more effective to focus on the benefits of quitting rather than what’s stopping you.

The sooner you quit, the greater the benefits. You will be taking steps to:

  • Live a longer and healthier life
  • Cut your risk of cardiovascular disease in half
  • Stop further damage to your lungs
  • Reduce your risk of lung cancer and other forms of cancer
  • Create a healthier environment for those around you

Now, weigh those benefits against some of the common reasons people may put off or avoid quitting.

Concern about withdrawal symptoms

As a tobacco user, your body gets dependent on nicotine. As you withdraw from this addictive drug, you may experience some symptoms including feeling irritable, angry, sleepless and anxious, especially in the first days and weeks. But there are many ways to get through these feelings. It may help to track details around your cravings in a quit journal. While you’re fighting the urge to smoke, taking this time to document what you’re doing and how you’re feeling may also serve as a distraction.

Prepare for tobacco cravings by making a list of all the things you will do instead of smoking. Make sure you have a ready supply of those things you are going to use when a craving hits — such as a puzzle, a book or knitting supplies. A quit-smoking counselor, class or telephone hot line can help you develop a plan to get through withdrawal and any cravings that may follow.

Also, talk to your doctor or pharmacist about approved quit-smoking aids like nicotine gum, patches or lozenges as well as prescription medications that help with withdrawal. Medication combined with counseling support can greatly increase your chances of quitting successfully.

Concern about gaining weight

Some people put on a little weight after quitting. But average weight gain is generally less than 10 pounds. Remember, a few extra pounds are much less harmful than continuing to smoke. As you quit tobacco, consider other healthy habits to incorporate in your new life — namely, eating better and getting regular exercise.* You’ll be replacing bad habits with good habits.

Fear of failure

Many people don’t quit successfully the first time they try. If you slip, don’t use it as an excuse to grab that next cigarette. Acknowledge that you’re not perfect and get back on your plan.

Be sure to check with your employer or insurance provider to take advantage of any coverage for smoking cessation or any health plan benefits for quitting.

* If you’re pregnant, physically inactive or have a health condition such as arthritis, diabetes or heart disease, check with your doctor before starting an exercise program or increasing your activity level. He or she can tell you what types and amounts of activities are safe for you.

By Ginny Greene, Contributing Editor

UpToDate. Patient information: Quitting smoking (beyond the basics). Accessed: December 9, 2016. Have you made a quit plan? Accessed: December 9, 2016.
National Cancer Institute. Harms of smoking and health benefits of quitting. Accessed: December 9, 2016.

Last Updated: December 13, 2016