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What’s Stopping You?

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

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Why is it so hard for some people to give up tobacco? We know evidence for 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.

If you’re thinking 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. By quitting you’ll 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, let’s 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 starts to depend on nicotine. As you withdraw from this addictive drug, you may experience some symptoms like feeling irritable, angry, sleepless and anxious, especially in the first days and weeks.

But there are many things you can try that may help you get through these feelings and your tobacco cravings:

  • Keep a quit journal. 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 the cravings. Make a list of all the things you’ll do instead of smoking. And have a ready supply of healthy activities for when a craving hits – such as a puzzle, a book, knitting supplies. Or simply go for a walk.
  • Breathe. Feeling stressed? Take deep breaths. Do it any time you have the urge for a cigarette. Simply inhale slowly through your nose for a few seconds and then exhale through your mouth. It may help relax your mind and body.
  • Speak to a quit-smoking counselor. A counselor, class or telephone hotline 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. You can do this.

Be sure to check with your employer or insurance provider to take advantage of any coverage or perks they may offer for quitting tobacco. And remember, it may be difficult now, but the health benefits of quitting far outweigh putting it off.

* Talk with your doctor before significantly increasing your activity level. Ask about the amounts and types of activities that may be best for you.

By Ginny Greene, Contributing Editor

National Cancer Institute. Staying tobacco-free after you quit. Accessed: June 22, 2021.
National Cancer Institute. Harms of smoking and health benefits of quitting. Accessed: June 22, 2021.
UpToDate. Patient information: Quitting smoking (beyond the basics). Accessed: June 22, 2021.

Last Updated: June 23, 2021