Smoking can harm almost every tissue and organ in the body, including your heart and blood vessels. Smoking also harms nonsmokers who are exposed to secondhand smoke. If you smoke, you have good reason to worry about its effect on your health, your loved ones, and others. Deciding to quit is a big step, and following through is just as important. Quitting smoking isn’t easy, but it is possible!
Is It Too Late to Quit?
It’s never too late to quit. No matter how much or how long you’ve smoked, when you quit smoking, your risk of heart disease and stroke starts to drop. In the year after you quit smoking, your excess risk of coronary heart disease drops by 50 percent. After 15 years, your risk is as low as someone who has never smoked. While you may crave a cigarette after quitting, most people feel that quitting is the most positive thing they’ve ever done for themselves.
How Do I Quit?
You are more likely to quit nicotine for good if you prepare for two things: your last use, and the cravings, urges, and feelings that come with quitting.
Think About Quitting in Five Steps:
1. Set a Quit Date.Choose a date within the next thirty days when you will quit nicotine. Tell your family members and friends who are most likely to support your efforts.
2. Choose a Method for Quitting.There are several ways to quit smoking. Some include:
- Stopping all at once on your Quit Day.
- Reduce your use of nicotine per day until you stop completely.
3. Decide What You Need Help to Quit.Using a medication or nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) combined with coaching or counseling drastically increases your chances of a successful quit! Talk to your healthcare provider about which medicine is best for you, and to get instructions on how to use it. These may include nicotine replacements (gum, patch, lozenge, spray, or inhaler) or prescription medicines (such as bupropion or varenicline). You may also ask for a referral to a smoking cessation program.
4. Anticipate Risky Situations.Get rid of all cigarettes, matches, lighters, vapes, e-cigs, and ashtrays from your house. Find healthy substitutes for smoking. Go for walks. Carry sugarless gum or mints. Munch carrots or celery sticks. Are there any situations you think could tempt you to smoke? Plan ahead so you can avoid or cope with them without nicotine.
5. Stop Smoking On Your Quit Day. Cravings might come up, but every craving will pass. Urges to smoke usually only last up to 5 minutes. Plan to have something to occupy your mind or your body until the urge passes. As you get more experience quitting, the cravings will get less intense.
What If I Smoke After Quitting?
Slips can happen. It can be tempting to take a puff of a friend’s cigarette, or to find an old vape and try it out.
A slip is different from a relapse. Slips are one-off bumps in the road. Relapses are when people go back to smoking regularly. But guess what: neither of these means you’ve failed!
If you relapse, just give it another try. Start your plan over as soon as you can, this time with the knowledge of whatever caused you to go back to smoking.
If you had a slip, bounce back with the Three A’s:
- Adjust your routine. Don’t punish or blame yourself. Simply recognize that something didn’t work, and switch things up so you can prevent whatever caused that slip.
- Avoid high-risk situations. There are some situations that are more likely to cause a slip or relapse. Stress. Alcohol. Being around other smokers. Try to avoid these kinds of situations for a little while until you feel more confident in your quit.
- Alternatives. Find something else to do besides smoke! Keep your hands busy with knitting, woodworking, writing, doodling, chores, cooking, etc. Keep your mouth busy by chewing a toothpick or even sucking on a cinnamon stick. And keep your mind busy by reading, watching a funny video on your phone, calling a friend, studying something new, or anything else you find interesting.
What Can I Expect After I Quit?
- Your senses of smell and taste come back.
- Your smoker’s cough will go away.
- You’ll breathe much easier.
- You’ll be free from the mess, smell and burns in clothing.
- You’ll increase your chances of living longer and reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke.
Proprietary content and tools licensed from the American Heart Association. The information in the content and tools is not intended as medical diagnosis or treatment, or as a substitute for professional medical advice from your healthcare provider. Powered by American Heart Association®