Tobacco use can lead to nicotine dependence and serious health problems. Cessation can significantly reduce the risk of suffering from smoking-related diseases.
Tobacco dependence is a chronic condition that often requires repeated interventions but effective treatments and helpful resources exist. Smokers can and do quit smoking. In fact today there are more former smokers than current smokers.
Nicotine is the psychoactive drug in tobacco products that produces dependence. Most smokers are dependent on nicotine. Nicotine dependence is the most common form of chemical dependence in the United States. Research suggests that nicotine is as addictive as heroin cocaine or alcohol. Quitting smoking is difficult and may require multiple attempts. Users often relapse because of stress weight gain and withdrawal symptoms. Examples of nicotine withdrawal symptoms include irritability anxiety difficulty concentrating and increased appetite.
Health Benefits of Cessation
Breaking free from nicotine dependence is not the only reason to quit smoking. Cigarette smoke contains more than 7000 chemicals. Hundreds are toxic and about 70 are carcinogenic (i.e. cause cancer). Fortunately people who stop smoking greatly reduce their risk for disease and premature death. Although the health benefits are greater for people who stop at earlier ages cessation is beneficial at all ages. Smoking cessation is associated with the following health benefits:
- Smoking cessation lowers the risk for lung and other types of cancer.
- Smoking cessation reduces the risk for coronary heart disease stroke and peripheral vascular disease. Coronary heart disease risk is reduced within 1 to 2 years of cessation.
- Smoking cessation reduces respiratory symptoms such as coughing wheezing and shortness of breath. The rate of decline in lung function is slower among persons who quit smoking.
- Smoking cessation reduces the risk of developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) one of the leading causes of death in the United States.
- Smoking cessation by women during their reproductive years reduces the risk for infertility. Women who stop smoking during pregnancy also reduce their risk of having a low birth weight baby.
Smokers’ Attempts to Quit Among current U.S. adult smokers 70% report that they want to quit completely and millions have attempted to quit smoking.11 In 2008 an estimated 48 million adults (aged 18 years or older) were former smokers. Percentage of current smokers who tried to stop smoking during the previous 12 months: 51% of high school smokers during 2009 45% of adult smokers during 2008 (nearly 21 million people)
Methods to Quit SmokingEffective treatments that can increase the chances of successful cessation include the following:
- Brief clinical interventions (i.e. when a doctor takes 10 minutes or less to deliver advice and assistance about quitting)
- Counseling (e.g. individual group or telephone counseling)
- Behavioral cessation therapies (e.g. training in problem solving)
- Treatments with more person-to-person contact and intensity (e.g. more time with counselors)
- Over-the-counter and prescription nicotine replacement products (e.g. nicotine gum inhaler nasal spray lozenge or patch)
- Prescription nonnicotine medications such as bupropion SR (Zyban®) and varenicline tartrate (Chantix®).
- Free support and advice from experienced counselors
- A personalized quit plan
- Self-help materials
- Social support and coping strategies