The Basics: Overview
Quitting smoking is one of the most important things you can do for your health. The sooner you quit, the sooner your body can start to heal. You will feel better and have more energy to be active with your family and friends.
Smoking hurts almost every part of the body.
Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the United States.
- Lung cancer and many other types of cancer
- Heart disease
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and other lung diseases
- Pregnancy problems
- Gum disease
- Vision loss
- Type 2 diabetes
- Rheumatoid arthritis
Learn more about how smoking affects different parts of the body.
The Basics: Secondhand Smoke
Smoking hurts other people, too.
Secondhand smoke is a mix of the smoke that comes from your cigarette and the smoke that you breathe out. Secondhand smoke is dangerous and can cause health problems for the people around you.
In babies and children, breathing in secondhand smoke can cause:
- Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
- Severe asthma attacks
- Ear infections
In adults, breathing in secondhand smoke can cause:
- Heart disease
- Lung cancer
The Basics: How Can I Quit?
You can quit smoking.
Quitting smoking is hard, but millions of people have done it successfully. In fact, more than half of Americans who ever smoked have quit. You could be one of them!
Nicotine – the drug found in all tobacco products – is as addictive as heroin or cocaine. It’s the nicotine in cigarettes that causes the strong feeling that you want to smoke (craving). Remember – quitting isn’t easy, but it is possible!
Take these steps to help you quit:
- Make a list of the reasons you want to quit.
- Set a quit date and make a plan to deal with cravings.
- Ask your family, friends, and coworkers for support.
- Talk to your doctor about counseling and medicines that can help you quit.
- Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669) or visit Smokefree.gov for free help.
- Download these free apps for 24/7 support and encouragement.
Find out more about steps you can take as you get ready to quit smoking.
The Basics: Health Benefits
You will feel better after you quit.
Your body begins to heal as soon as you quit smoking. Here are some ways you will feel better:
- You will breathe more easily.
- Your senses of taste and smell will improve.
- You will have more energy.
- Your lungs will become stronger, making it easier for you to be active.
- You will cough and wheeze (struggle to breathe) less.
Find out more about how quitting smoking will help your health.
Quitting smoking will help you live a longer, healthier life.
After you quit smoking:
- Your risk of having a heart attack or stroke goes down.
- Your risk of dying from cancer goes down.
- The levels of oxygen and carbon monoxide in your blood return to normal.
- If you have children, you can help them be healthier by quitting smoking. Children whose parents smoke around them are at higher risk for lung and ear infections.
Check out these real stories of people who have been hurt by smoking.
The Basics: Weight Control
Will quitting make me gain weight?
Some people worry about gaining weight when they quit smoking. It's true that some people gain weight after quitting, but you can prevent weight gain by making healthy choices. For example:
- Get active. Aim for 2 hours and 30 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity, like walking fast or dancing.
- Eat healthy snacks, like vegetables or fruit.
- Talk with your doctor about ways to control your weight.
To learn more ways to watch your weight after quitting, check out these tips.
Take Action: Make a Plan
Take these steps to quit smoking.
Write down your reasons to quit.
Make a list of all the reasons you want to quit. For example, your reasons to quit might be to set a healthy example for your children and to save money. Keep the list with you to remind yourself why quitting is worth it.
Set a quit date.
- Pick a date that gives you enough time to get ready to quit. But make sure it’s soon enough that you don’t lose your motivation.
- Tell your family, friends, and coworkers about your quit date so they can support you.
Make a quit plan.
- Think about situations that might trigger you to smoke. Plan how you will handle them without smoking.
- Right before your quit date, go through your house, car, and workplace to get rid of anything that has to do with smoking. Throw away all your cigarettes, ashtrays, lighters, and matches.
- Clean your clothes so they don’t smell like smoke.
Check out this online quit plan tool or call the tobacco quitline at 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669) for free support and help setting up your quit plan.
Take Action: Change Routines
Change your daily routine.
Changing your routine on your quit date and afterward can help you break habits related to smoking.
- Try taking a different route to work.
- For the first few weeks, avoid activities and places you connect with smoking.
- Do things and go places where smoking isn’t allowed.
- Make getting active and eating healthy part of your quit plan. Instead of smoking: eat healthy snacks, go for walks, and drink lots of water.
Break the connection between eating and smoking.
Many people like to smoke when they finish a meal. Here are some ways to break the connection:
- Get up from the table as soon as you are done eating.
- Brush your teeth and think about the fresh, clean feeling in your mouth.
- Go for a walk after meals.
Take Action: Stress and Cravings
Deal with stress.
Some people smoke to deal with stress. But there are ways to deal with stress without smoking.
Manage stress by creating peaceful times in your daily schedule. Try relaxation methods like deep breathing, short walks, and meditation.
You can also check out these tips for dealing with stress as you quit.
When you quit smoking, the urge to smoke will come and go, but it will gradually decrease over time. Most cravings only last a short time.
Here are some ways to manage cravings:
- Keep your hands busy. Try brushing your teeth, washing your hands, sorting the mail, or doing the dishes.
- Have healthy snacks ready, like baby carrots, apples, whole-grain crackers, or sugar-free gum.
- Distract yourself with a new activity. Try playing a game on your phone, chatting with a friend, or doing crosswords or other puzzles.
- If you used to smoke while driving, try something new. Take public transportation or ride with a friend.
- Take several deep breaths to help you relax.
- Write down your list of reasons for quitting.
Remember, quitting may be hard – so prepare yourself. Take this withdrawal quiz every day to see your progress.
Take Action: Get Help
Talk with a doctor, nurse, or pharmacist.
- Strategies for quitting smoking that are likely to work best for you.
- Medicines that can improve your chances of quitting – and how to use these medicines the right way.
When you stop smoking, your body goes through withdrawal from nicotine. This means you may feel irritable, anxious, restless, or hungry. You may even have trouble concentrating or sleeping. Find out about medicines that can help with withdrawal.
What about cost?
You can get free help with quitting by calling 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669) and by visiting Smokefree.gov.
As a result of the Affordable Care Act, the health care reform law passed in 2010, insurance plans must cover some services to help people quit smoking. Depending on your insurance, you may be able to get these services at no cost to you.
Check with your insurance company to find out what kind of counseling and medicines are included in your plan. For information about other services covered by the Affordable Care Act, visit HealthCare.gov.
Take Action: Stick with It
Don’t give up!
Remember, it takes time to overcome addiction. Check out these tips for staying smokefree.
Learn from the past.
Many people try to quit more than once before they succeed. Most people who start smoking again do so in the first 3 months after quitting. If you’ve tried to quit before, think about what worked for you and what didn’t.
Being around other smokers can make it harder to quit. So can drinking alcohol.
If you are having a hard time "staying quit," talk with your doctor about what types of counseling or medicines might help you. Remember, quitting is one of the most important things you can do to protect your health.
Content last updated October 15, 2020
This information on smoking was adapted from materials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Cancer Institute.
Stephen D. Babb, MPH
Office on Smoking and Health
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Brenna VanFrank, MD, MSPH
Office on Smoking and Health
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention