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Resources for People Trying to Quit Smoking

For those who smoke and want to quit, Penn State Center for Research on Tobacco and Health and Penn State Health offer information, options and free smoking cessation classes.

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Get ready to quit

Identify and clarify reasons for quitting smoking Expand answer

Why quit?

  • For better health
  • To save time and money
  • To end addiction
  • Insurance premiums may be higher for lower than they are for tobacco users
  • Out-of-pocket medical costs may decrease after quitting
  • Because it’s a hassle to stand outside in bad weather to smoke
  • To avoid negative effects on family

Stopping smoking is generally the single best thing a smoker can do to improve their health. Nicotine is out of the system in three days.

How is smoking bad for health? Expand answer

Smoking causes illnesses affecting almost every part of the body and can result in an average of 10 years of life lost due to health conditions.

Tobacco use, second-hand smoke, and environmental smoke greatly increase the risk of:

  • Heart disease and circulation problems (smokers are up to three times more likely to die of a heart attack than non-smokers)
  • Stroke or brain aneurysm
  • Cancer (smokers are 20 times more likely to develop lung cancer)
  • Respiratory infections and asthma
  • Chronic lung diseases like emphysema and COPD in adults (smokers are 15 times more likely to develop chronic breathing problems)
  • Miscarriage, stillbirth, prematurity and low birth weight

Tobacco use also:

  • Reduces the senses of taste and smell
  • Makes wrinkles worse and reduces softness of skin
  • Is a major cause of erectile dysfunction
  • Causes teeth discoloration
  • Gives clothes, hair, breath, car and home an odor that others often find offensive
  • Sends an unhealthy message to kids
  • Can affect the health of pets
Smoking compared with other risk factors Expand answer

A man in his 40s with high blood pressure and high cholesterol who is also a smoker has a 29 percent chance of having a heart attack in the next 10 years.

  • With normal blood pressure only, that risk falls to 21 percent.
  • With normal cholesterol only, the risk is 19 percent.
  • By quitting smoking only, the risk drops to 9 percent.
  • By quitting smoking and lowering blood pressure and cholesterol, the risk is only 3 percent.

Stopping smoking has a bigger effect than the other two risk factors (high blood pressure and high cholesterol) combined, and it also reduces the risks of other conditions such as cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and stroke.

Calculating the cost of smoking Expand answer

One motivating factor in quitting smoking can be to calculate how much is spent per week, month and year.

  • A pack-a-day smoker at $6.50 per pack spends $2,372.50 a year on cigarettes.
  • Within 10 years of quitting, that is a savings of more than $23,000.
  • Other costs of smoking include extra medical expenses, cost of time off of work, extra costs of cleaning clothes, etc.

Assessing the level of addiction Expand answer

Smokers should ask themselves these questions:

  • How many cigarettes do I usually smoke per day?
  • How many minutes after I wake in the morning is it before I light up?
  • Do I sometimes wake at night to smoke?

The level of addiction determines how much each person will likely benefit from smoking cessation medicines.

Why is it hard to quit? Expand answer
  • Smoking is a strong, long-term habit (a pack-a-day smoker may take 73,000 puffs a year).
  • Nicotine is addictive.
  • Quitting can involve putting up with cravings and mood swings (nicotine withdrawal); remember, these are temporary.
  • Sometimes, smoking is satisfying or relaxing, helps concentration or curbs appetite (the positives).
  • Some people doubt that they can succeed.
  • It is easy to put off for another time.

How to Quit

Methods Expand answer
  • Cold turkey
  • Cutting back daily
  • Individual, group or telephone counseling or online support (see resources elsewhere on this page)
  • Combination of one of the above methods with smoking cessation medications
Do smoking cessation medicines work? Expand answer

Nicotine patches, gums, lozenges, inhalers and nasal sprays, as well as bupropion and varenicline, have all been shown to reduce withdrawal symptoms and cravings and increase quit rates.

Very light smokers probably don’t benefit from smoking cessation medicines, and more addicted smokers may benefit more from combining different medications.

Selecting a quit date Expand answer
  • Make it sooner rather than later; a month away is too long.
  • Decide whether to reduce gradually before the quit date or quit all at once.
  • Coordinate smoking cessation medications with the quit date.
  • If using bupropion or varenicline (Chantix), these need to start a week before the quit date.
Increasing chances of success Expand answer

When the quit date arrives, make quitting smoking the priority.

  • Learn from previous quit attempts. Think about what helped and didn’t help.
  • Consider buddying up with a friend or colleague.
  • Anticipate barriers.
  • Prepare and have a plan. Write it down for best results.
  • Decide in advance how to cope with specific anticipated challenges.
  • Discuss the plan to quit with a counselor and/or health care provider.
  • Use proven smoking cessation medications properly, and have them organized in advance.
  • Carefully get rid of all tobacco.
  • Plan to avoid places where there are cigarettes.
  • Have plenty of healthy fruits and vegetables for snacks during cravings.
  • Plan to exercise. Try walking for 30 minutes each day.
  • Use all the assistance that is available.
Free smoking cessation support group Expand answer

A free smoking cessation support group is offered at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.

Call the CareLine at 800-243-1455 to register and learn more about upcoming meetings.

Free phone counseling Expand answer

Pennsylvania’s QUITLINE is available at 877-724-1090 or 800-QUIT-NOW.