How to quit smoking

There are over 4,000 chemicals in cigarette smoke including formaldehyde (used to preserve dead bodies); ammonia (used in strong cleaning liquids) and cadmium (a highly poisonous metal used in batteries). Stopping smoking represents the single most important step that smokers can take to enhance the length and quality of their lives. Quitting smoking is not easy, but it can be done. To have the best chance of quitting successfully, you need to know what you’re up against, what your options are; this article will provide you with some of this information.

Why do people start to smoke?

Children see adults smoking to relieve stress, tension and boredom. Adult smokers may appear more confident and better able to cope and children want to mimic this ‘grown-up’ behavior. Very few people start to smoke after the age of 20.

Why do people continue to smoke?

The main factors that contribute to people continuing to smoke are the physical addiction to nicotine, the daily rituals around the habit and the emotional and psychological dependence.

Physical addiction

Nicotine is a drug found naturally in tobacco and is highly addictive. Nicotine produces pleasant feelings that make the smoker want to smoke more. After a while, the smoker develops a tolerance and then smokes to maintain this level of nicotine.


Many smokers believe that smoking relieves stress. Instead of seeing smoking as a stress reliever, it would be a real breakthrough if the person was able to identify smoking as one of the prime reasons of stress.

Benefits of quitting

Smokers are always being told about the harmful effects of their habit; however, people are far less aware of the dramatic health benefits of quitting and just how quickly they begin:

20 minutes – Blood pressure and pulse return to normal

8 hours – Chances of a heart attack start to fall

24 hours – Carbon monoxide leaves the body. The lungs start to clear out mucus and debris

48 hours – Nicotine is no longer found in the body. Sense of taste and smell improve

72 hours – Breathing becomes easier. Energy levels increase

2-12 weeks – Circulation improves throughout the body

3-9 months – Coughing, shortness of breath and wheezing improve.

5 years – Risk of having a heart attack falls to about half that of a smoker.

10 years – Risk of lung cancer falls to around half that of a smoker.


Smoking is expensive. It isn’t hard to figure out how much you spend on smoking: multiply how much money you spend on tobacco every day by 365 (days per year). The amount may surprise you. Now multiply that by the number of years you have been smoking and that amount will probably astound you.

Social Acceptance

Smoking is less socially acceptable now than it was in the past. Most workplaces have some type of smoking restrictions. Friends may ask you not to smoke in their houses or cars and more and more communities are restricting smoking in all public places, including restaurants.

Health of Others

Smoking not only harms your health but the health of those around you. Exposure to secondhand smoke (passive smoking) includes exhaled smoke as well as smoke from burning cigarettes. Studies have shown that secondhand smoke causes thousands of deaths each year from lung cancer and heart disease in healthy nonsmokers. 

How can I stop smoking?

 Quitting is hard. Smokers often say, “Don’t tell me why to quit, tell me how.” There is no one right way to quit, but there are some key elements in quitting smoking successfully:

  1. The Health Belief Model says that you will be more likely to stop tobacco use if you:
  • believe that you could get a tobacco-related disease, and this worries you
  • believe that you can make an honest attempt at quitting
  • believe that the benefits of quitting outweigh the benefits of continuing tobacco use
  • know of someone who has had health problems because of their tobacco use
  1. Get ready: Pick a specific day within the next month as your “Quit Day.” Set a quit date 2 to 4 weeks from now so you’ll have time to get ready. Change your environment. Get rid of ALL cigarettes and ashtrays in your home, car and place of work. Don’t let people smoke in your home. Practice saying, “No thank you, I don’t smoke.”
  2. Get support and encouragement: You have a better chance of being successful if you have help. Tell your family, friends and coworkers that you are going to quit. Ask them not to smoke around you or leave cigarettes out where you can see them.
  3. Keep trying: Be prepared for relapse. What if you do smoke? Don’t be discouraged if you start smoking again. Remember, most people try several times before they finally quit. Here are some difficult situations to watch for:
  • Alcohol. Avoid drinking alcohol. Drinking lowers your chances of success.
  • Other smokers. Being around smoking can make you want to smoke.
  • Bad mood or depression. There are a lot of ways to improve your mood other than smoking.

Cold turkey: The phrase ‘going cold turkey’ means stopping smoking immediately. Stopping outright is most likely to be successful. 

What will happen when I stop smoking?

 Nicotine withdrawal symptoms are strongest during the first few days after you stop smoking, but most go away within a few weeks.


An intense desire to smoke which typically lasts 2 to 3 minutes before subsiding. This becomes less frequent and less intense during the first 3 weeks.

Increased appetite

Nicotine is known to suppress a person’s appetite, which leaves many smokers able to skip meals. When people give up, the resulting lack of nicotine can cause cravings, which may also be interpreted as hunger and an increased appetite cause weight gain.


Anxiety, irritability, and loss of concentration – all these can be attributed to the disturbance of breaking a long-established habit and adjusting to the physical problems.

Sleep disturbance

It is not uncommon to have an initial week of sleeping badly followed by a week of difficulty staying awake.

Worsened cough

The millions of tiny hairs designed to keep the air passages clean start to clear away the dirt caused by cigarette smoke. This can cause a temporary cough.

Light-headed / dizzy feelings

This may occur as the level of carbon monoxide in the blood starts to fall and oxygen supply to the brain increases.

Tingling sensations in the body

This could be a sign of better circulation to the hands and feet.


Tobacco has a laxative effect on which the bowels learn to rely.

The above are signs of recovery and all the symptoms are temporary and none of them are life threatening, unlike smoking! 

What if I smoke again?

Staying stopped is the key issue for most smokers. Many quitters can get through their first few days when their own motivation, determination, support and praise from others. But from then on motivation may begin to diminish and other people around them have lost interest while cravings continue.

Lack of success is often related to the onset of withdrawal symptoms. And most relapses occur within the first 3 months of quitting. Many ex-smokers did not succeed at first, but they kept trying.

Just remember that even one puff on a cigarette can cause a relapse, so don’t risk it. 

Quitting takes hard work and a lot of effort, but you can quit smoking.

If you are a smoker encourage your children not to smoke by:

  • Telling them from personal experience why you wish you hadn’t started
  • Never letting them try a cigarette, even as a joke
  • Never asking them to light a cigarette
  • Not giving them sweet or joke cigarettes
  • Never asking them to buy cigarettes or matches
  • Asking them to work out how much smoking costs each year
  • Explaining that the majority of the populations don’t smoke and most smokers want to stop
  • Discouraging older brothers, sisters and other family members from smoking in their presence.
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