How to Stop Smoking: Education & Advocacy

From taking the first step to becoming completely tobacco-free, learn the facts about tobacco use, discover the quitting method that works for you, hear from our smoking cessation expert, and gather the tools and resources you need to quit smoking for good.

MEET THE EXPERT

Johanna Tiemann
Johanna Tiemann

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Johanna Tiemann, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist, psychoanalyst, hypnotherapist and EMDR practitioner who works in private practice in New York City. She works primarily with those who suffer the sequelae of trauma, which include nicotine addiction.

On This Page

Whether you smoke a pack a day or dip once a week, you probably know the health risks of tobacco use. Worldwide, tobacco use causes more than 7 million deaths per year, 480,000 of which are in the U.S. alone. And while these numbers are jarring, they don’t make kicking the addiction any easier. Quitting cigarettes and other tobacco products can cause unpleasant withdrawal symptoms, often making it too difficult to stop. Luckily, you don’t have to go it alone. If you’re ready to say goodbye to your cigs, there is nearly endless support available to aid you in your process. From understanding the benefits of quitting to hearing from our cessation expert, keep reading to learn how you can take down your tobacco habit and lead a healthier life.

Tobacco Use Facts & Awareness

  • 2,500 teens start smoking each day: 400 of those 2,000 teens will become daily smokers.
  • 68% of smokers want to quit: 55% of them try to quit, but only 7% find long term success.
  • Big Tobacco spends $9.36 billion in advertising: Over $1 million is spent every hour promoting cigarettes and tobacco.
  • Quitting cuts the risk of heart attack in half in just 1 day: Blood pressure drops and oxygen levels rise on the very first ‘quit’ day.
  • Quitting now cuts your cancer risk in half: Quitting for 5 years cuts mouth, throat, esophagus, and bladder cancer risk is in half.

Tobacco Use Risks & Benefits of Quitting

The risks associated with using tobacco have been well known for over half a century. In that time, anti-smoking efforts have saved over 8 million American lives. Below are just some of the risks of continued tobacco use and the benefits of quitting.

Risks of Tobacco Use Benefits of Quitting
Smoking can cause cancer anywhere in your body and smoking blocks your body from fighting it by weakening your immune system. 10 years after quitting, your risk of dying from lung cancer is about half that of a person who is still smoking.
Smoking is the #1 cause of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) like emphysema and asthma. Quitting smoking can prevent COPD, but it can’t cure it. Quitting does lessen COPD flare ups and slow the progression of the disease.
Smoking while pregnant carries high risks for babies, including preterm delivery, low birth weight, weak lungs, and increased risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Quitting at any point in your pregnancy reduces the risks of negative outcomes for your baby. Even just one day of not smoking delivers more oxygen to your baby.
1 in 4 deaths from heart disease and stroke is caused by smoking. After quitting for just 12 hours, your risk of heart disease already drops. After 15 years, your risk of heart attack and stroke are equal to a nonsmokers.
Teen smoking is linked to attention deficits, cognitive impairments, and increased risk of psychiatric disorders. Quitting smoking can actually decrease feelings of depression, anxiety, and stress–though initially withdrawal symptoms may mask these benefits.

Tobacco Myths vs Reality

With 68 deaths and nearly 3,000 hospitalizations reported from e-cigarette use in 2020, the myth of vapes as safe alternatives to cigarettes is fading. However, there are still a lot of myths around tobacco use that have surprising staying power. Here are some of those myths debunked.

Cigarettes

Myth: Cigarettes aren’t drugs.
Reality: Nicotine is a stimulant drug and it is highly addictive. Smoking alters your brain chemistry to create a dependence on nicotine.

Myth: Light cigarettes are safe.
Reality: Even light cigarette smoke contains harmful tar, at least 250 toxic chemicals, and carbon monoxide.

Chewing Tobacco

Myth: Smokeless tobacco is a good way to quit smoking.
Reality: Smokeless tobacco still contains addictive nicotine. It may help you stop smoking, but it won’t break your addiction to nicotine.

Myth: Smokeless tobacco won’t cause cancer.
Reality: Smokeless tobacco causes mouth, esophageal, and pancreatic cancer. It’s also linked to heart disease, stroke, and mouth disease.

Vaping & E-Cigarette

Myth: Vaping is a safe way to quit smoking.
Reality: Most vapes and e-cigarettes products, known as e-juices, contain addictive nicotine, the same addictive substance that is in traditional cigarettes.

Myth: Vapes are just water vapor and flavoring.
Reality: E-juice vapor is toxic when heated. It contains some of the same chemicals found in gasoline, car exhaust, and embalming fluids.

Quitting Time: Kicking the Tobacco Habit

While you may want to quit because of the long-term risks, it’s the short-term benefits that give you the real boost. Cleaner mouth, better breath, and clothes (and house and car) that don’t smell of smoke are just the start. You’ll also be saving money and you’ll have more energy from the increased oxygen. This added energy could even put enough pep in your step to get you off the couch and out exercising, benefitting your health even more.

If all this sounds great and you feel you’re ready to say goodbye to tobacco, help is out there. While we can’t offer you medical advice, we can help you through the options out there to get you smoke-free. Once you are ready to kick the habit, first talk to your doctor, and then consider some of the methods below.

Homeopathic & Natural Methods

If you want to kick the habit cleanly, the natural route might be right for you. Since stress is a major trigger for smoking, some people find success by practicing relaxation techniques like yoga, meditation, and deep breathing. Exercise is another proven technique to help you kick the cravings to the curb. A quick hit of cardio is best, but just getting out for a walk can be effective.

There are homeopathic and natural remedies that are purported to help curb cravings. If you want to go the remedy route, you should talk to a homeopathic practitioner who will prescribe remedies specific to you. Before taking any herbal remedy, even those sold over the counter, you should talk to your regular doctor first.  

Resources

  • Five Parks Yoga is an excellent, free yoga resource on YouTube.
  • Mindbody is a free app that can connect you with yoga and mindfulness classes (as well as a nice, relaxing spa visit).
  • National Center for Homeopathy provides resources and tools to connect you with a practitioner in your area.
  • Smokefree.gov has tips for sticking with exercise while you are quitting.
  • WebMD has a list of stress relieving techniques useful for smokers looking to quit.  

Therapy & Coaching

Medical Help

Organizations & Groups

Mobile Apps & Tools

10 Quick Tips to Hit Your Quit Goals

While there is no one-size-fits all approach to quitting, these tips can help when the cravings get tough.

1

Pick your quit day

A ‘quit day’ gives you a deadline. Whether it’s your child’s birthday or April Fool’s Day, find a quit day and stick to it.

2

Remind yourself why

A common recommendation for quitting is ‘finding your reason.’ Take it one step further and remind yourself of your reason. If you are quitting for your kids, tape a picture of them to your cigarettes or to the inside of your wallet. You’ll think twice before lighting up or putting down cash to pay for tobacco.

3

Patch or pill?

Discuss medication and nicotine replacement options with your doctor. Finding the method that works best for you is essential for quitting.

4

Bank on it

A pack costs anywhere from $5 to $10. That adds up to thousands of dollars by the end of the year. Put all that money away and give yourself a meaningful reward once you have hit your personal milestones.

5

Tell everyone

Seek out positive social support and hold yourself accountable at the same time.

6

Stay digitally distracted

Feel a craving coming on,? Reach for your phone. A funny TikTok or YouTube video may be just what you need to get past it.

7

Plan it out

Cold turkey? Slowly cutting back? Choose a strategy and stick to it. Having a plan can really help.

8

Get trigger happy

Morning coffee? Smoke breaks at work? Know your triggers and plan ahead for how to avoid, minimize, or modify them.

9

Stay busy

Boredom and downtime are not your friends. Keep your hands and mind busy with activities you enjoy.

10

Be kind and carry on

Quitting is hard. If it was easy, you wouldn’t be reading this list. Be kind to yourself on this journey. Don’t beat yourself up if you slip, just keep moving forward.

5 Careers Advocating for a Smoke-Free Community

If you’re passionate about creating a cleaner, safer, healthier community, then why not make a career out of it? From educating to advocating and everything in between, here are 5 careers to consider if want to make a difference.

Public Health

Public health careers in smoking cessation usually revolve around education or coordination. Public health educators often work with school or community programs for smoking prevention and cessation. These professionals may help people quit by leading classes or quit smoking groups. They may also coordinate local and state resources for hospitals, businesses, or nonprofits.

Registered Nurse

Smoking Cessation Contractor

Substance Abuse Counselor

Health Educator

Expert Insight on Quitting Tobacco

Johanna Tiemann
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Johanna Tiemann, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist, psychoanalyst, hypnotherapist and EMDR practitioner who works in private practice in New York City.  She works primarily with those who suffer the sequelae of trauma, which include nicotine addiction.

Q: What is Integrative Harm Reduction Therapy?

One of the primary differences between the classical AA model and harm reduction is that the AA model is an all-or-nothing approach. You abstain or you are using. With harm reduction, the philosophy is that most people can learn to moderate their use and to use safely. It’s acknowledged that most, if not all, people need to alter their consciousness a bit, to take the edge off, and drugs are the easiest way to do it. That’s just the way it is. Most people who drink or smoke don’t really want to stop. They may feel forced to stop. It’s become very difficult for smokers. There is such shaming around that. They are being virtually alienated and ostracized and put in a corner and told you can’t smoke here. They are hiding it.

The point is, that it is possible to moderate. That’s the harm reduction philosophy. When you work with someone using a harm reduction model, you try to meet them where they are. They may be at a precontemplation place where they are thinking maybe they should stop using and that’s where you start with them. You don’t give them a bunch of instructions. You work with them trying to understand what purpose or what problem the substance is addressing.

Q: How does the shame and stigma of smoking get in the way of quitting?

Q: What is the value of group therapy for smokers trying to quit?

Q; What advice would you offer a smoker who has had multiple failed attempts to quit?

Resources

Asian Smokers’ Quitline
This site offers help in Cantonese, Mandarin, Korean, and Vietnamese.

Association for the Treatment of Tobacco Use and Dependence
This resource has a comprehensive list of providers across the country.

E-Cigarette Visual Dictionary
This dictionary from the CDC is particularly helpful for parents who don’t know how many different kinds of e-cigarettes are out there.

Know the Risks
This site provides a sheet for parents from the Surgeon General.

Make Smoking History
This site offers great resources for parents on quitting smoking.  

Skip the Dip
Skip the Dip has resources specifically for smokeless tobacco users.

Tips for Friends and Family of Quitters
Expert tips offered by the American Heart Association.

LiveHelp
LiveHelp offers help to quit smoking in Spanish.

Stress Management Techniques
Harvard University techniques can make your quit attempt more successful.