Basic Information


Like most people, you already know that smoking is bad for your health. But do you really understand just how dangerous smoking really is? Tobacco contains nicotine, a highly addictive drug that makes it difficult for smokers to kick the habit. Tobacco products also contain many poisonous and harmful substances that cause disease and premature death. Did you know that out of a group of 1000 smokers (age 30), that a full quarter of them (250!) will die of smoking-related illnesses prior to completing middle age, an additional quarter will die prematurely from smoking-related illnesses shortly after retirement age, and another large group will develop disabling chronic illnesses as a result of their smoking? Most people don't know the odds of getting sick as a result of smoking are really that bad, but when you calculate the numbers, that is how they come out. For many people, truly understanding the very real dangers associated with smoking becomes the motivating factor that helps th...

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What are the risks associated with smoking cigarettes?

  • Out of a group of 1000 smokers (age 30), a full quarter of them (250!) will die of smoking-related illnesses prior to completing middle age, an additional quarter will die prematurely from smoking-related illnesses shortly after retirement age, and another large group will develop debilitating chronic illnesses as a result of their smoking.
  • Smoking is currently responsible for approximately 3.5 million deaths worldwide each year.
  • Smoking is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States, and it kills more than 400,000 U.S. citizens each year.
  • The World Health Organization predicts that by 2020, the worldwide death toll from smoking will reach 10 million each year, causing nearly 18 percent of all deaths in the developed world.
  • Tobacco use also accounts for one-third of all cancers.
  • Smokers die from cancer at a rate that is twice as high as nonsmokers, and heavy smokers die at a rate that is four times higher than nonsmokers.
  • Cancer is not the only disease caused by smoking. It also causes chronic bronchitis and emphysema, and worsens asthma.
  • Cigarette smoking substantially increases the risk of coronary heart disease, including stroke, heart attack, aneurysm and vascular disease.
  • It also contributes to peptic ulcers, varicose veins, osteoporosis, periodontal disease, Alzheimer's disease, atherosclerosis, high blood pressure, allergies, and impotence.
  • Secondhand smoke, which is caused by smokers and inhaled by people nearby, kills 53,000 nonsmokers in the U.S. each year.
  • For every nine people killed by tobacco smoke, one is a nonsmoker.
  • Secondhand smoke contributes to 3,000 lung cancer deaths in nonsmokers and as many as 40,000 deaths from cardiovascular disease each year.

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What are the risks associated with smoking cigars or using smokeless tobacco products?

  • Cigar smoking increases the risk of death from lung, oral cavity, esophagus and larynx cancer.
  • Cigar smokers are 4 to 10 times more likely to die from laryngeal, oral or esophageal cancers as nonsmokers.
  • Cigar smokers who inhale are at increased risk for pancreas and bladder cancer, as well as for heart disease and lung diseases such as emphysema and chronic bronchitis.
  • Cigar smoking has been linked to erectile dysfunction in men.
  • Recent research by the American Cancer Society has found that pipe smokers face similar risks for cancer and other diseases as cigar smokers do.
  • Pipe smokers were found to have an increased risk for lung, throat, esophageal, colon, and larynx cancers, as well as heart disease, stroke, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (emphysema and chronic bronchitis). Risks were generally less than those due to cigarette smoking but equal to or larger than the risks of smoking cigars.
  • Smokeless tobacco delivers a higher dose of nicotine than cigarettes, so that a person who uses smokeless tobacco 8-10 times per day might have the same amount of nicotine in their body as a person who smokes 30-40 cigarettes each day.
  • After using smokeless tobacco for 3 to 5 years, white, leathery patches or lesions (called leucoplakia) often form on the cheeks or gums of users. These lesions sometimes develop into cancers of the lip, tongue, and cheek.
  • Individuals who use chewing tobacco and snuff are 2 to 3 times more likely than non-smokers to develop severe dental problems, including tooth loss, abrasion of the teeth, and bone loss around the teeth.

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Why can't people just stop using tobacco?

  • Nicotine is a highly addictive substance because of the way it makes us feel, both emotionally and physically, and because the way we obtain nicotine becomes a normal part of our daily lives.
  • When a person becomes addicted to smoking, they smoke in order to achieve the physiological (physical) and psychological (mental) satisfaction that smoking provides. Smoking-related satisfaction is very short-lived and new cravings develop quickly.
  • One of the main reasons that people become addicted to nicotine is because it activates the pleasure center of their brain.
  • Some people say that smoking relaxes them while others say that it gives them a boost.
  • Frequent use of tobacco products results in addiction to nicotine, and repeated exposure to nicotine results in the development of tolerance for the drug. As tolerance builds, it takes a higher dose of nicotine to produce the same level of stimulation.
  • Psychological factors are often one of the reasons that breaking the nicotine addiction is so difficult.
  • For many smokers, the act of smoking has become such a part of their lives that they feel like they have lost a part of themselves when stop smoking.
  • Smoking cessation is often difficult because you have become so accustomed to the behavioral aspect of smoking.

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How can I quit smoking?

  • The most effective way to stop smoking is to make the commitment to never light another cigarette again. Most successful smokers quit all at once, removing tobacco and tobacco-related items from their environments and making the commitment to avoid them from that day forward.
  • However, because of the symptoms associated with nicotine withdrawal, many people find that it is easier to quit with the aid of either a nicotine replacement therapy (NRT), or a combination of NRT and prescription antidepressants.
  • Another popular option is a scheduled smoking reduction program, which can take several forms. The disadvantage to scheduled smoking reduction programs is that tobacco remains in your environment and becomes a constant temptation.
  • A combination of behavioral interventions and nicotine replacement therapy has been shown to be the most effective because both physiological and psychological issues are addressed.
  • In addition, a relapse prevention strategy is essential since most tobacco users relapse in the first 6-12 months after quitting.

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How can I prepare to quit smoking?

  • You should plan not only the method or methods you will use to assist you in quitting, but also how you are going to change your environment and your habits to help ward off cravings.
  • Your commitment and your likelihood of quitting successfully will be greater if you formulate a plan and prepare yourself for the difficulties you may experience.
  • The first step is to choose the date on which you plan to quit. This is the day that you will change your habits and begin the method you have chosen to help you quit.
  • Choose the date at least a month in advance, and give yourself time to prepare.
  • Prior to your quit date you should purchase a blank notebook small enough to carry around with you wherever you go and use it to start a smoking diary. Write down in this diary when, where, and why you use tobacco each time you use it. You should also record how you were feeling each time you used tobacco.
  • If you do decide that nicotine replacement therapy is your best bet, be sure to discuss you options with your physician.
  • Eliminating smoking from your life also means eliminating the signs and reminders associated with smoking.
  • The best defense against temptation is to plan for and practice new coping skills.
  • Prepare yourself by reading through your smoking diary, writing down the strategies you think will help you to stay on track, and keeping the list on hand so you can access it when you need it.
  • Once you decide to quit smoking, one of the most important things you can do for yourself is to establish a support system-either a person or a group of people you can count on to help you to work through the difficult times and to stay motivated.

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How can I prevent a relapse or recover from one after I've quit smoking?

  • You will need to be constantly aware of the best way to keep yourself smoke free.
  • Practice how you will respond to smokers when they try to tempt you to have a cigarette with them.
  • Keep in contact with your support people. Think about what you are learning and when you will be ready to help someone else to quit.
  • Remind yourself as often as necessary that there is no such thing as just one cigarette.
  • Think about all the benefits you receive from not smoking, and how the changes benefit your health and your family's health.
  • Think about the money you save from not smoking and what you can do with it.
  • Continue to eat well, exercising daily, and working to increase your personal repertoire of methods for stress relief.
  • Continue to reward yourself periodically for maintaining your nonsmoking status.
  • Think about how much better you feel today than you did during the week before you started your program.
  • Congratulate yourself frequently on having quit smoking. Feel the sense of self-empowerment that you have earned.
  • Smoking is hard to quit, and the chances are fairly good that you'll lapse and/or relapse a few times before you'll be able to quit for good.
  • A relapse occurs when the single moment of weakness (the lapse) turns into an excuse to go back to smoking on a full time basis.
  • The most important thing you can do is REFUSE to give up your effort.
  • Whether you lapse or relapse, the thing to do is to get back immediately to not smoking.
  • Following a lapse or relapse, look carefully at what was happening when you began to smoke again and determine what you can do this time to be successful.

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