No Ifs, Ands Or Butts About It

black hand holding a lit cigaretteIf you’re a smoker, chances are you’ve already tried to quit. So you know from experience that it’s not easy. Many ex-smokers say quitting was one of the hardest things they’ve ever done. But many do succeed in the end. And the health benefits they gain make quitting worth the effort.

There’s no question about the harm smoking can do. Tobacco is the leading cause of preventable death nationwide. If you smoke, you’re up to 6 times more likely to suffer a heart attack than non-smokers, and the risk increases with the number of cigarettes smoked. Tobacco is also one of the strongest cancer-causing agents. Up to 90% of lung cancer deaths are attributed to smoking.

The good news is, as soon as you stop smoking, your lungs, heart and blood vessels start getting better. When you quit, you greatly reduce your risk of cancer, heart disease, stroke and early death. Within a year of quitting, you’ll have cut your risk of developing heart disease by nearly half. You’ll feel more energetic and breathe more easily. And you’ll be protecting the health of the people around you. Quitting can even save you money. If you smoke a pack a day, quitting could save you up to $150 a month.

Although you know that quitting is a smart thing to do, chances are you’ll still find it tough. “If you have trouble quitting, or if you’ve had trouble in the past, you’re in the majority,” says Dr. Glen D. Morgan, a scientist at NIH’s National Cancer Institute (NCI). “We know that the more attempts that people make to quit, and the more they try, the greater their chances of success in the long run. People can capitalize on their previous efforts to quit, and they can learn from them.”

Why is it so hard to stop smoking? After months and years of lighting up, smoking may be part of your daily routine. “Maybe you’ve developed certain patterns of smoking, like having a cigarette after a cup of coffee or when you’re talking on the phone,” says Morgan. “Or maybe you smoke when you’re stressed, or when you get into the car or put on your makeup.” You may light up without even thinking about it.