Quit Smoking

Edited by Seighart, Charmed, Christine dela Cruz, Mark Zonio and 7 others

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This guide is part of our series of articles on improving and maintaining your health and wellness.

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A Brief History of Smoking, and the Dangers of Smoking

For more than 400 years, doctors around the world have known that smoking was dangerous.

Cigarette smoking is a relative newcomer to the modern world. Because of this, knowledge of the risks associated with tobacco use wasn't widespread, and quitting smoking wasn't even something many people considered until the 1980s. There are many reasons for this, but chief among them is the fact that neither tobacco nor smoking it are native to Europe and Asia. Much of modern culture and social vice, such as drinking alcohol, are from Europe. Tobacco, however, is native to the Americas.

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Smoking tobacco is believed to have originated in the Ecuadorian and Peruvian Andes, as far back as 5,000 BC. However, it was limited to shamanistic rituals and religious ceremonies. It wasn't until thousands of years later, in 1492, when Columbus rediscovered the Americas, that smoking was brought to Europe and the rest of the world.

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In 1531 tobacco was being cultivated in Santo Domingo, and by early 1600, it had spread all across Europe. A hundred years later it was a thriving industry, and in use all over the known world. People smoked on Airplanes, Buses, in Churches, Hospitals, Hotels, Restaurants, and even Schools. However, it had already been recognized as a danger by doctors. Smokers, although warned of these dangers, were not listening

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  • An anonymous essay was published in England in 1602, titled Worke of Chimney Sweepers, linking their smoking and exposure to soot as a health hazard.
  • A German, Samuel Thomas von Soemmering, reported an increase of the number of cancers in pipe smokers. This link between smoking and cancer was established in In 1795.
  • Just three years later, in America, the physician Benjamin Rush also noted that tobacco was dangerous.
  • By the 1920s, medical reports began linking lung cancer and smoking. However, the news was largely unreported by newspapers who were more concerned with tobacco generated advertising revenue than public health.
  • Between 1950 and 1960, a series of respected medical reports clearly stated that a number of serious diseases were being caused by tobacco.
  • Finally, under pressure from medical institutions around the world, and no longer able to ignore the problems caused by tobacco, governments reacted. Around the world regulation of tobacco products began to increase sharply. A range of diseases, including Heart Disease, High Blood Pressure, Lip Cancer, Lung Cancer, Throat and Mouth Cancer, and Stroke, were commonly associated with smoking and the use of tobacco products.

The last 30 years have marked a significant departure from the blind eye the world had previously turned on tobacco use. Smoking was no longer considered glamorous or exotic. Instead, it began to be recognized for the crippling dependency and detriment to health it is known for. Quitting smoking, or not smoking at all, became glamorous. Being beautiful, and staying young and healthy was now associated with non-smokers.

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If you're here to quit smoking, either for your own health, or for the health of your children and loved ones, this VisiHow article will help you. Written to provide an in-depth review of the habits that support nicotine addiction, it will provide you with the most effective methods for quitting. This article will help you quit smoking, whether you're a singer worried about the damage smoking can cause to your voice, or someone worried about the risks of stroke associated with smoking. Read on to learn how you can quit smoking today.

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Methods and Aids to Quit Smoking

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Everything You Need to Know About How to Quit Smoking

Smoking is an ugly, and unattractive habit will quickly poison you and your loved ones.

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(citations are being added to this section) Most people who try to quit smoking usually end up discovering the hard way that it's easier to start smoking than it is to quit. This is because of the nicotine in cigarettes, which creates two independent but interlinked forms of addiction. First, there's the physical addiction, which occurs as a result of changes in the body caused by nicotine. Chief among these is the activation of the body's fight or flight mechanism, which triggers a release of sugar and stored fats into the blood stream within seconds.

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Then there's the mental addiction, which is a result of the body learning that it will receive regular injections of nicotine. This causes the mind to build neural networks to govern this new learned behavior. Then, rather than using the sugars and fats normally stored between meals, the body begins to rely on receiving nicotine at regular intervals. This nicotine triggers the release of the stored fats and sugars mentioned above, which give a boost of energy. Because of this, breaking the physical addiction is easy, but breaking the mental addiction can take years.

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It can take years to quit smoking because these new neural networks the brain builds are created according to different triggers. For example, many people start smoking young because it makes them feel like an adult. They're unknowingly building a neural network that will trigger nicotine craving any time they feel insecure. Later, this will expand to other feelings and situations. The stress of an emotional confrontation will be calmed, or the rush from success and victory will be rewarded, all with nicotine.

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The brain will build separate neural networks for each of these experiences. When trying to quit, the nicotine addiction trigger for each of these networks will need to be overcome. That's why it's best to isolate yourself for the first week you quit smoking. Limiting your exposure to triggers, and controlling them, will help you overcome them one at a time, rather than all at once. However, triggers that have been built up over years of smoking, such as emotional triggers from stress or arguing with a loved one, can persist for years. That's because the addiction controlling these networks isn't regularly triggered.

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The good news is that just as these networks were built up over time, and strengthened through use, they can also be broken down and completely eliminated through disuse. Resisting the urge to smoke in such situations will make it easier to resist the next craving, until there is no longer any craving at all. Because of this, the most important part of quitting smoking, besides putting down cigarettes, is finding a method to quit that will work for you.

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Everyone is different, and while smokers all share an addiction to the nicotine in cigarettes, the reasons they smoke can be quite different from person to person. For some people, it's done because they feel the need to always be doing something with their hands. Others find that it helps keep them from binge eating, while some simply crave the social acceptance of smoking in bars and clubs. They're all forms of addiction though, and these five steps are part of a total life approach to quitting smoking that really works.

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  1. 1
    Find a method of quitting smoking that will work for you.
    It's important to understand how to choose the best way to quit smoking. This is because the methods a person can use to quit smoking range from stopping cold turkey, to counseling, nicotine patches, acupuncture, hypnosis, and doctor prescribed medications. These methods obviously vary considerably in terms of both cost and effectiveness, but no one method works the same way for everyone. We're all different and unique beings. Finding a method of quitting smoking that works for you may take a few tries, but don't give up.
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  2. 2
    Set realistic goals to help you quit smoking.
    This can be something as simple as slowly reducing the number of cigarettes you smoke, to planning your quit program out over several weeks or months. While it may look good on paper to create a series of goals and milestones, keeping them realistic will contribute to your success. Lifestyle changes can and should be incorporated into your quit program. This is because you're going to want to be doing something in the time you would otherwise have been smoking. Occupying your mind will help you quit, and while the first week of quitting is usually the most difficult, it's usually weeks later that many people trying to quit smoking end up picking up cigarettes again. Incorporating exercise, and even diet management into your quit program can contribute significantly to helping you kick the habit.
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  3. 3
    Learn how to manage cravings with alternate activities.
    Cravings are powerful and intense commands from our brains to smoke. They are very difficult to resist, which is why so many people find it hard to quit smoking. However, they only last from 2-10 minutes each. This means that you can distract yourself with alternate activities. Calling someone on the phone, playing a game, having a healthy snack, or engaging in almost any physical activity are all methods that work to help distract the mind. To test this, time your cravings, and you'll see just how short they really are. This will help you to identify them as the short-term needs they really are, and help you to more easily overcome the pressures nicotine cravings create.
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  4. 4
    Identify things that help to improve your mood while quitting smoking.
    Just as you'll be managing your cigarette and nicotine cravings, you'll also be working to learn how to manage your emotions and moods when quitting smoking. Managing your moods is important for a number of reasons, but chief among them is the mental trigger all smokers have, where stress causes them to crave nicotine. Because of this, it's very important to try and maintain the best possible mood you can when quitting. This can be done by adding exercise, playtime, or even salon time to your daily activities. It's very much about what works for you, and what makes you happy. Managing your moods will help you be better prepared to control nicotine cravings, which will help you to stay smoke free.
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  5. 5
    Take steps to manage the size of food portions.
    As we discussed earlier, nicotine triggers an immediate release of fats and sugars into the bloodstream. This means that you'll be craving cigarettes, and foods. Unfortunately, when you eat, it takes about 20 minutes for sugars and fats to enter your bloodstream. That's significantly longer than the 7 seconds it takes them to be released by nicotine. As a result, you're going to need to retrain your body to accept the release of sugars into the bloodstream naturally. Cravings are also going to be a factor, because one of the easiest ways to combat a craving is to eat. This means you'll probably find it easiest to eat more than three meals a day.[ref] However, eating more usually means gaining weight too. By learning how to manage your portions, you'll be able to track just how much you're eating. That will help you better manage any initial weight gain, and then keep weight off later when you've quit smoking and are ready to try and lose any extra pounds you may have put on.
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Some people reading this may have already tried and failed to quit smoking. They already know that most programs to stop smoking look simple in print, but aren't always easy or practical to stick to. This guide is different though. We understand that quitting smoking can be like learning to ride a bicycle. Sometimes you fall off, but the longer and harder you try, the more likely you are to succeed. While quitting smoking does take work, you'll find that the approach our guides use for quitting are easier to stick to than some of the other methods you may have tried.

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In fact, by just following these five steps, you should be able to quit smoking without weight gain, improve your fitness levels, have better skin, and look years younger. All it takes is putting down cigarettes, and walking away from your nicotine addiction, which these guides will help you to do.

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Common Problems Associated with Quitting Smoking

Quitting smoking has it's own side effects, but they don't last long, and can be managed.

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There is no question that smoking is dangerous to your health. In fact, second hand smoke is dangerous to those around you as well, and especially so to children. Because of this, many non-smokers can't quite understand why smokers just don't quit. Of course, smokers know, but the stress of quitting often keeps them from understanding that other people might not truly appreciate just how difficult it is to put a pack of cigarettes down and quit smoking.

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Today, when you make the decision to stop smoking, these are some of the things you'll want to be prepared to deal with. Unlike tobacco smoke, none of them are poisonous or life threatening, but they can be unpleasant. It's easier to deal with them if you know what to expect, and can be prepared. You also might find it easier to send non-smokers to this guide, rather than try and explain to them how hard it is to quit smoking.

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These are the 5 most common side effects of quitting smoking. To read the full list, visit our article on 15 Side Effects When You Quit Smoking.

  1. 1
    Anxiety:
    Many people who smoke may not even realize that they have an anxiety problem - until they quit smoking. This is because the nicotine in cigarette smoke provides immediate relaxation in the form of meeting the body's need for nicotine. This also offsets anxiety issues by relaxing the smoker, but not actually addressing the underlying cause of anxiety. When a person quits smoking, they're forced to deal with the early symptoms of nicotine withdrawal, and any associated anxiety issues. This can be quite difficult for some, with doctors sometimes prescribing anti-anxiety medications to help people suffering anxiety problems while trying to quit smoking.
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  2. 2
    Coughing:
    As the body begins to clear out the toxins and tars associated with smoking, it will form mucus around these impurities. This can leave the lungs feeling heavy, or watery, and may cause significant coughing for some people. Doctors may prescribe certain medications and cough suppressants in severe cases, but for most people, the worst of this coughing passes after a week or two.
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  3. 3
    Cravings:
    At times you will want a cigarette more than anything else on the planet, and if you deny yourself that cigarette, you'll want something else. However, recent studies have shown that addiction is a chronic and predictable brain disease. Put simply, that means it is a problem with the brain that keeps occurring, but it occurs in a predictable manner. That means you can take steps to control nicotine cravings and quit smoking. Over time the neural network supporting these cravings will physically deteriorate, but by controlling it, you can accelerate that deterioration. This will weaken and lessen the severity and intensity of addiction cravings.
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  4. 4
    Insomnia:
    The inability to fall asleep can often be attributed to the other unpleasant side effects of quitting smoking. However, many people are not aware of the fact that the chemicals in their cigarettes causes the body to purge caffeine more quickly. This means that you will feel the effects of caffeine more than you would have when smoking. Where it might have previously been normal for you to consume large quantities of caffeine, when you quit smoking, those same levels of caffeine can keep you awake all night.
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  5. 5
    Weight Gain:
    Weight gain is a common problem for people who quit smoking. While many attribute this to the need to be 'always doing something', this is in fact incorrect. Modern research has come a long way in understanding how to avoid weight gain when you quit smoking, finding connections between nicotine and a sugar release in the blood stream. This happens in a matter of seconds, which is why many of those who smoke don't feel the need to eat or snack as much. Because of this, they remain thin. Then, when they quit smoking, the 20 minutes it takes for a regular meal or snack to release sugar into the blood stream can seem like an eternity. Because of this they end up eating more than they normally would, and put on weight.
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Keep in mind that this is just a short list of the most common symptoms. Most people will only experience a few of these. While the nicotine will be completely out of your system within three days, that's when the symptoms are also most likely to peak, and be at their worst. From there, they'll gradually diminish over the next two to three weeks, with most smokers reporting symptoms completely gone, or significantly less by one month. For a timeline, please read our article on what happens to your body when you quit smoking. Just keep in mind that the actual times and durations will vary slightly from person to person.

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If you're trying to explain how you feel to a loved one, friends, or coworkers, it's often easiest to let them know that what you're feeling is not unlike getting a flu. You feel a little bad the first couple days, but by the third day you're feeling quite unpleasant. In the coming week to ten days, the symptoms dissipate, and you start to feel better. This will help people who aren't smokers understand how you feel, and why they should be supportive of you. Also, much like a flu, there are a number of teas and other soothing home remedies you can use to help ease the process of quitting smoking.

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Smoking Also Damages the Health of Children and Pets

Children don't understand the dangers of smoking, and pets have no say at all.

Many people who smoke grew up in families where smoking was common, and accepted. Because of this, they don't often think of how their cigarette smoke can choke small children, or negatively impact the health of family pets. This is unfortunately especially true of small babies and children who aren't yet able to voice their complaints about cigarette smoke, or pets unable to go in and out of the home, like birds, small dogs, and house cats. Many times the toxins in cigarette smoke can cause a range of health issues for these small children and pets, but they are unable to complain, and suffer allergies, asthma, and other disorders in silence.

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Worse, children who grow up in these environments are unknowingly being subjected to nicotine from an early age, which can pre-program their brains to be more receptive to nicotine addiction as an adult. This makes them significantly more likely to smoke as teens, or young adults, as opposed to children from non-smoking households. For the children of smoking families, even when it's viewed as an unpleasant habit, it's also strongly associated with home, and family. It also puts parents in the unpleasant position of trying to teach a child to do as I say, not as I do. As most parents know, this doesn't work well.

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For pets, a range of nicotine and smoke related sicknesses can cause harm. Everything from obvious skin and eye irritations, to less noticeable digestive tract and lung problems. Just as the human digestive tract is complex, so is that of pets, and nicotine causes the same harm to them as it does to humans. Unfortunately, too few smokers consider the effects of second hand smoke to the health and well being of their pets. Even smokers who do consider the health of their pets find little in the way of mainstream research to support claims of pet illnesses caused by second hand smoke.

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Common Health Problems Caused By Cigarette Smoking

If you smoke or are exposed to second hand smoke, you could be at risk for these illnesses.

According to the CDC, smoking causes almost half a million deaths per year in the United States alone. This accounts for about one out of every five deaths. Put another way, 20% of all deaths in the United States are a direct result of cigarette smoking, causing more deaths than the combined death totals of Alcohol, Firearm Related Incidents, Illegal Drug Use, and Motor Vehicle Injuries.

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More women die each year from lung cancer caused by smoking than die from breast cancer, and more Americans have died because of cigarette smoking than in all of the wars ever fought in the entire history of the United States. Yet still people continue to smoke every day, without considering these frightening facts.

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  1. 1
    Smoking damages almost every organ of the body, without exception.
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  2. 2
    Smoking can cause cancer in nearly every part of the body.
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  3. 3
    If no one smoked, more than 30% of all cancers in the US would disappear.
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  4. 4
  5. 5
    Smoking during pregnancy can cause birth defects.
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  6. 6
    Smoking is a leading cause of impotence in men.
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  7. 7
  8. 8
    Smoking can weaken bones, which is especially concerning for women.
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  9. 9
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  10. 10
    Smoking is a cause of both arthritis and diabetes.
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  11. 11
    Smoking is a leading cause of stroke.
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  12. 12

Carbon Monoxide, Nicotine, and Tar are in Cigarettes

Cigarettes contain over 4,000 chemicals and compounds, many of which are poisonous.

While cigarettes have thousands of chemicals and poisons in them, only three exist in high enough doses to be a concern to most people. They are Carbon Monoxide, Nicotine, and Tar. Of the three, nicotine is by far the most toxic, but many people aren't aware of the fact that nicotine is a deadly poison.

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According to the lethal doses published by the CDC, it's actually more deadly than either arsenic or cyanide, both of which are recognized as deadly poisons. In fact, in 2003 there was a widespread case of intentional nicotine poisoning in Michigan, as reported by the CDC. Fortunately for those exposed to this poison, the actual lethal doses of nicotine are believed to be much higher than reported by the CDC, though it is still a deadly poison in liquid form.

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However, the high toxicity level for nicotine is only a factor when it's in liquid form. If it is vaporized, either through a traditional cigarette, or an e-cigarette, the actual nicotine intake is much less. This is why people who chain smoke will sometimes feel physically ill, but rarely get sick. They've inhaled too much nicotine, and their body is rejecting it for the poison it is, but they haven't had enough to make them really sick. If that same person were to eat one or more cigarettes, they'll usually become very ill.

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Collectively, Carbon Monoxide, Nicotine, and Tar are the main reason cigarette smoking is so damaging to your health. They are also the main reason why quitting smoking can make such a positive difference in the health and quality of life to a smoker. Here's a little more about each of these compounds.

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  1. 1
    Carbon Monoxide:
    This is what comes out with your car exhaust. It's odorless and tasteless, and you've no doubt heard about people being killed by it. That's because it's a poisonous gas. When inhaled, it bonds to red blood cells, preventing oxygen from bonding to them, and reducing the levels of blood oxygen in the body. This inhibits all bodily functions, and is a major factor in the smoking related fatigue body weakness.
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  2. 2
    Nicotine:
    Nicotine, as discussed earlier, is a deadly poison in liquid form. It also creates a number of problems for the body, such as triggering the release of blood sugars, tricking brain receptors into behaving differently, and at higher doses can cause a number of very unpleasant side effects. These include depression of the central nervous system, damage to unborn babies, seizures, and uncontrollable vomiting. It's also used as a broad spectrum insecticide, killing almost every type of insect that comes into contact with it.
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  3. 3
    Tar:
    For those of you who have quit smoking, you'll recognize this as the black stuff you cough up for weeks after you put down that last pack of cigarettes. It's also the component of cigarette smoke that contains all the chemicals that cause cancer. After inhalation of cigarette smoke, 70% of the tar in smoke stays in the lungs and starts its damaging effects.
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Tips and Suggestions to Help You Quit Smoking

  • For at least the first week, if not the first month, don't visit places where you know there will be smokers. During this time you're still going to be working on breaking down your old nicotine dependent neural network, and replacing it with a new one that doesn't need nicotine. This means that places frequented by smokers will cause you to suffer unduly, and the resulting cravings may overwhelm your will to quit smoking.
  • Stay away from second hand smoke. Some people tell themselves that they are quitting, yet continue frequenting smoking lounges, or taking smoking breaks with coworkers. In doing this, they're exposed to second hand smoke, and small amounts of nicotine. This is a problem, because as little as 4% of the nicotine normally present in a cigarette can trigger the brain's nicotine dependent neural network. Reinforcing and making later cravings that much more difficult to overcome. Worse, the damage to your throat from smoking can take longer to heal, or not heal at all if you aren't keeping yourself in a healthy smoke free environment and not smoking.
  • Avoid fast food, and especially stay away from all you can eat buffets. These places don't control portions, or offer to 'super size' your meals, which results in you consuming significantly more calories in one meal than is healthy. By keeping your meal options limited to controlled portions, you'll be able to manage your weight gain and loss better.
  • Your chances of quitting cold turkey are pretty slim. That's not to say that you can't do it. Rather, it's to say that the overwhelming majority of people who quit cold turkey almost always end up smoking again. For some of them, it can even be years later. This is because they don't learn to associate all of the negative health concerns and problems smoking causes with their plan of quitting. Instead, they approach it from a position of power, which later leaves them vulnerable to believing that they can start or stop smoking any time they want. The reality is that if you quit smoking for a few months or a year, and then start again, you never really quit. You just paused. We want to make sure you quit, because that's what's healthy.
  • Stay positive while trying to quit, and if possible, find partners or others to help support you through the worst of it. Think of quitting smoking like an endurance marathon that lasts a few weeks to a month. If you try do it alone, your chances of success are much less than if you have team mates to help carry you over the rough patches.
  • Remember that even after you've 'quit' that you're still at risk for smoking again. In fact, if you're still living in a house or apartment where you previously smoked, one of the first things you'll want to do is to get rid of the smoke odor. By removing the odor of stale smoke, you'll end up being reminded of it less. As an added bonus, your home will smell fresher, and feel more inviting to guests and visitors.
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Benefits to your body after you quit smoking

Almost immediately after you stop smoking your body will begin to heal itself. The following explains what happens to your body and how long it may take to get back to return your health to what it was before becoming a smoker.

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  1. 1
    Blood pressure returns to normal.
    This happens about 20 minutes after you smoke your last cigarette.
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  2. 2
    Heart rate and blood pressure returns to normal.
    This happens approximately two hours after you stop smoking.
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  3. 3
    Carbon Monoxide levels drop by half.
    This happens approximately 8-12 hours after you quit smoking. your oxygen levels will also return to normal.
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  4. 4
    Risk of heart attack declines.
    This happens about 48 hours after you quit smoking and your sense of smell and taste will vastly improve.
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  5. 5
    Energy levels will rise.
    This happens about 72 hours after you quit smoking. Your bronchial tubes will also begin to heal and relax. All of the nicotine will now be out of your system.
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  6. 6
    Improved circulation.
    This happens about 2 weeks after you quit smoking. your circulation will continue to improve for months while your risk of heart attack continues to decline for years.
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  7. 7
    Improved lung capacity.
    This happens within 3-9 months after quitting smoking. Usually lung function improves by 10% and coughing, wheezing and other breathing problems will begin to dissipate.
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  8. 8
    Risk of heart attack dropped by half.
    This happens after a year of being smoke-free.
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  9. 9
    Risk of stroke returns to that of a non-smoker.
    This happens about 5 years after quitting smoking.
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  10. 10
    Risk of lung cancer returns to that of a non-smoker.
    This happens approximately 10 years after you quit smoking.
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  11. 11
    Risk of heart attack returns to that of a non-smoker.
    This happens about 15 years after quitting smoking.
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Quitting smoking can add years to your life and greatly improve your quality of life.

Article Citations and References for Quitting Smoking

The following articles, government sites, and medical journals were used in this guide.

Questions and Answers

3rd day…after quitting smoking?

Having trouble! mind say go for a one!

Now it is just habitual cravings as after 72 hours nicotine is out of your system. Each time you feel the urge to smoke, replace the urge with another habit.

  • Chew a piece of gum.
  • Take a quick walk.
  • Snap a rubber band.
  • Do stretches.

I'm 29 male and I just quit smoking for a week. I still do have multiple cravings throughout day, and strangely getting some weird dreams while sleeping, for this past week?

I still do have multiple cravings throughout day, and strangely getting some weird dreams while sleeping, for this past week. I have tried: I am just trying to be mentally strong not to continue this run further. I think it was caused by: Quitting smoking might be causing it.

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Your mind is playing tricks on you. You should no longer have cravings but what you are doing is reversing a bad habit. Just like it is a habit to put our shoes on before going outside, smoking after dinner or before bed is also a habit. It takes up to 90 days to reverse a habit. Stick with it because if you are using no other nicotine options, the nicotine is out of your body and already after one week you have begun to improve your health. Your dreams are a product of the anxiety you feel about not smoking anymore. Run happy thoughts through your mind as you drift off to sleep. Drink chamomile tea before bed. Use a lavender scent in your bedroom. Practicing relaxation methods will remove your nightmares.

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