Gaining Freedom From Tobacco Use
Each year, many people resolve to quit using tobacco products as of New Year's Day. If you're one of them, why wait? There's no time like the present! Use this 4th of July as an opportunity to declare your independence from tobacco use and live a fuller, healthier life. CDC's recent Tips From Former Smokers campaign, which featured real people who experienced a variety of illnesses stemming from smoking, including cancer, heart attack, stroke, asthma, and Buerger's disease, not only showed the toll that these smoking-related illnesses have taken on these individuals' lives—e.g., losing one's natural voice, experiencing paralysis, having a lung removed or limbs amputated—but also provided encouragement to quit and information on how to access free help. None of the individuals featured in the campaign were actors. They were real people who used to smoke and became sick as a result. Most of them were diagnosed with smoking-related illnesses when they were relatively young—many in their 30s and 40s; one was only 18. They spoke from experience, and all volunteered to share their stories to send a single, powerful message: Quit now. Or better yet—don't start. Quitting greatly increases one's chances of avoiding these types of life-altering illnesses and maintaining one's independence.
Tobacco Products Are Designed for Addiction
The design and contents of tobacco products—including cigarettes, cigars, and smokeless tobacco (snuff [finely ground tobacco that can be dry, moist, or packaged in sachets] and chewing tobacco)—make them addictive. They deliver more nicotine and deliver it quicker than ever before. Nicotine is the highly addictive drug in these products that keeps people smoking or using them even when they want to quit. Like heroin or cocaine, nicotine changes the way the brain works—creating feelings of pleasure or satisfaction—and causes people who use tobacco products to crave more and more nicotine. Filtered and low-tar cigarettes are every bit as addictive and are no safer than other cigarettes. Youth are sensitive to nicotine and can feel dependent earlier than adults. Because of their addiction, about three out of four teen smokers end up smoking into adulthood, even if they intend to quit after a few years.
Many tobacco products are flavored to make them more attractive to new users. While flavored cigarettes are now prohibited, tobacco companies still put fruit flavors and other kid friendly flavors in many of their cigarette-sized cigars and in a variety of smokeless products such as chew, snuff, and dissolvable tobacco. All of these products can cause serious health problems and lead to nicotine addiction and future smoking. And tobacco companies are still using different techniques to make many cigarette brands taste less harsh—especially brands that young people often use when they start smoking.
Notably, the 2012 Surgeon General's report (Preventing Tobacco Use Among Youth and Young Adults—A Report of the Surgeon General) discusses that young people sometimes use smokeless tobacco products in places where cigarettes are banned, such as schools. Snus (dry snuff in a pouch) and dissolvable smokeless products in particular provide a discreet way for young people to maintain their addiction to nicotine even when they can't smoke. In fact, most youth users of these smokeless products also smoke cigarettes. The biggest danger of these products is that they may introduce kids to nicotine, putting them at risk for nicotine addiction.
Odds Are in Your Favor: Keep Trying to Quit
Quitting tobacco use is harder for some people than others. Despite this challenge, more than half of all adults who ever smoked have succeeded in quitting. If you are trying to quit or considering it, keep with it! It may take several attempts before you successfully beat the addiction, but you can do it. Don't give up!
Meet Wilma, a Former Smoker Who Finally Quit After Several Attempts
Wilma can't point to a specific reason she started smoking cigarettes. Her siblings smoked, and by her early teens she was sneaking cigarettes from her sister—beginning an addiction that would last 30 years. In her mid-forties, Wilma decided that she needed to stop smoking.
"I realized I was too young to feel this bad and too old to be messing around with smoking anymore," she says. After several unsuccessful attempts to quit in the past, Wilma quit for good in 2007. She got advice from her doctor and used a prescription to help. She also got support through an online program. She threw out her lighters and ashtrays and started exercising more.
Today, at 49, she enjoys activities—and a lifestyle—she never dreamed of as a smoker. She is training as a yoga instructor (yoga was one of the exercises that helped her cope with nicotine withdrawal) and for a half marathon. She also eats healthier foods than she did when she smoked.
"Once you quit, it opens up so many possibilities that you don't see when you are caught up in the addiction," Wilma says. "I'll also admit, as a woman, vanity was part of my motivation to quit, too. I want to look as young as I can for as long as I can—and smoking just wasn't going to help."
Wilma hopes her story can inspire others to quit and is proud to have been a part of the Tips From Former Smokers campaign. "I want to be an inspiration for others to quit smoking, even if it's just one person," she says. "It's your health."
Plenty of Reasons to Quit Today
Regaining your independence is not the only reason to quit using tobacco. Doing so can improve your health by:
- Lowering the risk for lung and other types of cancer
- Reducing the risk for coronary heart disease, stroke, and peripheral vascular disease
- Reducing respiratory symptoms, such as coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath
- Lowering the risk of developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), one of the leading causes of death in the United States
- For women of reproductive age, reducing the risk for infertility
- For pregnant women, reducing their risk of having a low birth weight baby
When you quit, your health will improve, and that's good news for you and your loved ones!
You're Not Alone: Resources Are Available to Help You Quit for Good
Different quit methods work for different people. The most important thing is to try, try, and try again until you succeed! You can find an effective way to quit. Some ways to quit have been found to increase the chances of success.
- Quitting "cold turkey": When an individual abruptly stops using tobacco and opts not to utilize any of the methods listed below. This is still the most common way people quit. You can succeed by quitting without help, but you may have more withdrawal challenges. If you do go "cold turkey," be sure and get rid of all your tobacco products, and if you are having trouble or want to increase your chances of success, don't hesitate to get help from the ways listed below.
- Brief clinical interventions: When a doctor takes 10 minutes or so to talk to tobacco users and give advice about quitting
- Counseling: When a tobacco user participates in individual, group, or telephone counseling
- Treatments with more person-to-person contact and intensity: When tobacco users spend more time with counselors
- Nicotine replacement therapies: When tobacco users use over-the-counter or prescription nicotine replacement products such as nicotine gum, inhalers, nasal sprays, lozenges, or patches
- Non-nicotine prescription medications: When tobacco users are prescribed non-nicotine medications such as bupropion SR (Zyban®) or varenicline tartrate (Chantix®)
- Combination treatment: When a tobacco user uses a combination of medication and counseling (which has been found to be more effective for smoking cessation than either medication or counseling alone)
Support to Quit
For free quit support, call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669). This service provides free support and advice from experienced counselors, a personalized quit plan, self-help materials, the latest information about quitting medications, and more. Quitting services and resources are also available online in English, and in Spanish. These Web sites provide free, accurate, evidence-based information and professional assistance to help support the immediate and long-term needs of people trying to quit tobacco use. Also refer to SmokefreeWomen as well as the National Cancer Institute's new smoke-free teen initiative.
- CDC's Smoking & Tobacco Use Web site
- Tips From Former Smokers campaign Web site
- How Tobacco Smoke Causes Disease: What It Means to You
- How to Quit Resources
- Help for Smokers and Other Tobacco Users: Quit Smoking
- Secondhand Smoke: What It Means to You
CDC works 24/7 saving lives and protecting people from health threats to have a more secure nation. A US federal agency, CDC helps make the healthy choice the easy choice by putting science and prevention into action. CDC works to help people live longer, healthier and more productive lives.
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