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Take That First Quit Step

Female hiker holding out arms to skyPrepare to quit smoking during the Great American Smokeout on November 19.

If you're a smoker, quitting can be the single most important step you take to protect your health and the health of your loved ones. Smoking causes immediate damage to your body, and it threatens your future with increased risks for cancer, heart attack, lung disease, and early death. Many people have probably urged you to quit smoking already, but we all know that quitting can be hard. Just as every journey begins with a single step, so, too, does quitting.

That's where the American Cancer Society's Great American Smokeout can help. This event takes place on November 19 and encourages smokers to quit or to use the day to make a quit plan. Free help is available at 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669) and at 1-855-DÉJELO-YA (1-855-335-3569) (for Spanish speakers).

When you quit smoking during the Great American Smokeout, you have the support of many other people across the nation. And you're taking an important step towards a healthier life.

Five Ways to Get Ready to Quit Smoking

Quitting smoking can be hard, so a good plan can help you get past symptoms of withdrawal. Five steps can help.

  1. Set a quit date. Choose the Great American Smokeout or another quit day within the next 2 weeks.
  2. Tell your family and friends about your quit plan. Share your quit date with the important people in your life and ask for support. A daily phone call, e-mail, or text message can help you stay on course and provide moral support. Try SmokefreeTEXT for 24/7 help on your mobile phone.
  3. Be prepared for challenges. The urge to smoke is short—usually only 3 to 5 minutes. Surprised? Those moments can feel intense. Even one puff can feed a craving and make it stronger. Before your quit day, write down healthy ways to cope.
    • Drink water.
    • Take a walk or ride your bike.
    • Listen to a favorite song or play a game.
    • Call or text a friend.
  4. Remove cigarettes and other tobacco from your home, car, and workplace. Throw away your cigarettes, matches, lighters, and ashtrays. Clean and freshen your car, home, and workplace. Old cigarette odors can cause cravings.
  5. Talk to your pharmacist, doctor, or quitline coach about quit options. Nicotine patches, gum, or other approved quit medication can help with cravings.

Thinking of himself as a nonsmoker helped Mark quit smoking for good.

Mark: "In a short time, the craving went away."

Mark grew up in California and started smoking as a teenager to fit in with friends. At 19, he joined the Air Force, where he continued to smoke. He used cigarettes or smokeless tobacco, and sometimes both, through two tours of duty in the Persian Gulf. Mark smoked until 2009, when he developed rectal cancer at age 42. Mark was no longer in harm's way on active military duty. But Mark faced the fight of his life. His illness—rectal cancer—is a type of colorectal cancer. Mark quit smoking soon after learning he had rectal cancer.

When Mark finally gave up cigarettes and smokeless tobacco for good, the first 2 weeks were very hard. "Thinking of myself as a nonsmoker helped, and in a short time the craving went away,” he said. Mark shared his story in CDC’s national tobacco education campaign, Tips From Former Smokers.

In Focus: Smoking and Colorectal Cancer

Mark never imagined that he would be diagnosed with rectal cancer, but the severity of his illness helped him quit smoking for good. Quitting smoking can help you prevent many life-threatening illnesses, including colorectal cancer.

Of cancers affecting both men and women, colorectal cancer (cancer of the colon and rectum) is the second leading cancer killer in the United States, but it doesn't have to be. Screening can find precancerous polyps—abnormal growths in the colon or rectum—so they can be removed before turning into cancer. Screening also helps find colorectal cancer at an early stage, when treatment often leads to a cure.

If you are 50 years old or older, get screened now. If you think you may be at higher than average risk for colorectal cancer, talk to your doctor about getting screened early.

CDC's Screen for Life: National Colorectal Cancer Action Campaign informs men and women aged 50 years and older about the importance of getting screened for colorectal cancer regularly.

CDC's Colorectal Cancer Control Program supports population-based screening efforts in several states and tribes.

Why Do You Want to Quit?

Perhaps you want to live a healthier life, live longer for your family members, or save money that you'd typically spend on cigarettes.
Write down your reasons for quitting, no matter what motivates you to make this smart decision. Refer to the list whenever you have the urge to smoke. It will help remind you of all the reasons you want to quit. Remember, you can quit smoking and enjoy many healthy triumphs for years to come!

For Mark, his wife and young daughter provided two very big reasons to quit smoking. Mark hopes his story will inspire others to quit as soon as possible, especially young people. "There's nothing good that comes from smoking."

You Can Do It!

Your first quit day may come as a pleasant surprise to you. Making the decision to quit helps you realize and appreciate your own determination! You have the strength it takes to quit smoking forever.

More Information

More Information

The support provided by the Great American Smokeout doesn't end when the day is over. The following resources can help you quit.