Smoking is the single most preventable cause of death in the US, and it is a major contributor to heart disease and stroke. This is because smoking damages and reduces the function of your heart and blood vessels, which negatively impacts your health in many different ways.
If you smoke, the best thing you can do for yourself and those who care about you is to quit. But we know—quitting is hard. In fact, most people have tried to quit more than once. If you’re reading this and are considering quitting, welcome. You’re starting in the right place, and these tips can help you kick the habit for good.
Understand the risks of smoking
- Smoking and secondhand smoke cause nearly one third of heart disease deaths—coronary artery disease (CAD) being the most common form of heart disease.
- 90% of lung cancer cases in the US are attributable to smoking.
- People who smoke die an average of 10 years earlier than people who don’t smoke.
- Even if you smoke fewer than 5 cigarettes a day, you have an increased risk for diseases of the heart and blood vessels (cardiovascular disease).
Find out if you have a tobacco addiction
If you think you smoke only when you want to, you might assume you can quit anytime. But most people who smoke are addicted to nicotine and have a difficult time quitting.
These are simple ways to tell if you have a tobacco addiction:
- You reach for a cigarette within 30 minutes of waking up.
- Being sick doesn’t stop you from smoking.
- You still go outside to smoke, even in bad weather like freezing cold or rain.
- It’s hard for you not to smoke in places you shouldn’t, such as hospitals, movie theaters, or in a house of worship.
Consider whether to use smoking cessation aids to help you quit
If your addiction is strong, you may need aids to quit. Talk to your healthcare professional about options, including:
- Nonprescription nicotine replacement aids, like gum, lozenges, or the patch
- Prescription aids, like nicotine spray or non-nicotine medicines
Make a plan
Choose a day to quit, and mark it on your calendar or set a reminder on your phone. Decide if you will quit all at once or slowly reduce the number of cigarettes you smoke each day until the day you have chosen to quit. Once you have stopped smoking cigarettes, you can start nicotine replacement aids if you’ve decided to use them.
Set yourself up for success
- Accept that you will have cravings, and plan for them. Stock up on healthy snacks, like apples and peanut butter, nuts, carrot sticks, or other fruits and veggies. When you feel a craving, reach for them instead. Chewing gum can also help.
- Have a friend or family member who also smokes? Ask them to quit with you! A quitting buddy can make things easier, and you can support each other when things get difficult.
For more advice and resources about quitting smoking, visit the American Heart Association’s website.