The Basics: Overview
Quitting smoking is one of the most important things you can do for your health. The sooner you quit, the sooner your body can start to heal. You’ll feel better and have more energy to be active with your family and friends.
Smoking hurts almost every part of the body.
Smoking tobacco is the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the United States.
For example, smoking cigarettes (which have tobacco in them) causes:
- Lung cancer, colorectal cancer, and many other types of cancer
- Heart disease and stroke
- COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
- Pregnancy problems
- Gum disease
- Type 2 diabetes
- Vision loss
- Rheumatoid arthritis
Learn more about how smoking affects different parts of the body.
The Basics: Secondhand Smoke
Smoking hurts other people, too.
Secondhand smoke is a mix of the smoke that you breathe out and the smoke that comes from your cigarette. Secondhand smoke is dangerous and can cause health problems for the people around you.
In babies and children, breathing in secondhand smoke can cause:
- Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
- Severe asthma attacks
- Ear infections
In adults, breathing in secondhand smoke can cause:
- Heart disease
- Lung cancer
The Basics: E-cigarettes
E-cigarettes (sometimes called “vapes”) work by heating a liquid to make an aerosol that people breathe in. E-cigarette aerosol is not harmless. It can have harmful — and possibly harmful — substances, like heavy metals and chemicals that can cause cancer. Most e-cigarettes also have nicotine (the addictive drug found in tobacco products).
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved e-cigarettes as a quit-smoking aid.
Learn about e-cigarettes and how they affect your health.
The Basics: How Can I Quit?
You can quit smoking.
Quitting smoking is hard, but millions of people have done it successfully. In fact, more than half of Americans who ever smoked have quit. You could be one of them! It often takes people several tries to quit smoking, but don’t get discouraged — every attempt to quit means you’re one step closer to quitting for good.
Nicotine — the drug found in all tobacco products — is as addictive as heroin or cocaine. It’s the nicotine in cigarettes that causes cravings, or the strong feeling that you want to smoke. Remember — quitting isn’t easy, but it is possible!
Take these steps to help you quit:
- Make a list of the reasons you want to quit
- Set a quit date and make a plan to deal with cravings
- Ask your family, friends, and co-workers for support
- Talk to your doctor about counseling and medicines that can help you quit
- Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669) or visit Smokefree.gov for free help
- Text QUITNOW to 333888 or visit SmokefreeTXT to enroll in a texting program for support with quitting
- Download a free app for 24/7 support and encouragement
Find out more about steps you can take as you get ready to quit smoking.
The Basics: Health Benefits
You’ll feel better after you quit.
Your body begins to heal as soon as you quit smoking. Here are some ways you’ll feel better:
- You’ll breathe more easily
- You’ll cough and wheeze less
- Your senses of taste and smell will improve
- You’ll have more energy
- Your lungs will become stronger, making it easier for you to be active
Find out more about how quitting smoking will help your health.
Quitting smoking will help you live a longer, healthier life.
After you quit smoking:
- Your risk of having a heart attack or stroke goes down
- Your risk of getting cancer goes down
- The levels of oxygen and carbon monoxide in your blood return to normal
If you have children, you can also help them be healthier if you quit smoking. Children whose parents smoke around them are at higher risk for lung problems, ear infections, and other health problems.
Check out these real stories of people living with serious health effects from smoking.
The Basics: Weight Control
Will quitting make me gain weight?
Some people worry about gaining weight when they quit smoking. It’s true that some people gain weight after quitting — but remember that not smoking is one of the best things you can do for your health.
You can help prevent weight gain by making healthy choices. For example:
- Get active — aim for 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, like walking fast or dancing. Use this tool to get ideas for moving more.
- Eat healthy snacks, like vegetables or fruit. Get more tips for eating healthy.
- Talk with your doctor about ways to control your weight. Learn how to stay at a healthy weight.
To learn more ways to watch your weight after quitting, check out these tips.
Take Action: Make a Plan
Take these steps to create your plan to quit smoking.
Write down your reasons to quit.
Make a list of all the reasons you want to quit. For example, maybe you want to set a healthy example for your children and save money. Keep the list with you to remind yourself why quitting is worth it.
Set a quit date.
- Pick a date that gives you enough time to get ready to quit — but make sure it’s soon enough that you don’t lose your motivation
- Tell your family, friends, and coworkers about your quit date so they can support you
Make a quit plan.
- Think about situations that might trigger you to smoke and plan how you’ll handle them without smoking
- Right before your quit date, go through your house, car, and workplace to get rid of anything that has to do with smoking — throw away all your cigarettes, ashtrays, lighters, and matches
- Clean your clothes so they don’t smell like smoke
Check out this online quit plan tool or call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669) for free support and help setting up your quit plan.
Take Action: Change Routines
Switch up your daily routine.
Changing your routine on your quit date and afterward can help you avoid smoking triggers. For example, you can:
- Take a different route to work
- Avoid activities and places you connect with smoking — at least for the first few weeks
- Spend time in places where smoking isn’t allowed
- Make getting active and eating healthy part of your quit plan — eat healthy snacks, go for walks, and drink lots of water
Break the connection between eating and smoking.
Many people like to smoke when they finish a meal. Here are some ways to break the connection:
- Get up from the table as soon as you’re done eating
- Brush your teeth and think about the fresh, clean feeling in your mouth
- Go for a walk after meals
Take Action: Stress, Cravings, and Withdrawal
Deal with stress.
Some people smoke to deal with stress. But there are ways to deal with stress without smoking.
Manage stress by creating peaceful times in your daily schedule. Try relaxation methods like deep breathing, short walks, and meditation. Learn more about managing stress.
You can also check out these tips for dealing with stress as you quit.
Manage cravings and withdrawal.
When you quit smoking, your body and brain have to get used to not having nicotine. This can cause cravings — or urges — to smoke. You may also have symptoms of nicotine withdrawal. For example, you may:
- Feel irritable or restless
- Have trouble sleeping
- Be hungrier than usual
The good news is that, over time, cravings and withdrawal symptoms will fade as long as you do not smoke again.
Here are some ways to manage cravings and withdrawal:
- Keep your hands busy — try brushing your teeth, washing your hands, sorting the mail, or doing the dishes
- Have healthy snacks ready — like baby carrots, apples, or whole-grain crackers
- Distract yourself with a new activity — try playing a game on your phone, reading a book, or doing crosswords or other puzzles
- Get active — go for a walk, do some yard work, or try a workout class
- Take several deep breaths to help you relax
- Write down or read your list of reasons for quitting
- Connect with others — reach out to friends and loved ones who support your efforts to quit
Want to learn more about managing cravings and withdrawal? Check out these tips.
Take Action: Get Help
Talk with a doctor, nurse, or pharmacist.
- Strategies for quitting smoking that are likely to work best for you
- Medicines that can improve your chances of quitting — and how to use these medicines the right way
When you stop smoking, your body goes through withdrawal from nicotine. This means you may feel irritable, anxious, restless, or hungry. You may even have trouble concentrating or sleeping. Find out about medicines that can help with withdrawal.
What about cost?
Under the Affordable Care Act, most insurance plans must cover services to help people quit smoking. Depending on your insurance, you may be able to get these services at no cost to you. Check with your insurance company to find out more.
Medicare may also cover services to help people quit smoking at no cost. If you have Medicare, learn about Medicare coverage for services to quit smoking.
If you don’t have insurance, you may still be able to get free or low-cost services to quit smoking. Find a health center near you and ask about help to quit smoking.
To learn more, check out these resources:
- Free preventive care for adults covered by the Affordable Care Act
- Health coverage rights and protections
- Understanding your health insurance and how to use it [PDF – 698 KB]
You can also get free help with quitting by calling 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669) and by visiting Smokefree.gov.
Take Action: Stick with It
Don’t give up!
It takes time to overcome addiction. Many people try to quit several times before they succeed. And it’s normal to have setbacks — especially in the first 3 months after quitting.
If you slip up and have a cigarette, don’t be hard on yourself — instead, get right back to trying to quit for good. Remember, quitting is one of the most important things you can do to protect your health.
Learn from the past.
If you’ve tried to quit before, think about what worked for you and what didn’t. For example, being around other people who smoke can make it harder to quit. So can drinking alcohol.
If you’re having a hard time staying smoke-free, talk with your doctor about what types of counseling or medicines might help you.