Tobacco use can lead to tobacco/nicotine dependence and serious health problems. Cessation can significantly reduce the risk of suffering from smoking-related diseases. Tobacco/nicotine dependence is a chronic condition that often requires repeated interventions, but effective treatments and helpful resources exist. Smokers can and do quit smoking. In fact, today there are more former smokers than current smokers.
- Nicotine is the psychoactive drug in tobacco products that produces dependence. Most smokers are dependent on nicotine.
- Nicotine dependence is the most common form of chemical dependence in the United States.6 Research suggests that nicotine may be as addictive as heroin, cocaine, or alcohol.
- Quitting smoking is difficult and may require multiple attempts. Users often relapse because of stress, weight gain, and withdrawal symptoms.
- Nicotine withdrawal symptoms may include irritability, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, and increased appetite.
Health Benefits of Cessation
Breaking free from nicotine dependence is not the only reason to quit smoking. Tobacco smoke contains a deadly mix of more than 7,000 chemicals; hundreds are toxic, and about 70 can cause cancer. Tobacco smoke can cause serious health problems, numerous diseases, and death.
Fortunately, people who stop smoking greatly reduce their risk for disease and premature death. Although the health benefits are greater for people who stop at earlier ages, cessation is beneficial at all ages.
Smoking cessation is associated with the following health benefits:
- moking cessation lowers the risk for lung and other types of cancer.
- Smoking cessation reduces the risk for coronary heart disease, stroke, and peripheral vascular disease. Coronary heart disease risk is substantially reduced within 1 to 2 years of quitting.
- Smoking cessation reduces respiratory symptoms, such as coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath. The rate of decline in lung function is slower among people who quit smoking than among those who continue to smoke.
- Smoking cessation reduces the risk of developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), one of the leading causes of death in the United States.
- Smoking cessation by women during their reproductive years reduces the risk for infertility. Women who stop smoking during pregnancy also reduce their risk of having a low birth weight baby.
Methods to Quit Smoking
The majority of cigarette smokers quit without using evidence-based cessation treatments. However, the following treatments are proven effective for smokers who want help to quit:
- Brief clinical interventions (i.e., when a doctor takes 10 minutes or less to deliver advice and assistance about quitting)
- Counseling (e.g., individual, group, or telephone counseling and quitlines; online smoking cessation programs)
- Behavioral cessation therapies (e.g., training in problem solving)
- Treatments with more person-to-person contact and intensity (e.g., more time with counselors)
Cessation medications found to be effective for treating tobacco dependence include the following:
- Nicotine replacement products1
- Over-the-counter (e.g., nicotine patch, gum, lozenge)
- Prescription (e.g., nicotine inhaler, nasal spray)
- Prescription non-nicotine medications, such as bupropion SR and varenicline tartrate
- The combination of medication and counseling is more effective for smoking cessation than either medication or counseling alone.