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Start on the path to quitting smoking

Last Modified: October 12, 2023

Family Medicine


This post was written by Julie Burgener, Workplace Wellness, Parkview Employer Solutions.

Are you considering quitting smoking? Smoking cessation is the process of discontinuing tobacco smoking, and it can take many different paths depending on you and your goals. According to the American Lung Association, nicotine affects someone physically, socially and mentally. Having strategies in place that address all three areas will increase your chance of staying smoke-free long-term. Here, we’ll look at the benefits of quitting as well as some strategies you should consider for your smoking cessation journey.

What are the benefits of smoking cessation?

The benefits of quitting smoking are vast and different for everyone. Knowing which benefits are most important to you is a great way to keep your motivation high as you go through the process of quitting.

Physical benefits – Quitting smoking can positively impact your health in a number of ways. The American Lung Association lists some specific health benefits including:

  • Your heart rate drops to normal level within 20 minutes of quitting.
  • The carbon monoxide level in your blood drops to a normal level within 12 hours of quitting.
  • Lung function improves within two weeks to three months of quitting.
  • Coughing and shortness of breath begins to decrease within one to nine months of quitting.
  • Your risk of coronary heart disease becomes half that of a smoker within one year of quitting.
  • Your risk of having a stroke is reduced to that of a non-smoker within five to 15 years of quitting.

Financial benefits – Quitting smoking can save you money. According to the American Lung Association, this could add up to between $1,380 and $2,540 saved annually by quitting a pack-a-day habit, more if you smoke more than one pack! You may also be able to save money on healthcare expenses and some insurance and life insurance plans.

Mental health benefits – Although people who smoke tend to think cigarettes help improve their mood, the smoking is usually what’s causing their anxiety in the first place. People who stop smoking often realize lower levels of anxiety, depression and stress. And, if you’re on medications to treat a mental health disorder, you’ll most likely be able to lower your dose.

What are some strategies for quitting?

Different strategies work for different people. It’s important to find the right strategy or strategies that are best for you. Here are a few to consider:

  • Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT): Research suggests that people who use NRT products and medications double or possibly triple their chances of quitting long-term. Contact your healthcare provider to discuss NRT options, which include patches, lozenges, gum, nasal sprays and inhalers.
  • Tracking: Tracking nicotine use is a great first step in identifying when and why tobacco is used. The more you know how tobacco shows up in your daily life, the better you can create a plan that addresses it. Include details such as the time of day, amount, situation, need and mood to get a clear picture of your tobacco use. There are a lot of great tobacco use tracking apps, but pen and paper works too.
  • Planning against triggers: Once you understand your tobacco use patterns, you can actively plan against triggers. The American Lung Association suggests “Three As for Acting Against Triggers:” Avoid, Alter, Alternative.
    • Avoid the trigger situation. Ex: Forgo a work break with individuals who use tobacco.
    • Alter the trigger situation. Ex: Put tobacco products in the trunk of the car before driving.
    • Use alternatives in place of tobacco products. Ex: Trying a relaxation technique in a stressful situation.
  • Build support: Everyone’s journey to quitting is different. Building professional and social support will put you in the best position to reach your goals. Some support options may include:

By keeping these points in mind, you’ll be off to a good start. However, please remember that the process may take time. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) suggests that, on average, it takes 8-11 attempts before quitting permanently. If you relapse, it’s important to take it as a lesson instead of a failure. Understanding what happened and the contributing factors can help you adjust your plan moving forward. 

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