Stopping smoking is hard. For many smokers, it may take multiple tries to break the addiction for good. And often, getting support from friends, family, and experts is what smokers need to make the life-saving choice to quit.
That’s why the American Cancer Society gives extra inspiration to smokers nationwide each year through its Great American Smokeout – a day when smokers are encouraged to quit for the day and make a plan to quit for good.
Quitting even for one day is an important step towards a smoke-free life, but even that can prove difficult.
As someone who has been in the fight against tobacco for more than 25 years, I have seen just how challenging it can be for smokers to quit. I have helped pass laws making airplanes smoke-free, worked to defend local smoke-free restaurant and workplace laws, and consulted to United States government leaders about what more we as a nation can do to put an end to the harms of tobacco use.
But even with all of the progress we have made, for those who smoke, quitting is still a hard-fought battle to win. Some people are able to quit on their own, without the help of others or the use of medicines. For many though, it can be challenging to break not only the physical addiction, but also the social and emotional ties to smoking.
These are my 4 tips to help you make today the day you choose to quit:
- Take it one step at a time: The most important step is the first one — making the decision to quit.
- Make use of stop-smoking tools: Today, smokers have more tools than ever to help them become tobacco-free including FDA-approved nicotine replacement therapies and medications and expert counseling services. Studies show that with the aid of medications, as many as 25% of smokers can stay smoke-free for over 6 months. And while counseling and medication are both effective when used separately for treating tobacco dependence, the combination of the two can increase the odds of quitting by 50%.
- Don’t give up: Since nicotine is a powerful drug, smokers often have to make several quit attempts, choosing among a selection of scientifically-proven tools before finding an option or combination that works for them.
- Remember, it is worth it: After quitting smoking, your body immediately experiences the benefits. In just 20 minutes, your heart rate and blood pressure drop. In 12 hours, the carbon monoxide level in your blood drops to normal. And that’s just the beginning. Check out our infographic, How Does Your Body Recover After Quitting Smoking, to learn more.
We are all in this together
Thanks to increased awareness, research, and other efforts, smoking rates have dropped dramatically in the past several decades, from about 42% of adults in 1965 to about 16.8% in 2014. That reduction in the U.S. smoking rate has saved approximately 8 million lives due to more adults quitting and fewer children starting.
Still, about 42 million adults currently smoke cigarettes, and there has been a rise in use of hookah smoking among youth and young adults. Tobacco remains a major killer, no matter how it’s smoked, responsible for nearly one in five deaths in the United States, and nearly 30% of all cancer deaths.
Join the American Cancer Society today and celebrate the Great American Smokeout by making your plan to quit smoking. To borrow from this year’s event theme, by doing so you will be a champion to yourself, your family, your friends and colleagues. Congratulations on making the commitment on this special day!
Douglas is the American Cancer Society vice president of tobacco control and director of the American Cancer Society Center for Tobacco Control.