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Patient information: Quitting smoking (The Basics)
Written by the doctors and editors at UpToDate
All topics are updated as new evidence becomes available and our peer review process is complete.
This topic retrieved from UpToDate on:
Nov 07, 2013.
What are the benefits of quitting smoking?
— Quitting smoking can lower your chances of getting
or dying from heart disease, lung disease, or cancer. It can also lower your chances of getting
osteoporosis, a condition that makes your bones weak. Plus, quitting smoking can help your skin look
younger and reduce the chances that you will have problems with sex.
Quitting smoking will improve your health no matter how old you are, and no matter how long or how
What should I do if I want to quit smoking?
— The letters in the word “START” can help you
= Set a quit date.
= Tell family, friends, and the people around you that you plan to quit.
= Anticipate or plan ahead for the tough times you'll face while quitting.
= Remove cigarettes and other tobacco products from your home, car, and work.
= Talk to your doctor about getting help to quit.
How can my doctor or nurse help?
— Your doctor or nurse can give you advice on the best way to
quit. He or she can also put you in touch with counselors or other people you can call for support.
Plus, your doctor or nurse can give you medicines to:
Reduce the unpleasant symptoms that happen when you stop smoking (called “withdrawal
You can also get help from a free phone line (1-800-QUIT-NOW) or go online t
What are the symptoms of withdrawal?
— The symptoms include:
Being irritable, anxious or restless
Some people who stop smoking become temporarily depressed. Some of them need treatment for
depression, such as counseling or antidepressant medicines. If you get depressed when you quit
smoking, tell your doctor or nurse about it.
How do medicines help?
— Different medicines work in different ways:
replacement therapy eases withdrawal and reduces your body’s craving for nicotine,
the main drug found in cigarettes. Non-prescription forms of nicotine replacement include skin
patches, lozenges, and gum. Prescription forms include nasal sprays and “puffers” or inhalers.
Bupropion is a prescription medicine that reduces your desire to smoke. This medicine is sold
under the brand names Zyban and Wellbutrin. It is also available in a generic version, which is
Varenicline (brand name: Chantix) is a prescription medicine that reduces withdrawal
symptoms and cigarette cravings. If you think you’d like to take varenicline and you have a
history of depression, anxiety, or heart disease, discuss this with your doctor or nurse before
If you take bupropion or varenicline and you have any of the following symptoms, stop taking the
How does counseling work?
— Counseling can happen during formal office visits or just over the
Figure out what triggers your smoking and what to do instead
Figure out what went wrong when you tried to quit before
What works best?
— Studies show that people have the best luck at quitting if they take medicines
to help them quit and
work with a counselor. It might also be helpful to combine nicotine replacement
with 1 of the prescription medicines that help people quit.
Will I gain weight if I quit?
— Yes, you might gain a few pounds. But quitting smoking will have a
much more positive effect on your health than weighing a few pounds more. Plus, you can help
prevent some weight gain by being more active and eating less. Taking the medicine bupropion might
What else can I do to improve my chances of quitting?
— You can:
Stay away from smokers and places that you associate with smoking. If people close to you
Keep gum, hard candy, or something to put in your mouth handy. If you get a craving for a
Don’t give up, even if you start smoking again. It takes most people a few tries before they
What if I am pregnant and I smoke?
— If you are pregnant, it’s really important for the health of
your baby that you quit. Ask your doctor what options you have, and what is safest for your baby.
More on this topic
Patient information: Secondhand smoke: Risks to children (The Basics)
Patient information: Smoking in pregnancy (The Basics)
Patient information: Cough in adults (The Basics)
Patient information: Lung cancer screening (The Basics)
Patient information: Quitting smoking (Beyond the Basics)
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