Smoke from cigarettes, cigars, and pipes, as well as smokeless tobacco products, have all been linked to cancer. Although it may seem overwhelming to work on quitting tobacco while you’re dealing with cancer treatment or recovery, it’s never too late to quit. The sooner the better.
Cancer survivors who smoke should quit to reduce their risk for cancer coming back or a new cancer.
How Smoking Affects You
To maintain your health and the well-being of those you care about, be sure you know the latest facts about tobacco and cancer.
Learn About the Carcinogens in Tobacco Products and Smoke
Tobacco smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals, 70 of which are carcinogens, meaning they have been proven to cause cancer. Smokeless tobacco products also contain cancer-causing agents. Find out more about the links between tobacco products and cancer.
Know the Health Risks of Smoking
- Smoking is the cause of nearly 1 in 5 deaths in the United States every year.
- There is no safe way to use tobacco. Even smokeless tobacco causes cancer.
- Smoking damages nearly every organ in the body and increases the risk for several types of cancer.
- Secondhand smoke is especially dangerous for children and babies.
Take a Quiz: How Bad is Secondhand Smoke?
Do you know the dangers of secondhand smoke? Take this quiz to test your knowledge.
Understand Nicotine Addiction
Nicotine is the chemical in cigarettes that makes you want to keep smoking. People who are addicted to nicotine may have intense nicotine cravings and experience withdrawal symptoms when they go without nicotine for some time.
Take a Quiz: How Strong is Your Nicotine Addiction?
Take this quiz to find out how much you depend on nicotine. Understanding your addiction can help you choose the right quit methods.
It’s never too late to quit using tobacco. The sooner you quit, the easier it will be for your body to recover from cancer.
Benefits of Quitting
Within minutes after you quit using tobacco, you’ll experience some of these benefits:
- Your heart rate and blood pressure, which are abnormally high while smoking, begin to return to normal.
- Food tastes better.
- Your sense of smell returns to normal.
- Your breath, hair, and clothes smell better.
- Your teeth and fingernails stop yellowing.
- Activities like climbing stairs leave you less out of breath.
- You can be in smoke-free buildings without having to go outside to smoke.
Learn more about the benefits of quitting smoking over time.
Prepare to Quit
Quitting is hard. But it is easier if you prepare ahead of time.
- Set a quit date.
- Tell family and friends you plan to quit.
- Plan for challenges while quitting.
- Remove cigarettes and other tobacco products from your home, car, and workplace.
- Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about quit smoking medications.
Build a Quit Plan
Build a quit plan online to get ready and find out what to expect along the way. This interactive activity will help you:
- Set your quit date.
- Choose your reasons for quitting.
- Identify your smoking triggers.
- Prepare to fight cravings.
- Get rid of smoking reminders.
Quitting Smokeless Tobacco
Quitting smokeless tobacco is similar to quitting smoking, but two aspects make it a little different. First, smokeless tobacco users often want something in their mouths to take the place of the chew, snuff, or pouch. Second, sores in the mouth begin to go away and any gum issues caused by the smokeless tobacco tend to stop getting worse. Learn more about how to quit smokeless tobacco.
Know Your Medication Options
The nicotine in cigarettes leads to actual physical dependence, which can cause unpleasant withdrawal symptoms when you try to quit. Quit smoking medications can help reduce your cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Studies have shown that these medications can double your chances of quitting for good.
Explore Nicotine Replacement Therapy
Nicotine replacement therapy gives you nicotine in smaller doses, without the other harmful chemicals in tobacco. As you quit, your therapy provides less and less nicotine, allowing your body to gradually get used to going without nicotine. Nicotine replacement therapy is available in a variety of options, including gums, patches, sprays, inhalers, or lozenges. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about which option is right for you. Learn more.
Prescriptions to Help You Quit
Other quit smoking medications are available by prescription.
- Bupropion helps to reduce nicotine withdrawal and the urge to smoke. It also can be used safely with nicotine replacement therapy.
- Varenicline helps to reduce nicotine withdrawal and the urge to smoke. It also blocks the effects of nicotine from cigarettes if the user starts smoking again.
Although medications can help with cravings and withdrawal‚ they won’t completely take away your urge to smoke. Quitting still may be hard at times. Talk to your doctor if you are interested in medication to help you quit. Learn more about prescription drugs that can help you quit.
Cravings and Triggers
The urge to smoke will come and go. People, places, things, and situations all could trigger your urge to smoke. Understanding your triggers can help you navigate cravings and stay smokefree over the long haul.
Know Your Triggers
Everyone who smokes has smoking triggers. Knowing your triggers helps you stay in control.
Here are some common smoking triggers:
- Feeling stressed
- Feeling down
- Talking on the phone
- Taking a break at work
- Finishing a meal
- Seeing someone else smoke
- Cooling off after a fight
- Going to a bar
- Drinking alcohol
- Watching TV
Make a Plan
When you get a craving, you may notice that your mood changes. You might feel anxious, irritable, angry, or even depressed. Understand that these feelings are normal when you quit, and you will feel better and better over time.
Make a list of things you can do to distract yourself from your tobacco cravings:
- Picture your success.
- Review your reasons for quitting.
- Take deep breaths.
- Drink some water.
- Chew a piece of gum or suck on hard candy.
- Eat some carrots, pickles, apples, celery, or raisins.
- Call or text someone (unless talking on the phone is a trigger for you).
- See if you can wait 15 minutes.
- Read a magazine or listen to music.
- Do housework.
- Take a walk or jog.
- Go to a smokefree zone.
- Here are more tips.
Cope with Withdrawal Symptoms
When you stop smoking‚ your body has to get used to not having nicotine. That’s withdrawal. Withdrawal can be uncomfortable. Some people say it feels like a mild case of the flu. For most people, the worst symptoms last a few days to a few weeks. Explore your Nicotine Replacement Therapy options to help lessen withdrawal symptoms.
Take a Quiz: What are Your Withdrawal Symptoms?
This quiz looks at your level of withdrawal symptoms. You may want to take the quiz every day in the first couple of weeks after you quit. The quiz can help you understand what you are going through and how it is changing.
Tips for Slips
Don’t get discouraged if you slip up and smoke one or two cigarettes. Don’t let one cigarette turn into an entire pack, and don't use a slip as an excuse to start smoking again. Here are some tips if you slip:
- Understand that you’ve had a slip, just a small setback. That doesn’t make you a smoker again.
- Don’t be too hard on yourself. Just get back to your quitting again.
- Feel good about all the time you went without smoking.
- Identify what triggered your slip.
- Learn from your experience.
- Ask for support from friends, family members, and coworkers.
- Find out more tips.
Quitting smoking is tough, but doing things to take care of yourself will help ease withdrawal and build healthier patterns for your daily life.
Manage Your Mood
You may feel like smoking helps you get through times when you just can’t deal with your emotions. Although you might feel better in the moment, smoking isn’t really helping.
Learn other ways to cope without smoking:
- Take a time out.
- Express yourself.
- Distract yourself.
- Get your body moving.
- Practice dealing with stressful situations.
Find ways to fit regular exercise into your life. Most people are safe to start walking or other light to moderate exercise on their own. However, if you’ve never exercised before, or if you have balance problems or muscle weakness, check with your doctor to determine a safe exercise program before adding physical activity to your routine. You may need physical therapy or another medically supervised conditioning program.
Features of a good exercise plan include the following:
- Start slow with low-intensity, short-duration workouts and build up more time and intensity over time.
- Try smaller goals first, like a 10-minute walk during lunch.
- Include a warm-up for at least 2 to 3 minutes and a cool down period.
- Include three types of exercise: aerobic exercise, exercises that increase your flexibility and range of motion, and muscle-strengthening exercise.
- Try a new activity.
- Develop a routine and stick to it.
- Track your activity.
Mobile Resources to Help You Quit
A number of mobile apps are available to help you quit tobacco and stay quit.
Download an App
Download these free mobile apps from your phone’s app store.
QuitGuide and quitSTART
Get 24/7 help with a Smokefree app for your smartphone.
- QuitGuide tracks your cravings, moods, slips, and progress to help you understand your smoking patterns and build the skills you need to become and stay smokefree.
- quitSTART takes the information you provide about your smoking history and gives you tailored tips, motivation, and challenges to help you become smokefree and live a healthier life. The app is designed for teens, but adults can use it too.
Quit for Life
The American Cancer Society’s Quit for Life® app, offered by more U.S. states and employers than any other tobacco cessation counseling program.
SmokefreeTXT provides 24/7 encouragement, advice, and tips via text messaging service to help you quit smoking and stay quit. Users receive 1 to 5 messages a day and can receive additional quit support by texting one of SmokefreeTXT’s keywords. Simply text the word QUIT to 47848 from your mobile phone, answer a few questions, and start receiving messages. You can also sign up online today.
National Cancer Institute Resources
The National Cancer Institute operates live online and telephone assistance to help you quit.
Chat with NCI LiveHelp
Call the NCI Quitline
Get information and tips by calling 1-877-44U-QUIT (1-877-448-7848). Lines are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
The Great American Smokeout
The American Cancer Society Great American Smokeout event is your chance to triumph over addiction. Every November, the third Thursday is set aside to encourage smokers to go the distance and to give up smoking.
Learn More About Quitting Tobacco
The National Cancer Institute and the American Cancer Society have additional resources to help you, including the following: