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Why should I quit smoking?

When you quit:

        Your chances of getting sick from smoking will be less.

        You will have more energy and breathe easier.

        If you are pregnant, your baby will get more oxygen and be healthier.

        Your children and other people in your home will be healthier. Second-hand smoke can cause asthma and other health problems.

        You will have more money to spend on other things.

Should women who smoke be concerned about heart disease?

Yes. More women die each year from heart disease than from any other illness. Smoking is the major cause of heart disease in women, especially those younger than age 50. Women who use birth control pills have a much higher risk of heart disease if they smoke. But after just one year of quitting smoking, you reduce your risk of heart disease by half.

What happens to my body when I smoke?

When you smoke, you can become addicted to, or not able to do without, nicotine. Nicotine is as habit-forming as the drugs heroin and cocaine. Over time, you may have problems with your teeth and gums; staining on your teeth, fingers, and fingernails; bad breath; and wrinkling skin. There are also other, more serious health problems, caused by smoking:

        Lung cancer and other lung diseases, such as emphysema and chronic bronchitis

        Other kinds of cancer, such as cancer of the throat, mouth, esophagus (food pipe), pancreas, kidney, bladder, and cervix (opening to the uterus or womb)

        Atherosclerosis - clogged and narrowed arteries

        Heart disease

        Heart attack


        Early menopause - the stopping of menstrual periods

        Osteoporosis - the thinning and weakening of bones

        Infertility - problems getting pregnant

        Problems during pregnancy like miscarriage, early or premature birth, having an infant born with low birth weight, stillbirth, and even infant death

What are the dangers of second-hand smoke?

Second-hand smoke happens when non-smokers inhale other people's tobacco smoke. It includes:

        Sidestream smoke - smoke that comes directly from a burning cigarette, pipe, or cigar.

        Mainstream smoke - smoke that is exhaled by the smoker.

When a cigarette is smoked, about half of the smoke is sidestream smoke. Sidestream smoke contains most of the same chemicals found in the mainstream smoke inhaled by the smoker.

People who don't smoke, but are exposed to second-hand smoke, absorb nicotine and other chemicals just as someone who smokes does. Studies have shown that second-hand smoke can cause lung cancer in healthy adults who do not smoke. Children of parents who smoke are more likely to suffer from pneumonia, bronchitis, ear infections, asthma, and SIDS (the sudden death of a baby under age one which cannot be explained). Mothers who smoke and breastfeed may pass harmful chemicals from nicotine to their baby through breast milk.

No, it's never too late to quit. Quit smoking now to start feeling these benefits.

20 minutes after quitting:

        Your blood pressure drops back to normal.

        The temperature in your hands and feet returns to normal.

8 hours after quitting:

        The carbon monoxide (a gas that can be toxic) in your blood drops to normal.

24 hours after quitting:

        Your chance of having a heart attack goes down.

2 days after quitting:

        You can taste and smell things better.

2 weeks to 3 months after quitting:

        You have better blood flow.

        Your lungs are working better.

1 to 9 months after quitting:

        Coughing, sinus congestion, fatigue, and shortness of breath decrease.

        Your lungs start to function better, lowering your risk of lung infections.

1 year after quitting:

        You reduce your risk for heart disease by half.

5 to 15 years after quitting:

        Your risk of having a stroke is the same as someone who never smoked.

10 years after quitting:

        Your risk of lung cancer is nearly the same as someone who never smoked.

        Your risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, bladder, kidney, and pancreas also decrease.

15 years after quitting:

        Your risk of heart disease is now the same as someone who has never smoked.

I've tried to quit many times. What if I can't quit smoking?

Don't be discouraged if you start smoking again. Most relapses occur within the first three months after quitting. Remember, most women try two or three times before they quit for good. Certain things or situations can increase your chances of smoking again, such as drinking alcohol, being around other people who smoke, gaining weight, and stress. Talk with your health care provider for ways to help avoid or deal with these situations.

Everyone can quit smoking. Think back to why quitting was important to you. Look for a special reason to motivate you to try again.

        Pregnant women/new moms - quit now to protect your baby's health and your own.

        Heart attack patients - quit now to lower your risk of a second heart attack.

        Lung cancer patients - quit now to reduce your risk of a second cancer.

        Women post-menopause - quit now to reduce your risk of osteoporosis.

        Mothers of children and teens - quit now to protect them from illnesses caused by second-hand smoke.

Is it better to smoke "light" cigarettes?

You may think that "light" cigarettes are less harmful than regular ones. More women than men smoke these brands, mostly due to advertising targeted to women. But they're not better. They put smokers at the same risk for health problems just as regular ones do. Some cigarette packs say that light cigarettes have lower tar and nicotine. Don't let these claims fool you. Cigarette makers use smoking machines to figure out the amount of tar and nicotine in the cigarettes. These machines "smoke" every brand of cigarettes the same way. But people don't smoke cigarettes the same way machines do. People may inhale more deeply, take longer or more frequent puffs, or smoke extra cigarettes to satisfy their nicotine craving. Smokers then inhale more tar, nicotine, and other chemicals than the smoking machine measures.

Cigarette makers also put tiny holes in the filters of light cigarettes to dilute the smoke with air. But many smokers block the holes with their fingers or lips, and it's the same as smoking regular cigarettes.

Cigarette makers can also make the paper wrapped around the tobacco of light cigarettes burn faster. This is so the smoking machines get in fewer puffs before the cigarettes burn down. The result is that the machine measures less tar and nicotine in the smoke of the cigarette. The bottom line is there is no such thing as a safe cigarette. Quitting for good is the only proven way to reduce your risk of smoking-related problems.

I only smoke cigars. Are they bad for my health?

Yes, cigar smoking increases your risk of dying from many cancers. These include cancer of the lungs, oral cavity (lip, tongue, mouth, and throat), larynx (voice box), and esophagus. Daily cigar smokers are at higher risk for getting heart and lung disease.

Even though cigar smoking is not as common for women, it is on the rise. Most new cigar users are teenagers who smoke on occasion. Two studies showed that cigar use has increased nearly five times in women and is also increasing among adolescent girls.


How can I talk to my children about the dangers of smoking?

It's important to talk with your children about the dangers of smoking. Most adult smokers begin while in their teens or earlier. Smoking is also addictive for children and can cause harm even while they are still young. But we also know how hard it can be to compete with advertising that seems to be everywhere, making smoking look cool and appear to be a normal thing to do. Children and teens try using tobacco for many reasons, like trying to fit in with friends or control weight. The bottom line is that your children need your help to never start or to quit smoking. Here are some tips:

        Teach your children about how smoking can affect their health. Give examples of smokers they know with health problems so it seems like a real threat.

        Keep an open mind and listen to your children. Make them feel like they can talk to you about important issues like smoking. Chances are, they will be more likely to tell you if they have started smoking, or if they have been pressured by others to smoke.

        Use role-playing to help them practice ways to tell their friends they don't want to smoke.

        Praise your children so they believe in themselves and feel good about who they are.

        Be a good role model. Don't smoke, and quit now if you do.