Smoking cigarettes increases your risk of cancer, heart disease and stroke. But your body starts repairing itself as soon as you've smoked your last cigarette.
Giving up smoking is tough, and it can take you several attempts before you are successful. But it's not impossible. With a lot of determination, you can do it.
Why give up smoking?
Tobacco smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals and can cause cancer. Smoking harms nearly every organ of the body. Every cigarette is doing you harm.
Smoking can cause:
- cancer. 1 in 5 cancer deaths is caused by smoking. As well as lung cancer, smoking can cause cancer of the mouth, throat, oesophagus, stomach, bowel, liver, pancreas, nasal cavity and sinuses, voice box, cervix, ovary, bladder, kidney, ureter and bone marrow
- stroke and peripheral vascular disease. Smoking at least doubles the risk of a heart attack. Quitting at any age reduces this risk
- chronic obstructive pulmonary disease COPD, which includes bronchitis and emphysema
People who smoke every day are more than twice as likely to experience symptoms of anxiety and depression.
When you quit, you'll notice improvements in your breathing and sense of taste and smell just a few days after stopping. You can find out more about the health benefits of quitting and when they happen on the Make Smoking History website.
Smoking reduces fertility in both men and women. Smoking can also damage the eggs and sperm, with long-term consequences for the baby. Smoking while pregnant exposes your baby to harmful chemicals. Babies of mothers who smoke are more likely to be born early, be underweight, have problems with their brain and lungs, or die of sudden infant death syndrome.
When you quit, you'll improve the health of your family and friends by not exposing them to passive smoking.
It is also very expensive to smoke. People who smoke 25 cigarettes a day spend nearly $14,600 a year on smoking, and the cost is going up. You can calculate how much you could save by quitting on the Make Smoking History website.
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Why it’s so hard to quit smoking
Smoking is an addiction. To quit successfully, you need to deal both with your chemical addiction to nicotine and the fact that smoking has become part of your daily routine.
The chemical addiction can cause physical symptoms when you quit, such as:
- irritability and feeling tense
- poor concentration
- wanting to eat more
- constipation and gas
- not being able to go to sleep
- coughing, nasal drip or feeling fluey
- cravings for a cigarette
If these symptoms are bothering you, talk to your doctor or pharmacist about medication to help you quit.
Here are the different ways you can quit:
- Going cold turkey: You stop suddenly, with no support and you rely on willpower to quit. It is important to avoid triggers that remind you of smoking
- Gradually cutting down
- Nicotine replacement therapy: You can buy patches, chewing gum, nasal and oral sprays, inhalers or lozenges from a pharmacy or supermarket to replace nicotine in the body and reduce physical symptoms. Using 2 forms of nicotine replacement therapy works better than just one
- Medication: You can talk to your doctor about medications to help you quit
- Hypnotherapy or acupuncture: There is no scientific evidence to show these work, but some people find them helpful to quit smoking.
Strategies for quitting smoking
Excuse 1: The damage is done
You might feel that because you smoke, you've already increased your chance of getting cancer or another smoking-related disease, so quitting now won't make any difference. In fact, quitting will improve your health almost immediately.
Excuse 2: I'll gain weight
Medical evidence shows that nicotine doesn't stop you getting hungry. Nicotine makes you burn calories faster, but as long as you remember that you need less food energy, quitting won't actually make you gain weight. Try eating low calorie options and take up an activity instead of replacing cigarettes with food.
Excuse 3: I'll get stressed
Despite what you may think, nicotine doesn't calm you down. Nicotine cravings between cigarettes make you feel stressed and anxious, so when you smoke the cigarette you feel calmer. But you'll feel less stressed once you quit and don't have cravings anymore.
Excuse 4: It's not the right time to quit smoking
Although it's true that you shouldn't try to quit during particularly stressful times, don't use this as an excuse to never try quitting.
Excuse 5: Quitting will ruin my social life
For many smokers, cigarettes are an important part of their social life. You may class yourself as a social smoker, who only has a cigarette when you're with friends who smoke or during nights out. You may also have bonded with colleagues during cigarette breaks.
Although social smoking may seem better than smoking 40 a day, any cigarette smoking damages your health.
Excuse 6: Smoking looks good
For some people, holding a stick of tobacco wrapped in paper seems attractive and fashionable. Teenagers may think it makes them look older or cooler. However, smoking gives you yellow fingernails, blackened fingers and a stained tongue. It makes your complexion dull and prematurely ages your skin, making smokers look older than they really are.
Smoking also smells. Cigarette smoke sticks to your hair and clothes long after you've had your last cigarette of the day. Some people think kissing a smoker is like 'kissing an ashtray'. If you'd prefer to smell fresher, now's the time to quit.
Where to get help
A great place to start is to check out the Department of Health’s How to quit smoking website and its variety of information and tools to support you in quitting smoking.
You can call the Quitline on 137 848 between 8am and 8pm Monday to Friday to talk to a counsellor. There is also an online chat service.
There is also a wide range of support and resources on the Make Smoking History website.
My QuitBuddy is a personalised interactive app with quit tips, daily motivational messages and countdown to quitting reminders. You can set your own goals, the reasons you're quitting, include photos and recordings of loved ones, and share tips and success stories in a community forum.
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Last reviewed: October 2020