To quit smoking is one of the best things you can do to improve your health, and it is never too late to quit. No matter how many years you have been smoking, how much you smoke, or how many attempts you have made to quit, quitting is always possible. Remember who you are doing it for; yourself. This page exists to inform you of the harmful impact that smoking has on your health and the health of your loved ones. It is designed to help you in your quest to quit smoking.
Make The Statistics Lie.
More than 10,000 people die prematurely in Quebec yearly because of their smoking habit. This is 28 people daily.
Although the proportion of smokers has decreased considerably over the past 15 years, 1.5 million Quebecers still smoke, which amounts to over 20% of the population. People aged 20 to 24 remain the heaviest users of cigarettes.
- Smoking is the leading cause of preventable disease and death.
- 25% to 30% of cardiovascular diseases are attributed to smoking.
- Tobacco use is responsible for 85% of lung cancers, 85% of chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (COPD) and 30% of all cancers.
- 1 in 5 deaths is caused by tobacco and 1 in 2 smokers will die from a tobacco-related disease.
How Smoking Harms Your Health
Tobacco smoke contains more than 4,000 chemicals, 50 of which are known carcinogens.
The most dangerous are:
Smoking affects the longevity and the quality of life of smokers. On average, smokers have a shorter life expectancy than non-smokers (10 years shorter). Smoking deteriorates the well-being of smokers in several ways:
- It diminishes their ability to taste and smell, which in turn affects their appetite and food choice;
- It interferes with their sleep since the nicotine contained in the cigarette acts as a stimulant;
- It makes them more irritable and anxious;
- It limits their capacity to do physical activities, because smokers find it more difficult to breathe during physical effort.
Cigarettes also increase the risk of respiratory infections by altering, among other things, the function of the vibratory cilia that line your bronchi. These tiny hairs work like brooms, sweeping dust, mucus and germs out of the lungs.
The longer you smoke, the more you risk harming your health and reducing your life expectancy. However, the harmful effects of smoking are partly reversible. When you quit smoking, you can gradually improve your health and increase your life expectancy.
The Health Benefits of Quitting Smoking
Did you know that the benefits of quitting smoking can be felt within the first 20 minutes of quitting?
Two thirds of cigarette smoke is released into the air and onto surfaces. Non-smokers are therefore indirectly impacted by it. Opening windows, smoking in another room with the door closed or under the kitchen hood does not protect the occupants of the house from the harmful effects of smoke, because smoke easily flows from one room to another and enters through ventilation ducts, electrical outlets, door sills, etc. Air purifiers and ventilation systems also fail to protect against the harmful effects of smoke. They are designed to limit the build-up of carbon monoxide, filter out solid particles and reduce the smell of smoke (but not eliminate).
The passive smoker is likely to breathe two types of smoke:
- Second-hand Smoke
Second-hand smoke, which is regarded as very toxic, is produced by a burning cigarette or by the smoke exhaled by the smoker. It is also produced when a pipe, a cigar, an electronic cigarette or marijuana is smoked. Since the smoke is not filtered, neither by the cigarette itself nor by the smoker’s lungs, it contains 2 times more nicotine, 3 times more tar, 2 times more carbon monoxide, 51 times more formaldehyde and 44 times more ammonia than the smoke inhaled by the smoker.
- Third-Hand Smoke
Cigarette smoke is often deposited on food, clothing, hair, skin, fabrics, carpets, walls, etc. Once a cigarette is put out, the smoke remains in the environment and can stay on surfaces for years although the smell is gone. Children play on the floor and regularly put objects to their mouths, and they are therefore 20 times more affected by third-hand smoke as it accumulates mainly on floors and in dust.
The best way to protect your family from exposure to second-hand and third-hand smoke is to avoid smoking inside an enclosed space such as your home or a car.
Anyone who breathes these types of smoke inevitably becomes a passive smoker.
What the Law States
Law 44 aims to strengthen tobacco control and protect children and the public from exposure to second-hand smoke as well as to prevent initiation to tobacco use. Failure to comply with this law can result in fines ranging from $250–750 for a first offence and $500-1500 for a subsequent offence.
Places Where Smoking and Vaping are Prohibited:
- In a car with a child under the age of 16 (opening a window will not eliminate the smoke, actually, it can bring the smoke directly back onto the passengers);
- On sports fields and outdoor play areas for children, such as soccer fields, outdoor pools, water play areas and wading pools;
- On summer camp grounds;
- On ice rinks;
- On the grounds of childcare centres or daycare centres during times when children are present;
- On the grounds of educational institutions (preschool, primary school, high school, adult education centres and vocational centres);
- On patios (restaurants, bistros and bars);
- In bus shelters;
- On the common areas of apartment buildings with 2 to 5 units.
Getting Ready to Quit Smoking
You have taken the first step: you decided to quit smoking. It is quite a challenge, but there are many tools available to support your efforts. However, there is no magical solution to quit smoking. You need to find the method that works best for you. Remember that urges to smoke usually last only a few minutes; take it one day at a time and you will succeed. First, you must have the will to quit and you must do it for yourself.
Why Is It So Hard to Quit Smoking?
Tobacco leads to addiction on many levels; physical, psychological and social. This is why people find it hard to quit smoking. In order to increase the chances of success, one must first become aware of these three types of addiction and then find solutions to overcome them.
Nicotine is the active ingredient in tobacco that triggers and maintains physical addiction. Nicotine stimulates the brain by releasing endorphins, substances that reproduce a feeling of well-being. Endorphins are naturally produced by the brain during physical activity and are responsible for the state of relaxation that follows. The brain of a smoker becomes dependent on nicotine to produce endorphins, which pushes the smoker to smoke more in order to regain that feeling of well-being.
Tobacco programs the brain to associate smoking with feeling good. Smokers associate the act of smoking with pleasant moments such as having a coffee at the end of a meal, attending a social activity, enjoying a phone call with a friend or taking a relaxing break. Although smoking may seem to reduce anxiety, boredom and stress, it actually only reduces the withdrawal symptoms felt by your body when it is craving nicotine. As a result, nicotine addiction combined with the pleasure of smoking makes smoking a habit that is difficult to break.
The action of smoking plays an important role in our society. Teenagers often start smoking to fit in with a group of friends. When you first meet someone, “Do you have a lighter?” is an easy question to ask to break the ice. In addition, social groups form when the same employees regularly go out to smoke during breaks.
Keep an Eye Out for Withdrawal Symptoms…
Quitting smoking is often accompanied by withdrawal symptoms. In general, your body will have completely eliminated nicotine within a few days of quitting smoking. However, withdrawal symptoms can persist for weeks or even months. Recognize these symptoms, but do not panic when they appear. And most of all, be patient! The withdrawal symptoms will last less than the number of years you smoked…
These are the most common withdrawal symptoms:
- Strong urge to smoke;
- Difficulty to focus;
- Fluctuating appetite;
- Unstable mood, irritability;
- Difficulty sleeping;
- Decreased heart rate;
- Constipation, gas, stomach ache;
- Sugar craving.
Thorough Preparation is Essential!
In order to reach your goal to quit smoking, it is important to be well prepared. This will increase your chances of success. Here are some exercises that will help you in this process.
Identify the reasons why you want to quit smoking
The first exercise consists of writing the pros and cons of quitting smoking.
My Main Motivation to Quit Smoking
Then, think about your main motivation for quitting. Write this motivation on Post-its that you will display throughout your environment to keep you motivated to quit smoking.
Keep a Smoker’s Diary
The second exercise consists of keeping a diary in which you will document all the cigarettes you smoke. You should be specifying the circumstances in which you smoke and quantifying the intensity of your urge to smoke. The purpose of this diary is to identify the moments when your urges to smoke are the strongest. Afterwards, you will be able to establish a plan of action to avoid or bypass these difficult moments.
Develop Strategies to Avoid Smoking
Thanks to your Smoker’s Diary, you have identified your strongest urges to smoke. Now identify the strategies that will help you stay away from smoking.
Pick a Date
When you have determined that you want to quit smoking, it is important to set a quit date. This date will be your first day without any cigarette. Pledge to give up smoking entirely on that day. Choose a day that is relatively stress-free, where your daily routine can allow you to focus your best efforts on quitting. This will keep you away from incentives to smoke.
Once you have chosen a date, write it down on two or three posters you made. Be imaginative and put some thought into it!
Establish a Supportive Environment for Yourself
As you begin your new life as a non-smoker, celebrate having the courage to change.
In addition to the many health benefits, quitting smoking will have a positive impact on your financial situation. Have you ever calculated how much you spend on cigarettes each year?
Imagine what you could afford with all those savings.
Which rewards would keep you motivated? Make a list and treat yourself for every week you don’t smoke with the money you save from quitting smoking. (Example: go to a show, have dinner at a restaurant, take a trip…)
Medications That Can Help You to Quit Smoking
Your body and brain need to relearn how to function without nicotine. During this phase of adjustment, you may experience withdrawal symptoms. Medication can help to reduce these symptoms and can double or even triple your chances of success.
Two types of treatment are available to help you quit smoking: nicotine replacement therapy and non-nicotine pharmacotherapy. Nicotine replacement medications reduce cravings by releasing a controlled dose of nicotine into the body, which helps control withdrawal symptoms and also gradually reduces the amount of nicotine you need.
- Nicotine patches
- Nicotine chewing gum
- Nicotine lozenges
- Nicotine mouth spray
- Nicotine inhaler
Nicotine-free medications are also available to help you quit smoking. They are available in the form of tablets and require a doctor’s prescription.
- Bupropion (Zyban®)
- Varénicline (Champix®)
Products to help you quit smoking are available in many forms. Talk to a health care professional to find out which of these medications is right for you and to make sure there are no contraindications regarding your health.
Every medication, no matter how effective, has side effects. However, this is not a reason to stop taking the medication. If you have any concerns, talk to your health care provider.
To increase your chances of success, you can use a combination of medications. Make sure to read the guidelines carefully and strictly follow them.
Some nicotine replacement medications can also be prescribed by a respiratory therapist, pharmacist or trained nurse. Some of these medications are also covered for a period of 12 consecutive weeks per year, beginning on the date of the initial purchase.
Don’t Give Up
Smokers often fear relapse and see it as a failure. Remember that relapsing is often part of the long process of quitting smoking. We should not speak of failure, but rather of learning and experience gained.
Family, friends and co-workers can offer moral support and should try not to impose unnecessary stress.
Reflect on and work through situations where you doubt your ability to resist smoking.
A Few Simple Tips to Help You
Remember that urges to smoke only last for a few minutes. Here are some tips to help you control your urges to smoke, one at a time.
Do It for you
No one can force you to quit smoking. Quitting, and all the benefits that come with it, are gifts that only you can give yourself.
Focus on achieving your goal
To keep your goal in mind, display your motivational “Post-its” in strategic places (like on the refrigerator door or in the car).
Avoid thinking of the quitting process as deprivation. Instead, look at all the benefits.
If your health condition allows it, drink water to help eliminate nicotine and other chemicals from your body quickly. Add crushed ice to your water; it will soothe your urge to smoke for a while. Besides, it is recommended to drink 8 glasses (1.5 litres in total) of water per day.
Take a deep breath
Most people do not use the full capacity of their lungs. Take a deep breath while thinking about something that makes you happy. Breathe in through your nose as slowly and deeply as possible. Hold your breath and slowly count to 4 in your head. Slowly exhale through your mouth until there is no air left in your lungs. Repeat 5 times. Be careful not to get dizzy.
Keep in shape
Get rest and avoid exhaustion. Exercise.
Monitor your weight
Remember that your priority is to quit smoking. Watch your eating habits and be careful not to replace smoking by overeating. Develop the habit of eating slowly and healthy and balance the amount of food you eat with your level of physical activity.
Put the cigarettes away
Remove cigarettes from your environment.
Minimize your exposure to the things that make you want to smoke.
Spend more time in non-smoking areas or do activities with non-smokers.
Establish a supportive network
Ask friends, family members or colleagues to support you on your journey. It is essential to inform those around you of your decision to quit smoking. This way, you can avoid mood swings better and ensure that your loved ones know what you will be going through and will be supportive of you.
Use relaxation techniques. Do more physical activities.
Manage your time to include leisure time.
Here are some apps that can help you manage your stress:
– Ma cohérence cardiaque, Aircube 06
– RespiRelax, Thermes d’allevard
– Respiration Pranique: Méditation et sérénité, Oleksandr Albul
You can enter the keywords “cardiac coherence”, “relaxation” or “meditation” in Google Play or Apple Store to find the right app for you.
Chew sugarless gum or eat a sugarless lollipop. You can also chew on a straw or toothpick. Try to keep your hands busy.
Change your mind
Exercise, go for a walk, call a friend or go to the movies.
Quit Smoking with an Electronic Cigarette
To quit smoking remains the best option to improve your health. However, since traditional cigarettes release more toxic and carcinogenic products than electronic cigarettes (as a result of tobacco combustion), electronic cigarettes are a less harmful alternative. The latter reduces exposure to many of the chemicals found in regular cigarettes. On the other hand, if you are a non-smoker, electronic cigarettes pose risks to your health because you are exposing yourself to toxic and addictive substances to which you were not exposed before.
Since electronic cigarettes pose less of a health risk than regular cigarettes, they can be used as a last resort, that is, when nicotine replacement therapies, nicotine-free smoking cessation medications and smoking cessation programs have not worked or are not applicable to you.
There are several different methods that can help you to quit smoking. Hypnosis, laser therapy, acupuncture and homeopathic products all fall into this category. However, studies conducted on these alternative methods are inconclusive, so they are not considered effective for quitting smoking. They can sometimes strengthen your conviction to quit but beware of people who call these methods “miraculous”.
The Quebec Lung Association is a direct service provider to the public. For more information, check out our website section named Patient resources.
Revision February 2020