Smoking: Quitting Your Way to Success

Today’s guest blog comes to us from Dr. Pamela Thompson about today’s National Smokeout Day. Dr. Thompson has worked as a Family Physician since 2005 in both rural areas and urban centers. Since she began practicing medicine, Dr. Thompson has taken an interest in providing care to underserved populations and has been an active member of organizations and committees that were solution-focused with the community in mind. After reading about the effort it takes to quit smoking, share your thoughts in the comment section about how we can further help people in Arizona quite smoking and help us become the healthiest state in the nation.

Why is smoking a hard habit to kick? For starters, the nicotine contained in cigarettes is a highly addictive substance. Smoking can also become a habit (smoking outside with a colleague, with a morning coffee or evening glass of wine). For many people, the combination of the body, mind and social aspects of smoking make it hard to quit. In fact, on average, it can take about 5-7 attempts for an individual to successfully quit. Quitting smoking is the one time where “being a quitter” is a marker of success!

Why quit smoking? Because smoking is a deadly habit. Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States.[1] The graphic below illustrates the major causes of smoking related deaths among American adults. Cigarette smokers miss more work, visit a doctor more often, are hospitalized more often, and lose on average at least 10 to 11 years of life.[2] Cigarette smoking has numerous negative health consequences and has been causally linked to diseases of nearly all organs in the body and shown to harm the fetus in pregnant women.1

Figure 1. “Annual Death from Smoking, United States, 2005-2009” by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2018, Tobacco Use: Public Health Problem [Online image]. Retrieved from


Note: Average annual number of death for adults aged 35 or older, 2005-2009

The good news is that quitting smoking at any age has benefits. Those benefits begin within just a few minutes of quitting. In just 20 minutes after a person stops smoking their heart rate drops, by 2 weeks to 3 months their risk for heart attack drops and lung function begins to improve and by 1 year the risk of coronary heart disease is half that of a smokers.3 Many other benefits such as reduced risk of stroke, numerous cancers and heart disease continue to reduce over the next 2-15 years of remaining smoke-free.3 Quitting smoking also protects family and friends from exposure to harmful secondhand smoke.3 The bottom-line: the sooner a person quits, the sooner their body can begin to heal.[3]

How does a person successfully quit? There is good news for quitters – there are a number of evidence-based options available to help individuals quit smoking. For adults, over the counter nicotine replacement therapies (NRT) such as the patch, gum or lozenge, prescription NRTs and prescription non-nicotine containing medications are available to help individuals manage withdrawal symptoms to aid in successfully quitting. Together, the use of both medication(s) and counseling (individual, group or telephone quitlines) provides the best chance for adults to quit successfully. Women that are pregnant or breasting feeding and adolescents should be encouraged to quit without medication using individual counseling interventions that exceed minimal advice to quit and are tailored to the individual’s needs.

Want to be a quitter or help a quitter? This November 15th, individuals, healthcare providers, community groups and others can join the Great American Smokeout and encourage smokers to start their journey to be becoming smoke-free. The Great American Smokeout is hosted by the American Cancer Society each year on the third Thursday of November. This event is an opportunity for smokers to commit to healthy, smoke-free lives and learn about the many tools and resources they can access to help them quit and stay quit.

If you are a smoker, talk to your healthcare provider or pharmacist to get their advice and support. Also, check out the links below for information and resources to help you develop a quit plan for success. It’s never too soon to start your journey to becoming smoke-free – join the Great American Smokeout today and become a quitter!

If you are a healthcare provider and interested in learning even more ways to help your patients quit, consider improving your education and training by completing the National Certificate in Tobacco Treatment Practice. Accredited training programs can be found on the Council for Tobacco Treatment Training Programs website at


American Cancer Society: Provides links to the Great American Smokeout event and to quit smoking resources

ASHLine: Arizona’s smoking cessation program and helpline Provides supports, tips and tools to help quit smoking

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA): Provides facts, information and quit resources for tobacco users

Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ): Provides information and guidelines for providers to help patients quit smoking

National Cancer Institute (NCI): Provides comprehensive, peer-reviewed, evidence-based information on smoking cessation for patients and providers

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – State Tobacco Activities Tracking and Evaluation System: Provides state level data on tobacco related topics

The Truth Initiative: Provides statistics and information on quitting tobacco

[1] U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Health Consequences of Smoking: 50 Years of Progress. A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2014. Printed with corrections, January 2014.

[2] Drope, J., Schluger, N., Cahn, Z., Drope, J., Hamill, S., Islami, F., Liber, A., Nargis, N., & Stoklosa, M. (2018). The tobacco atlas. Atlanta, GA: American Cancer Society and Vital Strategies. Retrieved from

[3] Centers for Disease Control. (2017). Smoking and tobacco use – benefits of quitting. Retrieved from


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