What is the problem with smoking?

Smoking increases your risk of heart disease, lung disease and cancer. Smoking damages blood vessels so it is more likely for the arteries to become obstructed. Smoking makes your blood thicker and as a result makes you more likely to form clots in your arteries. Smoking also makes you more likely to have a heart attack, stroke, and heart failure.

Once you have heart disease or vascular disease it is imperative that you find a way to quit smoking. If you have had a heart attack and continue to smoke, you are up to five times more likely to die than if you had quit smoking. If you have a balloon angioplasty or bypass surgery and continue to smoke, you are more likely to continue to have chest pain, more likely to need another surgery and more likely to die, than if you had quit smoking. Once you have lung disease, you are at much greater risk of infection, lung failure, and death if you continue to smoke.

All people who smoke are encouraged to talk with their physicians about smoking cessation.

What can I do to prepare to quit smoking? 

Resolve to quit smoking 

Decide positively that you want to quit. Committing yourself right now puts you on a path to success. Make a list of all the reasons why you want to stop. Carry these reasons with you and review them several times a day. Determine what made you smoke. Being more aware of your triggers and cues to smoking will assist you in making other choices during your cessation attempts.

Tell your family and friends that you are quitting and enlist their support. Identify your rewards for quitting smoking. Begin thinking of what your life will be like as a nonsmoker. Think about how much healthier your hear and lungs will be and how much better you will feel in the long run.

Throw away all of your tobacco, lighters, ashtrays, and other smoking-related products as soon as you get home or have a family member or friend do this before you arrive home. Clean your clothes, car, drapes, and furniture to rid them of the smell of smoke. Stay away from other tobacco users and other tempting situations, such as alcohol.

Nicotine replacement and/or medications are often started prior to, or at the time of hospital discharge to help you not go back to smoking. Ask your doctor or nurse about this.

What should I do if I relapse and begin smoking again? 

Stop smoking immediately. Get rid of all tobacco products. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Get yourself back on track as soon as possible. Realize that most people try several times before they successfully quit. Identify your triggers that led you to smoking again and learn from your past mistakes. Set a new quit date and begin again.

How can I prepare to avoid urges to smoke? 

Spend more time with friends who do not smoke. Find activities that make smoking difficult (e.g. gardening, exercising, washing the car). Keep oral substitutes handy. Try carrots, sunflower seeds, sugarless gum, straws, toothpicks, or apples. Change your daily routine to break your old habits. Distract yourself from thoughts of smoking by talking to someone, reading, or doing a task. Use relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, yoga, or exercising.

How can I have the greatest chance of success? 

Enrolling in a multi-component program offers you the best chance of quitting. Success rates are highest when smoking interventions are combined. Interventions include the following:

  • physician advice
  • self-help materials
  • behavioral counseling
  • self-management techniques
  • support groups
  • nicotine replacement therapy
  • medication that reduces the urge to smoke
  • follow-up

Am I a candidate for nicotine replacement or medication to help me quit? 

Research supports that many people can benefit from using nicotine replacement. Ask your doctor or nurse whether this is right for you. Your health care provider can help you choose the most appropriate form of nicotine replacement.

Some oral medications decrease the urge to smoke and can help you quit. They can be used alone or in combination with nicotine replacement. Ask your doctor whether you are a candidate for this type of medication.

Where can I get additional help? 

The reference list below lists several resources to help you quit smoking. Also enlist the help of family and friends to give you support.

Smoking Cessation Specialists
For more information, contact a pulmonologist at 847.570.3939.


  • American Lung Association Smoking Cessation Counseling   
    1.866.QUIT.YES (1.866.784.8937)
    Offers smoking cessation counseling by nurses, therapists, and smoking cessation counselors. Confidential and free of charge.
  • American Lung Association
    1.800.LUNG.USA (1.800.586.4872)
    Freedom From Smoking” programs, $60-125 (depending on area)
  • American Lung Association of Metropolitan Chicago
  • Nicotine Anonymous 
  • SmokEnders1.800.828.4357
    “Learn How To Quit” Kit - $125 – self-study kit includes seven weeks of seminars on audio tapes, interactive workbook and counseling services
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