How to Quit Smoking | Fidelis Care

Smoking Cessation Resources

Questions and Answers About Quitting Tobacco

Quitting at any age is the best thing you can do for your health. On average, smokers die younger than non-smokers. When quitting gets tough, think about the extra time you could have to enjoy because you chose to quit, spending time with family and friends, going to parties, attending holiday gatherings, and making good memories. 

Smoking is an addiction, and quitting on your own is hard. Every year, seven out of 10 cigarette smokers try to quit, but fewer than one in 10 succeeds. Advice and encouragement from your health care provider is proven to help you quit for good. In fact, when your health care provider assists you with support and medication, you can double or even triple your chances of quitting.



Quitting Basics | Coping with Smoking Relapse

One of the hardest obstacles in life can be giving up smoking. It could take multiple tries to reach your final goal.

The good news is that there are effective relapse prevention strategies.




Is smoking a habit or an addiction?
  • Smoking is more than a "bad habit." It's an addiction to nicotine, a drug found naturally in tobacco. And, today's cigarettes are designed on purpose to be even more addictive with fewer puffs, according to the New York State Department of Health
  • Nicotine is what keeps many people smoking and makes quitting so difficult. 
  • Although it may take several attempts to quit, you can do it! Don't give up—it's never too late to quit!
What is it like to go through nicotine withdrawal?
  • When you quitsmoking, you may have withdrawal symptoms as your brain and body get used to not having nicotine. 
  • Common symptoms include irritability, trouble paying attention, feeling sad, sleep problems, being hungrier than usual, and cravings for tobacco. 
  • Symptoms may begin within a few hours after your last cigarette. 
  • However, nicotine withdrawal isn't dangerous, and symptoms usually fade within a few days to a few weeks.
What are smoking triggers?
  • Triggers are what make you want to smoke. 
  • Many things can trigger a craving to smoke, like daily activities or emotions.
What are some common smoking triggers, and how do I manage them?
  • Being around other people who smoke. Ask your family and friends not to smoke around you. Do something else when others light up or avoid events where there will be smoking.
  • Stress. When you feel stressed, try deep breathing. Breathe in slowly through your nose and out through your mouth. Count to four with each inhale and exhale. Repeat for five minutes.
  • Drinking coffee. Change your routine. Drink your coffee in a different place, at a different time, stand instead of sit, or change to tea or another drink for a while.
  • Driving. Try resting toothpicks or cinnamon sticks in your mouth. Chew carrot sticks. Sing along to music in the car.
  • Getting up in the morning. Break your routine – try hopping in the shower when you would usually smoke, stretch, start a new physical activity, drink water, use your stop-smoking medications.
  • Going on break. Change the time you take your breaks, try not to take breaks with someone who smokes, and reach out to a friend.
  • Finishing a meal. Get right up from the table, brush your teeth, step outside, or play a game.
  • Using your phone. Connect with a friend who supports your quitting, Listen to a podcast, audiobook, or music. Play a game on your phone to distract you when you have cravings.
  • Drinking alcohol. Try to avoid events with alcohol for a while. Cut back or choose nonalcoholic drinks until you become more confident about quitting.
What will it take for me to quit smoking?
  • It's normal to try to quit multiple times. People try different methods before they find the approach that lets them quit for good. 
  • Chances are you've tried to quit before, and you know it can be tough to stay motivated. 
  • Think about your reasons to quit smoking, vaping, or chewing. 
  • Planning builds confidence and helps you manage your triggers. 
  • Quitting is a process. Try not to be hard on yourself. Keep trying!



Smoking & Tobacco Use | Health Impacts

Smoking damages almost all of the body's organs and causes sickness and impairment.  Over 16 million Americans are affected by a disease brought on by smoking. At least 30 people suffer from a major smoking-related illness for every smoker who passes away.
Is smoking really that bad?
  • Smoking is the number one cause of preventable disease, disability, and death in New York State. Smoking causes nearly one in five deaths in the United States. 
  • Smoking kills more adults every year than illegal drug use, alcohol use, motor vehicle crashes, HIV, and firearms combined.
  • Smoking kills about 28,000 adults in New York State every year. And, about 750,000 adult New Yorkers live with serious smoking-related illness. 
  • Yet, about two million New Yorkers still smoke, because most are addicted to the nicotine in tobacco.
How does smoking affect your health?
  • Smoking causes many diseases, including four of the top causes of death in the United States: heart disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory disease (including COPD and emphysema), and stroke.
  • Smoking is also a cause of type 2 diabetes, cataracts and age-related vision loss, rheumatoid arthritis, weak bones, gum disease, and tooth loss.
How does smoking affect reproductive health?
  • Women whosmoke may have a harder time becoming pregnant. 
  • In men, smoking can damagesperm and can cause erectile dysfunction (ED).
How does smoking affect babies?
  • Smoking during pregnancy harms the developing fetus. It causes over 1,000 infant deaths in the United States each year, including many miscarriages. 
  • Smoking during pregnancy can damage a developing baby’s lungs and brain. It can cause the baby to be born too early or with low birth weight, which increases the risk for serious health problems or death. 
  • Smoking during pregnancy has been linked to birth defects, including cleft lip, cleft palate, and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
What are the dangers of secondhand smoke?
  • Secondhand smoke exposure causes about 41,000 deaths among nonsmoking adults and 400 deaths in infants in the U.S. every year. 
  • Some of the illnesses and diseases that secondhand smoke exposure can cause include: ear infections, breathing problems and asthma in children, as well as heart disease, stroke, and lung cancer in adults. 
  • Even pets can be affected and can develop cancer, heart problems, pneumonia, and allergies when they breathe their owners’ secondhand smoke.




Cigarette Substitutes | How Safe or Effective are the Alternatives

Smoking cigarettes is harmful and additctive. There are alternatives available to consumers, but how safe are they, and can they aid in quitting?

Are e-cigarettes safer than smoking?
  • E-cigarettes are not regulated – the amount of nicotine in each product varies, although levels of carcinogens and toxicants are lower in e-cigarettes than in traditional cigarettes. 
  • Food and Drug Administration (FDA) testing has shown that nicotine amounts do not always match the labeling. 
  • It is still unknown if e-cigarettes are safe. Further research is needed to determine health-related effects.
Can vaping help me quit smoking?
  • There are not enough study results or industry regulations for safe e-cigarette use and the evidence is mixed on using e-cigarettes for quitting. 
  • It’s important that you talk with a healthcare provider when considering alternatives to smoking.
  • If you’re looking to quit smoking, try FDA-approved medications such as nicotine replacement therapy (NRT). 
  • These medications, combined with individual or group counseling, have been shown to be the most successful ways to quit. 
Is smokeless tobacco better than smoking?
  • Smokeless tobacco use, including chewing tobacco, dip, snuff, and snus, is harmful to health. 
  • Because the tobacco is not smoked, many perceive it as being safer than smoking. 
  • However, smokeless tobacco typically contains nicotine, which is highly addictive.
What are the dangers of smokeless tobacco?
  • Smokeless tobacco is associated with many health problems. 
  • It causes cancer of the mouth, esophagus, and pancreas. 
  • It can increase risks for early delivery and stillbirth when used during pregnancy. 
  • And it may increase the risk for death from heart disease and stroke.
  • Because young people who use smokeless tobacco can become addicted to nicotine, they may be more likely to also become cigarette smokers.
How safe is marijuana vs tobacco?
  • Tobacco users typically smoke 10 to 20 cigarettes per day, and some smoke much more. 
  • Marijuana users, on average, smoke only two to three times a month. 
  • So in that regard, smoking fewer cigarettes is better than smoking many of them, regardless of what you’re smoking. 
  • However, smoking any product, including marijuana, can damage the lungs, increase risk of bronchitis, and scar small blood vessels. 
  • Smoking marijuana can also increase the risk for stroke, heart disease, and other vascular diseases.




The Immediate and Long-Term Benefits of Quitting Smoking

It's never too late to give up smoking. You can significantly lower your risk of developing cancer and other diseases by quitting smoking as soon as possible. This segment will review the timeline of benefits when you quit smoking.

How long does it take for your health to improve after quitting?

When you quit smoking, your health improves both immediately and over time. 


  • 20 minutes, your heart rate drops.
  • 12 hours, the carbon monoxide level in your blood drops to normal.
  • 2 weeks to 3 months, your heart attack risk begins to drop and your lung function improves.
  • 1 to 9 months, your coughing and shortness of breath decreases.
  • 1 year, your added risk of heart disease is half that of a smoker's.
  • 2-5 years, your risk of stroke is the same as nonsmokers.
  • 10 years, your lung cancer death rate is about half that of a smoker's.
  • 15 years, your risk of heart disease is back to that of a non smoker's.
What are the benefits for diabetics who quit smoking?
  • If you have diabetes, after you quit smoking you will have better control over your blood sugar levels.
  • Quitting also has the positive effect of lowering cholesterol, strengthening your immune system, and giving you stronger bones.
What if I quit smoking while pregnant?
  • Birth abnormalities like cleft lip, cleft palate, and SIDS have all been associated with smoking during pregnancy.
  • However, if you quit before getting pregnant or during your first trimester, the risk of having a low birth weight baby drops to normal.
What are some other reasons to quit smoking?
  • Rediscover smell and taste. Within just a few days of quitting smoking, your senses of smell and taste will improve. Tobacco contains chemicals that can dull your taste buds, making you taste and smell less. When you stop smoking, this effect gradually lessens. You might notice that you liked foods and drinks with really strong flavors while you smoked, but increasingly enjoy a variety of foods and their subtle flavors once you have quit.
  • Improve your skin. Your skin recovers its elasticity when you stop smoking. It will also be smoother, making it more pleasant to look at and touch. Your skin complexion will become visibly brighter in the first few weeks after you stop smoking. After six months, your skin will regain its original vitality.
  • Sharpen your senses. Stopping smoking will improve your night vision and help preserve your overall vision by stopping the damage that smoking does to your eyes. Quitting will keep your hearing sharp.
  • Brighten your smile. Nobody likes a dirty mouth. After a few days without cigarettes, your smile will be brighter. Not smoking now will keep your mouth healthy for years to come. And smoking can eventually lead to gum disease and tooth loss.
  • Put money back in your pocket. Smoking a pack a day costs thousands of dollars a year. Quitting can offer a significant boost to your bottom line.
  • Protect your loved ones. Quitting smoking is the single best way to protect family members, coworkers, friends, and the people around you.



Getting Help When You Want to Quit Smoking

There are many resources available to help you stop using tobacco and stay tobacco-free.
Many are free or inexpensive. Below is a partial list to get you started.

How can I use medicine to stop smoking?
  • Consider a nicotine replacement option. Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) works by replacing some of the nicotine you used to get from cigarettes, so you don’t feel as uncomfortable after quitting. The FDA has approved five kinds: gum, transdermal patch, nasal spray, oral inhaler, and tablet. When used as directed, most people get enough nicotine from NRT to avoid having overwhelming cravings and withdrawal symptoms.
  • Ask your doctor about medicines that help you quit. Bupropion (aka Zyban) has many effects on the brain, including helping people quit smoking. It decreases cravings and other nicotine withdrawal symptoms. Varenicline (aka Chantix) reduces your urge to smoke and your enjoyment of cigarettes. It gives you the strongest chance for success of any single medicine.
  • Using more than one medicine can help a lot. A nicotine patch plus lozenge or gum is the most common combination.
How do I make a "quit smoking" plan?

A quit plan is a way to put thought into what you will do to stop smoking, and then help you follow through and stick with it.

Here is one sample quit plan:

  1. Set a quit date and be strategic. Big changes in life benefit from good planning. Take a look at your calendar and be strategic about when it would be a good time to quit. Consider quitting on a day without too many temptations (like a holiday party) or stressors (like a looming work deadline).
  2. Identify triggers and track cigarettes. Much like using a step counter to track your activity if you’re trying to get in shape or lose weight, figuring out what makes you want to smoke is part of your quit plan.
  3. Beat your triggers. Now that you’ve identified your triggers, you can plan for how you’ll avoid or overcome them. See above.
  4. Get smart about your smoking addiction. Learn the effects of nicotine on your brain and learn about quit smoking aids to boost your chances of quitting successfully.
  5. Choose a quit smoking aid. Talk with your doctor, health care provider, or pharmacist about which one feels right for you.
  6. Tell someone, anyone. Quitting can be lonely, but it doesn’t have to be! Consider telling at least one friend, family member, or coworker you trust that you’re quitting, someone who can be a supportive listener and cheer on your success!
  7. Out with the old and in with the new. Go through your house, your car, and your workplace and toss out everything that has to do with smoking.
  8. Get ready, get set. If you’re using medication, make sure you have plenty of it on hand. Get ready to quit by having other good ways to cope with cravings. Find a refillable water bottle; stock up on things to chew on like carrot sticks, toothpicks, sugarless candy and gum; and put something fun in your hands, like a squeeze toy or drumsticks. Keep yourself motivated. Make a list of “reasons I want to quit smoking” and tuck it into your wallet, purse, car, bathroom mirror, office … or everywhere!
  9. Go. You know when your triggers will be popping up. And you know how to beat them when they do. Get up and attack the day. Get dressed, eat, grab your bottle of water and your quit smoking aid and go! Just focus on getting through this one day without smoking. You can survive your first day of quitting smoking. And then take it one day at a time.
  10. If you need to, pick yourself back up. Quitting is hard, and often takes more than one try. If you smoked after your quit day, pick yourself back up and don’t give up.
What virtual resources are available for individuals trying to quit?

Here are links to three quit plan websites:

Your primary care provider can help you quit smoking. Work together on your quit plan and ask if medications or nicotine-replacement products are right for you.

Where can i go for coaching and support?
  • The New York State Smokers’ Quitline is a great resource for people who are ready to quit smoking. 
    • You can call 1-866-NY-QUITS (1-866-697-8487) for free coaching and support. You can also learn more about how to get a free starter kit of nicotine patches, gum, or lozenges if you are eligible.
  • The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have a website with help for smokers trying to quit. 
  • Fidelis Care offers members access to free therapies that help people quit smoking. 
    • Talk to your primary care provider, or call us at 1-888-FIDELIS (1-888-343-3547).




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