Smoking Cessation Health Center

The Centers for Disease Control lists tobacco use as the single most important preventable risk to human health, and one out of every five people in the United States are addicted to cigarettes, or about 61 million people. Smoking and tobacco use has been proven to cause heart disease, strokes, emphysema, chronic obstructive lung disease, and cancer of the lungs, bladder, throat, mouth, and pancreas.

Quitting smoking is extremely difficult for most smokers. Some studies have compared the difficulty of quitting smoking as similar to that of quitting heroin or cocaine. Some people can just go 'cold turkey' and quit immediately. Many more have attributed their success in quitting by using nicotine replacement products, such as gums, lozenges, or patches, which allow the person to gradually wean themselves off nicotine while avoiding the toxic byproducts of smoking and helping them resist the urge to smoke. However, recent research has shown that these products may offer help with temporarily quitting, but eventually over 90% of the smokers relapse within six months.

Recently, the popularity of 'e-cigarettes' or electronic cigarettes has increased, which allows the smoker to ingest nicotine in water vapor, without the added tar and smoke byproducts from cigarettes. However, the World Health Organization has not approved these devices as a legitimate smoking cessation aid as studies on their effectiveness is limited.

There are prescription drugs that have been successful with helping people quit as well like Wellbutrin, or Chantix. However like with any medication, there are the possibilities of side effects. Like the approach for many other mental health and behavioral issues, the approach of medication along with counseling (cognitive behavioral therapy, motivational interviewing) is more effective than either medication or counseling alone.

Community interventions such as making workplaces and public places smoke free have had a definite impact on smoking cessation, as well as increased pricing and taxation of tobacco products. It has been estimated that for every 10% increase in price, smoking decreases by 3%-5%. Alternative therapies such as hypnosis and acupuncture have been used with some degree of individual success, with 12 month success rates similar to behavioral therapy and nicotine replacement.

There is no question that quitting smoking greatly improves the health of the smoker, and it is never too late to quit. Within one year of quitting, the risk of heart disease is cut in half. Within 5 years, the risk of stroke is comparable to someone who never smoked.

Review Date: 
March 13, 2012
Last Updated:
July 2, 2013