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Smoking Cessation Tips during National Cancer Prevention Month

Posted: February 24, 2022


In honor of National Cancer Prevention Month, we are sharing important information on how you can reduce your cancer risk. Did you know that more than 40 percent of all cancers diagnosed and nearly half of all deaths from cancer in the United States can be attributed to preventable causes – such as smoking, excess body weight, physical inactivity, and excessive exposure to the sun? Research has proven that one way to significantly reduce your cancer risk is to quit smoking. We know that this can be hard, so we have complied some helpful information to get you started.

The Facts

Smoking is the most preventable cause of death in the United States, killing almost a half a million Americans per year (1). Smoking not only increases your risk of more than a dozen types of cancer, but it also weakens your immune system making it more difficult to fight cancer (2). However, after quitting for 5 years, your risk of getting mouth, throat, esophagus, and bladder cancer is cut in half (2). After 10 years, your risk of lung cancer is also lowered by 50% (2).


Physical addiction

Did you know more than half of adult smokers tried to quit smoking in 2018? Only 7.5% succeeded (3). What makes quitting smoking so difficult? It’s because cigarette smoking is both a physical and psychological addiction. Cigarettes contain an addictive substance called nicotine. The brain of a daily smoker gets used to having a steady supply of nicotine. When levels of nicotine get low, withdrawal symptoms can appear. Withdrawal symptoms can cause anxiety, irritability, and an urge to smoke. This can lead to failure.

Psychological reasons

When people smoke every day, cigarettes become a part of their daily routines. Many people associate smoking with taking a break, talking on the phone, driving in the car, or drinking coffee or alcohol to name a few (4). When people quit smoking, the events they associate with smoking can cause urges to smoke making it hard to stop.  Some events can be avoided, but others are part of a person’s daily routine. When a person quits smoking, they need to be prepared to manage these triggers.

Help Quitting

While quitting smoking is difficult, it is not impossible. The most effective way to quit smoking is to get counseling and use some form of medication. Here are some FDA-approved medicines to help you quit:
  • Varenicline and bupropion are pills you can take to help reduce urges to smoke. They do not contain nicotine and require a prescription from your provider.  
  • Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) comes in many different forms such as patches, gum, lozenges, inhaler and nasal spray. The purpose of these medicines are to replace the nicotine needed to prevent physical withdrawal. Nicotine replacement can help manage the physical withdrawal while the ex-smoker works on the psychological triggers of everyday life.  Many nicotine replacement medicines are sold over the counter.  
For comprehensive list of medicines available, to help you or someone you love quit, access this link: https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/campaign/tips/quit-smoking/quit-smoking-medications/which-quit-smoking-medicine-is-right-for-you/index.html

Additional Tips for Quitting

  1. Adjust your medicine. If your urges are hard to resist and you are using NRT, you may be able to use more. If you are using varenicline or bupropion, you can talk to your doctor or other healthcare professional about your urges, as well as using these other tips.
  2. Make your environment work for you. Change things about your home, care and work that will make it easier to quit. Also, communicate with others that you’re quitting so they can support you. Avoid temptations. 
  3. Distract yourself. Listen to music, go for a walk, call a friend, do a puzzle. 
  4. Find safe substitutes for cigarettes. Find substitutes for cigarettes for your mouth and hands and keep them close by, such as toothpicks, straws, or cinnamon sticks. Also, paper clips, pencils for doodling or a squeeze ball can help with nervous energy.
  5. Listen to what the urge says, then talk back. As you become more aware of the thoughts you have around an urge, try talking back to them. For example:
    • Thought: “I’m stressed, so I deserve a cigarette.”
    • Talk back by saying “Yes, I am stressed, so I deserve a break to breathe and relax.”
  6. Ride the waves. For most people, the urge will begin to dissipate after a few minutes. Of course, you will get more urges later, but they will wane with time. Practice riding the wave a few times a day.

Other Resources to Help you Quit:

  • Calling the quitline (1-800-QUIT-NOW)/(1-800-784-8669). You will be connected to a Quit Smoking Coach.
  • Download the quitSTART App. This is a free smartphone app on Google Play and Apple that provide tips and inspiration to help you quit smoking.
  • Smokefree.gov is a website with tips and tools to help you quit smoking. It even provides an online chat option, free texting programs with 24/7 support, as well as apps (QuitGuide and quitSTART).
  • Be Tobacco Free offers a text messaging service that provides you 24/7 encouragement and advice, a list of tobacco-free campaigns, and a helpful guide on medications that can make quitting easier.
Quitting smoking is just one way you can reduce your cancer risk. We understand that quitting smoking takes a huge commitment and effort, this effort is worth it. At Cancer Care Northwest, we are here to help and encourage you to discuss smoking cessation with your oncologist at your next appointment.  There is no better time than now, during National Cancer Prevention Month, to quit smoking.
1. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Burden of Cigarette Use in the U.S. https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/campaign/tips/resources/data/cigarette-smoking-in-united-states.html. June 17, 2021. (accessed 2/16/2022)
2. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Cancer | CDC. https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/basic_information/health_effects/cancer/. April 2, 2021. (accessed 2/16/2022).
3. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Fast Facts | Fact Sheets | Smoking & Tobacco Use | CDC. https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/fast_facts/index.htm.  June 2, 2021. (accessed 2/16/2022)
4. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Why Quitting Smoking Is Hard. https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/campaign/tips/quit-smoking/quit-smoking-medications/why-quitting-smoking-is-hard/index.html. January 3, 2022. (accessed 2/16/2022)
5. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Which Quit Smoking Medicine is Right for You? https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/campaign/tips/quit-smoking/quit-smoking-medications/which-quit-smoking-medicine-is-right-for-you/index.html. June 1, 2021. (accessed 2/16/2022)