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A hand putting out a cigeratte in an ash tray

Tobacco Cessation

According to reports issued by the Surgeon General, smoking is the chief avoidable cause of death in our society. Quitting tobacco is one of the most important things you will ever do.

Good Reasons for Quitting

  • You will live longer and live better
  • Quitting will lower your chance of having a heart attack, stroke, or cancer
  • If you are pregnant, quitting tobacco will improve your chances of having a healthy baby
  • The people you live with, especially your children, will be healthier
  • You will have extra money to spend on things other than tobacco products

Five Keys for Quitting

Studies have shown that these five steps will help you quit and quit for good. You have the best chances of quitting if you use them together

  • Get ready
  • Get support
  • Learn new skills and behaviors
  • Get medication and use it correctly
  • Be prepared for relapse or difficult situations

Get Ready

  • Set a quit date.
  • Change your environment.
    • Get rid of ALL cigarettes and ashtrays in your home, car, and place of work.
    • Don't let people smoke in your home.
  • Review your past attempts to quit. Think about what worked and what did not.
  • Once you quit, don't smoke - NOT EVEN A PUFF!

Get Support and Encouragement

Studies have shown that you have a better chance of being successful if you have help. You can get support in many ways:

  • Tell your family, friends, and coworkers that you are going to quit and want their support. Ask them not to smoke around you or leave cigarettes out.
  • Talk to your health care provider (for example, doctor, dentist, nurse, pharmacist, psychologist, or tobacco cessation counselor).
  • Get individual, group, or telephone counseling. The more counseling you have, the better your chances are of quitting. Programs are given at local hospitals and health centers. Call your local health department for information about programs in your area.

A girl reading a book on the lawn
Learn New Skills and Behaviors

  • Try to distract yourself from urges to use tobacco. Talk to someone, go for a walk, or get busy with a task.
  • When you first try to quit, change your routine. Use a different route to work. Drink tea instead of coffee. Eat breakfast in a different place.
  • Do something to reduce your stress. Take a hot bath, exercise, or read a book.
  • Plan something enjoyable to do every day.
  • Drink a lot of water and other fluids.

Get Medication and Use It Correctly

Medications can help you stop using tobacco and lessen the urge to use tobacco.

  • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved five medications to help you quit smoking:
    • Bupropion SR-Available by prescription.
    • Nicotine gum-Available over-the-counter.
    • Nicotine inhaler-Available by prescription.
    • Nicotine nasal spray-Available by prescription.
    • Nicotine patch-Available by prescription and over-the-counter.
  • Ask your health care provider for advice and carefully read the information on the package.
  • All of these medications will more or less double your chances of quitting and quitting for good.
  • Everyone who is trying to quit may benefit from using a medication. If you are pregnant or trying to become pregnant, nursing, under age 18, smoking fewer than 10 cigarettes per day, or have a medical condition, talk to your doctor or other health care provider before taking medications.

Be Prepared for Relapse or Difficult Situations

Most relapses occur within the first 3 months after quitting. Don't be discouraged if you start smoking again. Remember, most people try several times before they finally quit. Here are some difficult situations to watch for:

  • Alcohol. Avoid drinking alcohol. Drinking lowers your chances of success.
  • Other smokers. Being around smoking can make you want to smoke.
  • Weight gain. Many smokers will gain weight when they quit, usually less than 10 pounds. Eat a healthy diet and stay active. Don't let weight gain distract you from your main goal-quitting smoking. Some quit-smoking medications may help delay weight gain.
  • Bad mood or depression. There are a lot of ways to improve your mood other than using tobacco.

A man holding a baby in his arm
Special Situations or Conditions

Studies suggest that everyone can quit using tobacoo. Your situation or condition can give you a special reason to quit. If you are having problems with any of these situations, talk to your doctor or other health care provider.

  • Pregnant women/new mothers: By quitting, you protect your baby's health and your own.
  • Hospitalized patients: By quitting, you reduce health problems and help healing.
  • Heart attack patients: By quitting, you reduce your risk of a second heart attack.
  • Lung, head, and neck cancer patients: By quitting, you reduce your chance of a second cancer.
  • Parents of children and adolescents: By quitting, you protect your children and adolescents from illnesses caused by second-hand smoke.

For more information on tobacco cessation visit OPM's Work/Life page at and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) website at