Tobacco and Nicotine

For thousands of years, people have smoked or chewed the leaves of the tobacco plant. Even in its early days, people speculated that there might be a link between diseases like cancer and tobacco use.

Surveys have shown that the majority of smokers - at least 70% and perhaps as high as 90% - want to stop smoking. However, no more than 20% of those who try to quit succeed for as long as a year. Around 3% succeed using willpower alone. Smokers who have tried to quit before and not succeeded should not be discouraged. Most smokers make several attempts to quit before they finally succeed.

Benefits of Quitting

The first step may be to list reasons to quit smoking. Each individual may have a unique set of reasons that is meaningful to them. Below are a few common reasons to quit smoking.

  • Each breath feels clean and refreshing
  • More stamina, endurance, and confidence
  • More cash in your pocket
  • Clothes don't stink
  • Anxiety level goes way, way down
  • House and car smells good!
  • General health improves
  • Whiter teeth and fresher breath
  • Sharper thinking
  • Don't expose family and friends to secondhand smoke

One of the major barriers to smoking cessation is nicotine withdrawal. It results when a person is nicotine dependent and stops using products with nicotine. Nicotine withdrawal symptoms involve irritability, headache, and craving for cigarettes or other sources of nicotine. Other symptoms include dizziness, drowsiness, sleep disturbances, vivid dreams, mild hallucinations and depression.

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Top 10 Tips to Quit

Counselors from the California Smokers' Helpline provide their top 10 tips to quit for good.

1. Find a Reason To Quit
Do you want to breathe easier? Be around longer for your family? Save money? Whatever gets you fired up, write it down. A strong reason can get you started. And it will help you stay quit when you're tempted to smoke.
2. Make a Plan
Think about what triggers you to smoke. Is it stress? Being around smokers? Alcohol? Or something else? Plan to get through those times without smoking. Keep your hands busy and your mind off cigarettes. Examples: drink water, wash the dishes, talk to a nonsmoker.

3. Call 1-800-NO-BUTTS
People who call the Helpline are twice as likely to quit for good. A trained counselor will help you make a personal plan and offer support along the way. It's free, and works!

4. Get Support
Research shows that support while quitting can really help. Talk with your family and friends about your plan to quit. Let them know what they can do to help you.

5. Use a Quitting Aid
Quitting aids, like nicotine patches and gum, and other FDA-approved medications are helpful. They can cut withdrawal symptoms and increase your chance of quitting for good. Your health plan or Medi-Cal benefits may cover these products. Talk with your doctor about which quitting aids are right for you.

6. Make Your Home & Car Smoke-Free
Having smoke-free areas can help you stop smoking. And your friends and family will enjoy cleaner air and a longer, happier life.

7. Set a Quit Date
Choose a date when you will quit. This shows you're serious. And you're more likely to give it a try.
8. Quit on Your Quit Date
Sounds obvious, right? But what good is a quit date unless you actually try to stop smoking? Planning is good - doing so is even better.
9. Picture Being a Nonsmoker
After you quit, you have a choice to make. Are you a smoker who's just not smoking for now? Or are you a nonsmoker? For nonsmokers, smoking is not an option in any situation. Choose to see yourself as a nonsmoker.

10. Keep Trying
Most people try several times before they quit for good. Slips don't have to turn into relapses - but if they do, remember each time brings you closer to your goal.

- If you keep trying, you will succeed!

This material made possible by funds received from the California Department of Public Health under contract 09-13058 and from First 5 California.

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Resources for Quitting

There are many options out there to quit smoking. For your benefit here are some resources to help you along the way.

California Smokers Helpline
  • 1-800-NO-BUTTS
American Lung Association in California 
  • 1-800-LUNGUSA

Smoke Free

American Cancer Society  Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights 

The American Legacy Foundation's Ex Plan

California Department of 
Public Health, Tobacco Control Program
Campaign for Tobacco-Free 

Smoke free app and text based services. 
Also smokefreeVet, smokefreeTeen, smokefreeWomen, spokefreeEspanol.

Quitstart app Smokefree text

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Help a Friend Quit

There is a simplified way to approach your loved one, called "Ask-Advise-Refer" where you can check in with them - while referring them to a quitline or other cessation services to Assess, Assist, and Arrange.

Ask: Ask about tobacco use
Ensure that tobacco use is asked about frequently.

  • How often do you smoke?

Advise: Advise smokers to quit
In a clear, strong, caring manner, encourage the person to quit.

  • Quitting is the single most important thing you can do to protect your health as well as your family.
  • I care about your health and well-being.

Refer: Refer smokers to a cessation services
Refer to the California Smokers' Helpline, Peer-to-peer counselor, and/or other program.

  • You can call 1-800-QUIT-NOW for free telephone support while you are quitting.
  • Let me put you in contact with a local cessation program that can offer you assistance as you get ready to quit.

Once you Refer them, the cessation service will:

  • Assess the smoker's willingness to quit
  • Assist the smoker with a quit plan (e.g. the Helpline provides behavioral medication counseling)
  • Arrange follow-up contact (e.g. the Helpline provides up to 4 follow-up calls - timing is based on the probability or relapse)

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