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The Time to Quit Smoking is Today: Join the Great American Smokeout

By Dr. Larry Wu | November 19, 2015 | Health Conditions

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Maybe it’s you, or a family member, or a loved one who’s trying to quit. You’ve always said you could go the distance; that you could stop lifting that pack at any time.

We believe in you. And now is a great time to do it.

Today is the American Cancer Society’s “Great American Smokeout“; a day where defeating tobacco addiction becomes a team sport.

Why You Should Stop Smoking

Cigarette smoke contains a deadly brew of 7,000 chemicals and compounds. Hundreds of them are poisonous and at least 70 cause cancer. Every time you take a puff or inhale secondhand smoke, these chemicals spread through your body, damaging blood vessels and cells.

Besides lung cancer, tobacco use also increases the risk for cancers of the mouth, lips, nose and sinuses, larynx (voice box), pharynx (throat), esophagus (swallowing tube), stomach, pancreas, kidney, and more. (Source: Cancer Facts & Figures 2014). And loved ones who inhale second-hand smoke have an increased risk for these cancers.

Deaths related to smoking are on the decline, down to an all-time low of 16.8% according to federal health authorities. Yet, an estimated 443,000 Americans die each year from smoking-related illnesses – all preventable. And while the rate of smoking has dropped, 46 million adults – one in five – still smoke, and millions more are exposed to secondhand smoke.

The number one thing you can do to improve your health is to stop smoking and chewing tobacco products.

Beyond the Cancer Risk

The nicotine in tobacco constricts your blood vessels, so using tobacco in any form is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke. It’s also highly addictive, bringing physical and psychological addictions. Smoking is also one of the major causes of COPD, a chronic obstructive lung disease. It is also a risk factor for having problems getting pregnant and having a healthy baby.

What should I do if I want to quit smoking?

The letters in the word “START” can help you remember the steps to take:

S = Set a quit date.

T = Tell family, friends, and the people around you that you plan to quit.

A = Anticipate or plan ahead for the tough times you’ll face while quitting. Withdrawal can be a challenge, but it you can do it!

R = Remove cigarettes and other tobacco products from your home, car, and work.

Image via the American Cancer Society

T = Talk to your doctor about getting help to quit. Your doctor or nurse can give you advice on the best way to quit. He or she can also put you in touch with counselors or other people you can call for support. Plus, your doctor or nurse can give you medicines to:

  • Reduce your craving for cigarettes
  • Reduce the unpleasant symptoms that happen when you stop smoking (called “withdrawal symptoms”).
  • What else can I do to improve my chances of quitting?
    • Start exercising.
    • Stay away from smokers and places that you associate with smoking. If people close to you smoke, ask them to quit with you.
    • Keep gum, hard candy, or something to put in your mouth handy. If you get a craving for a cigarette, try one of these instead.
    • Don’t give up, even if you start smoking again. It takes most people a few tries before they succeed.

What if I am pregnant and I smoke?

If you are pregnant, it’s important for the health of your baby that you quit. Ask your doctor what options you have, and what is safest for your baby.

Quitting smoking isn’t easy, but you can do it! As a BCBSNC customer, you can also get help from a free tobacco cessation counseling phone line by calling (1-844-8NCQUIT), go online to, or you can register at our BlueConnect dashboard and click on the Wellness tab for information on our Healthy Outcomes smoking cessation resources, including the six-week “Smoke Free” online Healthy Living Program

If you aren’t a BCBSNC customer, you can visit your state’s Department of Health and Human Services smoking cessation website, or call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669).