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When you think about becoming smoke-free, what's holding you back? You may have reasons for why you started and continue to smoke. You may feel it helps you relax, gives you energy, or helps you deal with stress. Smoking could also be something that you share with others in social settings.
Smoking is the leading preventable cause of premature death and disease worldwide. Endnote 1
Every time you smoke a cigarette, it harms your health. When a cigarette is burned, you become exposed to the addictive substance in the tobacco, nicotine, as well as harmful chemicals that are created through the burning process, including carbon monoxide and other chemicals that cause cancer (carcinogens). All people who smoke are at increased risk for:
Cardiovascular disease can cause damage to your heart and blood vessels. People who smoke are at an increased risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, and other cardiovascular issues including narrowing of blood vessels (veins and arteries), blockages in the legs, and high blood pressure. Endnote 2
Respiratory disease can cause damage to your airways and lungs. The respiratory diseases associated with smoking are often grouped together and referred to as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), which includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Cigarette smoking is connected to an increased risk of respiratory symptoms, including coughing, phlegm, wheezing, and difficult or laboured breathing (dyspnea).
Smoking can cause cancer in many parts of the body, including the lungs, liver, and colon. Endnote 2 For people living with cancer or those who have survived cancer, continuing to smoke makes treatment less effective and increases the risk of death from cancer. Endnote 2
Smoking causes other health issues including eye disease, diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis.Endnote 2 Smoking can also negatively impact your immune system, increasing the risk of respiratory infections. Endnote 2
Smoking can negatively impact reproductive health including preterm birth, stillbirth, birth defects, and infertility. Endnote 2, Endnote 3 Smoking can also be associated with erectile dysfunction. Endnote 2
Smoking causes a decline in overall health and increases risk of premature death. Endnote 2
It is never too late to quit smoking. Everyone, no matter their age or situation, can experience the benefits of quitting. Remember, even if you are living with a chronic health condition, quitting can help to improve your treatment outcomes and quality of life.
Your blood pressure drops to a level similar to that of before your last cigarette. Endnote 3
The level of carbon monoxide (a toxic gas) in your blood drops to normal. Endnote 3
Your risk of having a heart attack starts to drop. Endnote 3
The airways in your lungs relax and you can breathe easier.
You cough less and your lungs are even stronger. Endnote 4
Your added risk of coronary heart disease is half than that of someone who smokes.
You have the same chance of having a stroke as someone who does not smoke. Endnote 4 Your risk of getting mouth, throat, oesophagus, and bladder cancer is halved. Endnote 5
Your risk of getting lung cancer is about half. Endnote 5
Your risk of coronary heart disease is similar to that of someone who does not smoke. Endnote 4
Beyond improving your overall health and wellbeing there are other reasons, including social and environmental benefits, to quitting smoking.
Helpful hints: You can calculate how much you spend on cigarettes each day, week, month and year using our cost calculator. You can reflect on this number and consider what you could do with this extra money if you quit smoking.
Testimonial: "I'd rung up a $13,500 debt, in large part due to my smoking…I'm now down to $3,000 in debt, with some more likely to come off my paycheque tomorrow."
Think about what motivates you to want to quit smoking. You may want to make changes to your health, family, finances, or overall quality of life. If nothing comes to mind right away, that's okay! This means that you should take some time to reflect on your reasons for quitting smoking. We have provided some common examples below.
Think about your own personal reasons to quit smoking. Write clear statements that are meaningful and motivating to you. Remember that there are no wrong answers. Once you have written down your personal reasons, set SMART goals to motivate you.
Specific: What do you want to do? Be specific about what you want to accomplish by answering the questions 'what', 'who' and 'why'.
Measurable: How will you measure your progress? Using action words will help you measure your progress.
Achievable: Is this goal relevant and do-able? Are you willing and able to work towards achieving this goal?
Relevant: Is this goal important to you? Why do you want to achieve this goal?
Timely: Pick a timeframe that is realistic and will allow you to accomplish your goal.
Here is an example of a SMART goal:
I will not smoke after I eat breakfast [Specific & Measurable] by showering [Achievable] as soon as I'm done eating starting March 1st [Timely] to help me start the day smoke-free [Relevant].
Helpful hints: Keep a list of your reasons and SMART goals somewhere handy – on a sticky note in your car, in the notes of your mobile phone or near your workspace. This way, you can always pull it up as a reminder of why you are quitting.
Testimonial: "I have COPD and I wanted to quit smoking. I had tried many times before to quit without success. Quitting smoking is a lifestyle change and I was determined to succeed" - Anonymous
Samet J. M. (2013). Tobacco smoking: the leading cause of preventable disease worldwide. Thoracic surgery clinics, 23(2), 103–112. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.thorsurg.2013.01.009
Return to endnote 1 referrer
United States Public Health Service Office of the Surgeon General, & National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (US) Office on Smoking and Health. (2014). The Health Consequences of Smoking—50 Years of Progress: A Report of the Surgeon General. US Department of Health and Human Services
Return to endnote 2 referrer
United States Public Health Service Office of the Surgeon General, & National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (US) Office on Smoking and Health. (1988). The Health Consequences of Smoking: A Report of the Surgeon General. US Department of Health and Human Services.
Return to endnote 3 referrer
United States Public Health Service Office of the Surgeon General, & National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (US) Office on Smoking and Health. (1990). Health Benefits of Smoking Cessation: A Report by the Surgeon General. US Department of Health and Human Services.
Return to endnote 4 referrer
United States Department of Health and Human Services. Smoking Cessation. (2020). A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta, GA: S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health.
Return to endnote 5 referrer
United States Public Health Service Office of the Surgeon General, & National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (US) Office on Smoking and Health. (2006). The Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke: A Report of the Surgeon General. US Department of Health and Human Services.
Return to endnote 6 referrer
Health Canada. (2021). Canadian Tobacco and Nicotine Survey (CTNS): Summary of Results for 2020. Ottawa, ON: Authors. Retrived from: https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/canadian-tobacco-nicotine-survey/2020-summary.html
Return to endnote 7 referrer
Lecours, N., Almeida, G. E., Abdallah, J. M., & Novotny, T. E. (2012). Environmental health impacts of tobacco farming: a review of the literature. Tobacco control, 21(2), 191–196. https://doi.org/10.1136/tobaccocontrol-2011-050318
Return to endnote 8 referrer
No Tobacco. (2022). Tobacco: poisoning our planet. World Health Organization. https://www.who.int/publications/i/item/9789240051287
Return to endnote 9 referrer