This Blog May Inspire You but Motivation Is Another Story

Posted on by DCPC
Student drawing a heart on her desk
Quitting smoking may not be easy, but it is possible. What’s your reason to quit?

By Jane Henley, MSPH

When I was a teenager, about 2 out of 3 kids my age had tried smoking cigarettes and about 1 of 5 kids smoked cigarettes every day. Many of my family members smoked. Most of my friends smoked. I tried smoking.

The reason I don’t smoke today was a boy I’ll call Mike. One day I was with my friends and I was trying to catch Mike’s attention, so I lit up a cigarette. Mike did notice me but he was not impressed! He yelled, “Gross! Who wants to kiss a girl who tastes like an ashtray?” I stomped out that cigarette and never lit another. I didn’t know then that I would become a cancer epidemiologist and that much of my research would focus on health consequences of tobacco use.

I now know that smoking causes cancer in many parts of the body including the mouth, nose, throat, voice box (larynx), lung, esophagus, stomach, liver, pancreas, colon, rectum, kidney, bladder, cervix, blood, and bone marrow (acute myeloid leukemia). I know only too well that smoking increases the risk of dying from cancer and other diseases in people with cancer even after it is treated, including breast and prostate cancer patients. My mother was a 20-year breast cancer survivor but died from lung cancer.

As a cancer epidemiologist, I know the dangers of smoking. Although I tell my friends and family over and again about how bad smoking is for them, this is not what motivates them to quit.

  • My mother quit smoking when she was in the hospital waiting for surgery to remove a brain tumor that had metastasized from her lung cancer.
  • My friend quit smoking in her twenties because she wanted to broaden her pool of available bachelors to include men who preferred to date non-smokers. She called a quitline and slapped on a nicotine patch.
  • My brother quit smoking in his thirties because his wife asked him to. He tried to quit several times and was finally able to quit with the help of nicotine gum.
  • My friend’s father quit smoking in his sixties because he had a chest X-ray and his doctor found nodules on his lungs. He didn’t want the nodules to turn into cancer, so he quit smoking on the spot.

Quitting Is Possible, and Treatments Can Make It Easier

Quitting may not be easy, but it is possible. About 2 out of 3 adults who smoke want to quit. More than half of them have quit for at least one day in the past year. Today in the United States, about 3 out of 5 people who smoked have quit for good.

Some people think that because most people quit smoking “cold turkey” that this means it is the best way to quit. But research shows that people who use tobacco cessation counseling or medication increase their chance of quitting for good—and that using both counseling and medication increases that chance even more. However, only 1 out of 3 smokers use these proven cessation treatments when trying to quit smoking.

The fact is, if more smokers used proven cessation treatments, more smokers would quit for good. This is why I encourage my friends and family who smoke to get help to quit smoking. I encourage them to talk to their doctors, get counseling, call quitlines (1-800-QUIT-NOW), get information online or on their phones (text the word QUIT to 47848), and use FDA-approved cessation medications like bupropion SR (Zyban®), varenicline tartrate (Chantix®) or nicotine replacement products (patch, gum, lozenge, inhaler, or nasal spray).

While I can educate my friends and family about the harms of smoking and the benefits of cessation and inspire them to quit smoking, I know they will each find their own reason to quit smoking. Maybe they want to spend their money on something besides cigarettes. Maybe they do not want to smell like smoke anymore. Maybe they want to be healthy enough to play with their grandchildren and be around to see them grow up.

Mike was my reason. What’s yours?

Posted on by DCPC

2 comments on “This Blog May Inspire You but Motivation Is Another Story”

Comments listed below are posted by individuals not associated with CDC, unless otherwise stated. These comments do not represent the official views of CDC, and CDC does not guarantee that any information posted by individuals on this site is correct, and disclaims any liability for any loss or damage resulting from reliance on any such information. Read more about our comment policy ».

    Thank you for acknowledging that most smokers quit smoking cold turkey. In that a hefty percentage of your readers are likely to trust in their natural instincts, it’s important most that they understand the key to successful abrupt nicotine cessation.

    Early lapse /relapse studies suggest that just one puff/ taste of tobacco and the odds of full relapse are extremely high. The 1990 Brandon study found that 88% who “tasted” a cigarette went on to relapse. According to the study, “The high rate of return to regular smoking (88%) once a cigarette is tasted suggests that the distinction between an initial lapse and full relapse may be unnecessary.”

    The 1992 Garvey study, followed 235 adult smokers for one full year after attempting to quit. It found that, “Those who smoked any cigarettes at all in the post-cessation period (i.e. lapsed) had a 95% probability of resuming their regular pattern of smoking subsequently.”

    Brain imaging studies suggest that just one puff and up to 50 percent of dopamine pathway receptors become occupied by nicotine. While most walk away from trying to cheat when quitting feeling like they’ve gotten away with it, nicotine addiction is real drug addiction. Soon, nearly all will find their brain wanting, plotting to obtain or even begging for more.

    Key to successful abrupt nicotine cessation is remaining mindful that while it is impossible to fail so long as all nicotine remains on the outside, that the opposite is also true. You’re not fighting a cartoon, a pack or even an entire cigarette. The key to success is respecting the ability of a single puff to destroy your dream of getting and staying clean. Yes, just one hour, challenge and day at a time … never take another puff.

    John R. Polito, JD
    Nicotine Cessation Educator

Post a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

All comments posted become a part of the public domain, and users are responsible for their comments. This is a moderated site and your comments will be reviewed before they are posted. Read more about our comment policy »

Page last reviewed: Tuesday, June 23, 2020
Page last updated: Tuesday, June 23, 2020