Quitting smoking is hard. For many people, it is one of the hardest things they will do. Tobacco products are designed to make quitting difficult. The rate of smoking has fallen significantly over the past 55 years, yet the American Cancer Society estimates more than 32 million Americans smoke today. That is why, on the third Thursday of November, it hosts the Great American Smokeout to help people quit.

Smoking remains a problem in the United States

Cigarette smoking is the leading preventable cause of death and disease in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 480,000 Americans die from smoking-related causes each year. In addition, more than 16 million Americans are living with a smoking-related disease. Smoking can cause serious health problems such as cancer, heart disease, stroke, lung diseases, diabetes, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), including emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Smoking also increases your risk for tuberculosis, certain eye diseases, and problems of the immune system, such as rheumatoid arthritis.

 COVID-19 and Smoking

Given the serious health problems linked to smoking, it is natural to wonder about how COVID-19 affects smokers. The CDC says smoking puts adults at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19. One reason for this is that smoking weakens your immune system, making it harder to fight off infection. Smokers are already at higher risk for getting pneumonia and getting severely ill from flu, so it makes sense that they would also be at increased risk from COVID-19.

How to Quit – Support is Key

Deciding to stop smoking is the first step on a journey to better health. Quitting smoking can reduce your chances of developing serious disease and can add years to your life. But quitting will seldom happen in a day. It takes time and a plan. The American Cancer Society encourages people to use the Great American Smokeout to develop a smoking cessation plan, or, if you already have a plan, to use the date to get started.

It often takes multiple tries before stopping for good. Having the right supports in place can increase the chances of success. There are a number of  supports available, including:

  • Telephone quit lines
  • Nicotine Anonymous meetings
  • Self help books
  • Smoking cessation coaches/counselors
  • Prescription medications
  • Nicotine replacement

And don’t underestimate the importance of support from family and friends. Two or more smoking cessation methods often work better than any one alone. The American Cancer Society can help you find programs, resources and support to help you quit. Visit their website or call 1-800-227-2345 to learn more.

Quitting is a decision only you can make. If you want to quit, there is no better time to start than now. When you stop smoking, your body begins to heal and within a few weeks and months your lungs will start to work better and your risk of a heart attack will go down. That’s news that will help you breathe easier.