What are the risks to my health if I smoke tobacco?
Nicotine and other chemicals found in tobacco and e-cigarettes can damage every cell in your body. Even if you are a light smoker, you have an increased risk for cancer, heart disease, and lung disease. If you are pregnant or have diabetes, smoking increases your risk for complications. Nicotine can affect an adolescent's developing brain. This can lead to trouble thinking, learning, or paying attention.
What are the benefits to my health if I stop smoking?
- You decrease respiratory symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath.
- You reduce your risk for cancers of the lung, mouth, throat, kidney, bladder, pancreas, stomach, and cervix. If you already have cancer, you increase the benefits of chemotherapy. You also reduce your risk for cancer returning or a second cancer from developing.
- You reduce your risk for heart disease, blood clots, heart attack, and stroke.
- You reduce your risk for lung infections, and diseases such as pneumonia, asthma, chronic bronchitis, and emphysema.
- Your circulation improves. More oxygen can be delivered to your body. If you have diabetes, you lower your risk for complications, such as kidney, artery, and eye diseases. You also lower your risk for nerve damage. Nerve damage can lead to amputations, poor vision, and blindness.
- You improve your body's ability to heal and to fight infections.
- An adolescent can help his or her brain and body develop in a healthy way. Talk to your adolescent about all the health risks of nicotine. If you can, start talking about nicotine when your child is younger than 12 years. This may make it easier for him or her not to start using nicotine as a teenager or adult. Explain to him or her that it is best never to start. It can be hard to try to quit later.
What are the health benefits to others if I stop smoking?
Tobacco is harmful to nonsmokers who breathe in your secondhand smoke. The following are ways the health of others around you may improve when you stop smoking:
- You lower the risks for lung cancer and heart disease in nonsmoking adults.
- If you are pregnant, you lower the risk for miscarriage, early delivery, low birth weight, and stillbirth. You also lower your baby's risk for SIDS, obesity, developmental delay, and neurobehavioral problems, such as ADHD.
- If you have children, you lower their risk for ear infections, colds, pneumonia, bronchitis, and asthma.
Electronic Cigarettes and Your Health
What do I need to know about electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes)?
An e-cigarette is a battery-operated device. The device turns nicotine or cannabis (marijuana) into a vapor that is inhaled. This is also called vaping. Some devices heat liquid nicotine or marijuana. Some can dry heat marijuana. E-cigarettes are also known by other names. Examples include vape pens, e-hookahs, and tank systems. Vaping devices come in many shapes and sizes. Some look like a pen or a
computer flash drive. E-cigarettes are often used to help a person quit smoking cigarettes. Vaped nicotine can still cause health problems and may not be the safest way to quit smoking.
What are the risks to my health?
- Your lungs may be damaged. You may develop e-cigarette or vaping-associated lung injury (EV ALI). EV ALI is a life-threatening condition. You may develop asthma or emphysema. Lipids (fats) may accumulate in your lungs and keep your lungs from working well. The liquid used in vaping can become contaminated with bacteria. You may develop pneumonia or other problems if the bacteria get into your lungs.
- E-cigarettes can put chemicals and heavy metals into your body. Metals include nickel, tin, and aluminum. The metals can go into your bloodstream and lungs. Over time, these chemicals and metals may cause cancer or a lung illness. The chemicals may also worsen lung conditions such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
- You may develop nicotine poisoning. You can get too much nicotine by inhaling the vapor or by spilling nicotine on your skin. Nicotine poisoning can cause heart failure and other life-threatening problems. You may start vomiting or have a fast heartbeat, trouble breathing, or shortness of breath.
- Nicotine can affect an adolescent's developing brain. This can lead to trouble thinking, learning, or paying attention.
What are the health risks to others?
- Chemicals in secondhand e-cigarettes may increase the risk for cancer. The vapor you exhale still contains metals and toxic substances. Do not use an e-cigarette indoors or in your car. Do not use it near babies or children.
- Children are at higher risk for nicotine poisoning than adults. Children can be poisoned using an e-cigarette, breathing secondhand vapor, or getting nicotine liquid onto their skin. A child is at risk for life-threatening poisoning if he or she swallows even a small amount of liquid nicotine.
- Nicotine or marijuana used during pregnancy can harm an unborn baby. Either can prevent a baby from developing and growing correctly. Nicotine can damage a baby's heart and lungs. Marijuana can harm a baby's eyes and nervous system. Do not use an ecigarette during pregnancy to help you quit smoking. Ask your healthcare provider for safer ways to help you quit.
What are safer ways to quit smoking?
- Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) such as nicotine patches, gum, or lozenges may help reduce your nicotine cravings. You may get these without a doctor's order.
- Prescription medicines such as nasal sprays or nicotine inhalers may help reduce withdrawal symptoms. Other medicines may also be used to reduce the urge to smoke. Ask your healthcare provider about these medicines. You may need to start certain medicines 2 weeks before your quit date for them to work well.
- Counseling from a trained healthcare provider can provide you with support and skills to quit smoking. The provider will also teach you to manage your withdrawal symptoms and cravings. Individual counseling, group therapy, and phone therapy called a quit line are available.
- Support groups let you talk to others who are trying to quit or have already quit. It may be helpful to speak with others about how they quit.
What can I do to help prevent my child from using an e-cigarette?
- Help your child understand the health risks of nicotine. He or she may believe that vaping is a safer way to use nicotine than regular cigarettes. Help him or her understand that nicotine in any form can be harmful. If you can, start talking about nicotine when your child is younger than 12 years. This may make it easier for him or her not to start using nicotine as a teenager or adult. Explain to him or her that it is best never to start. It can be hard to try to quit later.
- Learn about vaping. The more you know, the more you can explain to your child. Understand the short-term and long-term health risks of vaping.
- Learn where your child may be getting vaping products. Your child may be getting the products online. Online sellers may ask the buyer to type in his or her birth date or click to verify his or her age. Sellers cannot know if buyers are being truthful. Your child may be able to buy products from friends, or from sellers on the street. Vaping products not sold in licensed stores are more likely to contain harmful substances, such as vitamin E acetate.
- Be a good role model. Do not use e-cigarettes in front of your child. Your child may copy your behavior. Use NRT if you plan to quit smoking regular cigarettes.
- Be supportive. Your child may be more willing to talk about vaping if you are open and supportive. Ask if anyone is pressuring him or her to use vaping products. You may be able to help your child develop ways to resist peer pressure.
- Help him or her quit using vaping products safely. Explain withdrawal symptoms, and that they will go away. Encourage the use of NRT instead of nicotine vaping products. Stress may increase the use of e-cigarettes or regular cigarettes. Encourage him or her to talk to someone. Encourage exercise or sports to help manage stress. Encourage healthy sleep and healthy foods.
Lung Cancer Screening
What is lung cancer screening?
Lung cancer screening is a test done every year to find lung cancer early. Screening is different from diagnosis because screening is used before you have any signs or symptoms. Screening may be helpful if you are or were a heavy smoker, or if you smoked for many years. This is because smoking increases your risk for lung cancer. Lung cancer screening has benefits and risks. Talk with your healthcare provider about the benefits and risks to help you decide if lung cancer screening is right for you.
What do I need to know about lung cancer?
- Lung cancer cells can form a tumor in your lungs and can spread to other areas of your body. This cancer is often found after it has spread. By this time, it is more difficult to treat. Treatment may include surgery to remove lung tissue that contains cancer cells.
- Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths.
- Talk to your healthcare provider if you think you have signs or symptoms of lung cancer. Examples include chest pain, a cough that does not go away, coughing up blood, wheezing, hoarseness, and neck swelling.
Am I a good candidate for lung cancer screening?
You may be able to have lung cancer screening if the following are true:
- You are between 50 and 80 years old. Your healthcare provider may recommend
screening earlier. This depends on certain risk factors. Your provider can give you more information.
- You have never had lung cancer.
- You do not currently have any signs or symptoms of lung cancer.
- You currently smoke, or you quit less than 15 years ago. You also are or were a heavy smoker (20 pack-years or more).
- You do not have any other serious conditions.
- You are willing to have surgery if screening shows signs of lung cancer.
- You are willing to have screening every year until you have not smoked for 15 years or reach 81 years of age. Screening may also stop if you develop another health condition or you are no longer willing to have treatment.
What are pack-years?
Pack-years are the number of cigarette packs you smoked multiplied by the number of years you smoked. A heavy smoker has 20 pack-years or more. Examples of 20 pack-years are l pack of cigarettes smoked each day for 20 years, or 2 packs each day for 10 years. Your healthcare provider can help you calculate your pack-years.
How is lung cancer screening done?
Lung cancer screening is done with a low-dose CT scan (LDCT). A CT uses an x-ray and a computer to give detailed pictures of your lungs. You will lie on a table for this test. A low amount of radiation from the x-ray machine is used to take pictures of your lungs. This test only takes a few minutes. You will be asked to hold your breath for about 6 seconds while the pictures are taken.
What are the benefits of lung cancer screening?
- Low-dose CT scan (LDCT) can find some kinds of lung cancer early. This means it can be treated with less invasive surgery, or less lung tissue may need to be removed.
- The scan is not invasive or painful, and takes only a short amount of time.
- LDCT does not leave radiation in your body after the scan is done.
- LDCT can lower your risk of death from lung cancer by 16% to 20% because the cancer is found early. Your risk for death from any cause is lowered by 6.7%. This is because the scan may show signs of problems other than lung cancer that need to be treated.
What are the risks of lung cancer screening?
- Low-dose CT scan (LDCT) exposes you to a small amount of radiation that can increase your risk for cancer. The amount is less than is given during a mammogram. It is about the same amount you get from the sun in a year. Because you will need to be screened every year, your total radiation exposure over time is increased.
- The test can give a false-positive result. This means that screening shows you have lung cancer, but follow-up tests show that you do not. You may get more tests or even treatments that are not needed. It can also be stressful to think you have lung cancer when you do not. The risk for a false-positive result is about 23%.
- The test can give a false-negative result. This means that the test does not find signs of cancer, but you later develop signs and symptoms and need treatment. A false-negative result can keep you from getting treatment as early as possible. The risk for a false negative result is about 4%.
- Screening may lead to over-diagnosis if tumors are found that are not life-threatening.
Some forms of cancer grow quickly and need to be treated. Other forms grow slowly and may not be life-threatening.
- Screening may lead to over-treatment. This means you get treatment that is not necessary. About 10% of people with lung cancer receive treatment that was not needed.
What happens after I have lung cancer screening?
You will meet with your healthcare provider to go over the results of your screening. You may need more tests to diagnose anything that showed up on the screening test. Lung cancer screening needs to be done each year. Even if your result shows you do not have lung cancer, it is important to continue getting screened each year. This is the best way to find a new cancer, at the earliest possible stage.
What questions should I ask my healthcare provider to help me make a decision about screening?
- How high is my risk for lung cancer?
- What are my pack-years?
- Will I be able to help create my treatment plan if screening shows I have lung cancer?
- Will my insurance cover screening?
- Where is the screening done?
- Do I need to do anything to get ready to have screening?
- When and how do I get the results of my screening?
What do I need to think about before I decide to have lung cancer screening?
- Benefits and risks of lung cancer screening:
- Do I understand the benefits and risks of lung cancer screening with low-dose CT scan (LDCT)? How concerned am I about the risks? Do I think the benefits are greater than the risks?
- One of the main risks is that the radiation I get during screening can cause cancer. Do I understand how high the risk is? How worried am I about the risk?
- Possibility of finding lung cancer: How will I feel if I find out I have lung cancer? Am I willing to get the treatment I might need?
- Possibility of false results: I might get a false-positive or false-negative result. How will I feel if the test results are wrong?
- Need for annual screening: Screening needs to be done every year. Am I willing to have screening until I am a nonsmoker for 15 years, am 81, or develop another condition?
- Screening will also stop if I am no longer willing to have treatment. How do I feel about the need for surgery or other treatment for lung cancer? Will I be comfortable with my decision not to have treatment, and to stop having screening?
What do I need to know about quitting smoking?
If you currently smoke, it is very important that you try to quit. If you already quit smoking, it is important that you do not start smoking again. You will also need to avoid secondhand smoke from others. Nicotine and other chemicals in cigarettes and cigars increase your risk for cancer. Your risk for lung cancer gets lower each year that you do not smoke. Even if you get lung cancer screening every year, it is still important not to smoke. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you currently smoke and need help to quit.
How to Stop Smoking
Why should I stop smoking?
You will improve your health and the health of others around you if you stop smoking. Your risk for heart and lung disease, cancer, stroke, heart attack, and vision problems will also decrease. Your adolescent can help prevent or stop harm to his or her brain or body. This will help him or her become a healthy adult. You can benefit from quitting no matter how long you have smoked.
How can I prepare to stop smoking?
Nicotine is a highly addictive drug found in cigarettes. Withdrawal symptoms can happen when you stop smoking and make it hard to quit. These
include anxiety, depression, irritability, trouble sleeping, and increased appetite. You increase your chances of success if you prepare to quit.
- Set a quit date. Pick a date that is within the next 2 weeks. Do not pick a day that you
think may be stressful or busy. Write down the day or circle it on your calendar.
- Tell friends and family that you plan to quit. Explain that you may have withdrawal symptoms when you try to quit. Ask them to support you. They may be able to encourage you and help reduce your stress to make it easier for you to quit.
- Make a list of your reasons for quitting. Put the list somewhere you will see it every day, such as your refrigerator. You can look at the list when you have a craving.
- Remove all tobacco and nicotine products from your home, car, and workplace. Also, remove anything else that will tempt you to smoke, such as lighters, matches, or ashtrays. Clean your car, home, and places at work that smell like smoke. The smell of smoke can trigger a craving.
- Identify triggers that make you want to smoke. This may include activities, feelings, or people. Also write down l way you can deal with each of your triggers. For example, if you want to smoke as soon as you wake up, plan another activity during this time, such as exercise.
- Make a plan for how you will quit. Learn about the tools that can help you quit, such as medicine, counseling, or nicotine replacement therapy. Choose at least 2 options to help you quit.
- Help your adolescent make a plan to quit. The plan will be more successful if your
adolescent makes his or her own decisions. Do not try to pressure him or her to quit
immediately or in a certain way. Be supportive and offer help if needed.
What are some tools to help me stop smoking?
- Counseling from a trained healthcare provider can provide you with support and skills to quit smoking. The provider will also teach you to manage your withdrawal symptoms and cravings. You may receive counseling from one counselor, in group therapy, or through phone therapy called a quit line.
- Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) such as nicotine patches, gum, or lozenges may help reduce your nicotine cravings. You may get these without a doctor1s order. Do not use e-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco in place of cigarettes or to help you quit. They still contain nicotine.
- Prescription medicines such as nasal sprays or nicotine inhalers may help reduce your withdrawal symptoms. Other medicines may also be used to reduce your urge to smoke. Ask your healthcare provider about these medicines. You may need to start certain
medicines 2 weeks before your quit date for them to work well.
- Hypnosis is a practice that helps guide you through thoughts and feelings. Hypnosis may help decrease your cravings and make you more willing to quit.
- Acupuncture therapy uses very thin needles to balance energy channels in the body. This is thought to help decrease cravings and symptoms of nicotine withdrawal.
- Support groups let you talk to others who are trying to quit or have already quit. It may be helpful to speak with others about how they quit.
How can I manage my cravings?
- Avoid situations, people, and places that tempt you to smoke. Go to nonsmoking
places, such as libraries or restaurants. Understand what tempts you and try to avoid these things.
- Keep your hands busy. Hold things such as a stress ball or pen.
- Put candy or toothpicks in your mouth. Keep lollipops, sugarless gum, or toothpicks with you at all times.
- Do not have alcohol or caffeine. These drinks may tempt you to smoke. Drink healthy liquids such as water or juice instead.
- Reward yourself when you resist your cravings. Rewards will motivate you and help you stay positive.
- Do an activity that distracts you from your craving. Examples include cleaning,
creating art, or gardening.
What should I know about weight gain after I quit?
You may gain a few pounds after you quit smoking. It is healthier for you to gain a few pounds than to continue to smoke. The following can help you prevent weight gain:
- Eat a variety of healthy foods. Healthy foods include fruits, vegetables, whole-grain breads, low-fat dairy products, beans, lean meats, and fish. Eat healthy snacks, such as low-fat yogurt, if you get hungry between meals.
- Drink water before, during, and between meals. This will make your stomach feel full and help prevent you from overeating. Ask your healthcare provider how much liquid to drink each day and which liquids are best for you.
- Be physically active. Activity may help reduce your cravings and reduce stress. Take a walk or do some kind of physical activity every day. Ask your healthcare provider which activities are right for you.