Quit Smoking for Good

One of the best things you can do for your health is to quit smoking or using any kind of tobacco. Quitting isn’t easy, but the rewards make it worth the effort.

Quitting earlier in life is best, but it’s a big boost to your health at any age. “Even people who have smoked for many years or have smoked heavily will benefit from quitting,” says the Centers for Disease Control and Preventionleaving site icon

Quitting can help:

  • Improve your health and quality of life.
  • Cut the chance of premature death. It can add as much as 10 years to your life expectancy.
  • Lower the chance of getting many health problems, such as cancer, heart disease and stroke, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
What’s the Harm?

The longer you continue to smoke, the more it will harm your lungs. Smoking causes inflammation in the lungs and reduces the amount of oxygen that flows through them. Smoking also damages air sacs in the lungs, so smokers have a harder time breathing.

Studies show smokers are also more likely to get the flu or pneumonia than those who don’t smoke. And if they get the flu or pneumonia, it’s harder for smokers to make a full recovery.

In addition, smoking puts you at much higher risk for serious health problems like COPD and asthma, heart disease, stroke, and several types of cancer.

How To Quit

Quitting is hard, but you can raise your chances of success by getting help, says the American Cancer Societyleaving site icon

You can get free smoking cessation coaching through a “quit line” or with a mobile app. You can go to a class or use a medicine to help you stop. It might be helpful to start with small cutbacks to how much you smoke or use smokeless tobacco.

Once you’ve prepared, set a day to quit. Some things that can help:

  • Mark it on your calendar.
  • Tell friends and family.
  • Get rid of all the cigarettes, ashtrays or smokeless tobacco products in your home and car.

Consider joining the American Cancer Society’s Great American Smokeoutleaving site icon Held on the third Thursday of November, the event encourages smokers to take action and make a plan to quit. Many smokers even quit for good that day.

Your Doctor Can Help
Talk to your doctor about how to quit. There are many aids and resources available to help you successfully give up smoking. Your health plan may cover the cost of medicine and counseling to support you. Call the number on your member ID card to find out what your plan covers.

Do You Have COPD?

If you’ve been diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease leaving site icon (COPD), it’s important to stop smoking.

COPD is a disease that makes it hard to breathe, and it gets worse over time. It can make other illness very serious and lead to major complications. If you quit smoking, it can slow the progress of COPD.

Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of COPD, but about 25 percent of people with COPD never smoked. Long-term exposure to other lung irritants, like chemicals or air pollution, may also be a factor. Millions of Americans have been diagnosed with COPD. And many more may have the disease and not know it. That’s because COPD develops slowly. Symptoms often worsen over time and can limit your ability to do routine activities, like walking or housework.

COPD has no cure, but treatments and changing your habits can help you feel better and stay more active.

Testing for COPD
If you have a cough that doesn’t go away, let your doctor know. Tell them how long you've had it, how much you cough, and how much mucus comes up when you cough. If you have a family history of COPD, make sure your doctor knows.

Your doctor will examine you and listen for wheezing or other abnormal chest sounds. They may recommend one or more tests to diagnose COPDleaving site icon

One common test for COPD is spirometry. It’s a painless test. A technician asks you to take a deep breath in. Next, you'll blow as hard as you can into a tube connected to a small machine. The machine is called a spirometer.

The machine measures how much air you breathe out. It also measures how fast you can blow air out. You may be given medicine to inhale before the test is repeated, so results can be compared.

Spirometry can detect COPD before you show signs of the illness. Your doctor also might use the test to find out how bad your COPD is and to help plan your treatment.

The test results also may help find out whether another illness, like asthma or heart failure, is causing your health problems.

Sources: Benefits of Quitting, leaving site icon Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 2020; How to Quit Smoking, leaving site icon CDC, 2021; Basics About COPD, leaving site icon CDC, 2021; How to Quit Using Tobacco, leaving site icon Great American Smokeout, leaving site icon American Cancer Society; COPDleaving site icon Pulmonary Function Tests, leaving site icon National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, National Institutes of Health
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