Quitting smoking or tobacco use is one of the most important things you can do for your health. Most people who quit live longer and feel healthier, even if they have smoked for many years. Even people with serious health problems from smoking, such as lung cancer and emphysema, will experience health benefits from quitting.
But if you have tried to quit smoking, you know how hard it can be. It's easy to get discouraged, but don't give up; there are well-researched ways to help you quit successfully. All you need is help.
This page offers support and tools for smokers and their friends and family members to help individuals quit and stay quit. If you have additional questions about smoking and your health, please talk to your doctor or nurse or contact one of the resources listed on this page.
How treatment programs can help you quit and stay quit
You know that every cigarette you smoke hurts your health. You may know also that your spouse, children, pets, friends, or coworkers exposed to your cigarette smoke also experience negative health effects. Sadly, cigarettes are not just bad for you and those around you, they are also very addictive. That is why you may have failed when you tried to quit smoking in the past. It is easy to feel that it is impossible to quit, especially if you couldn't stop when you tried before.
But there is hope. You learn from each attempt. Studies also show that, if you are a smoker, you have a significantly better chance of quitting for good when you use medicines to help manage nicotine withdrawal symptoms as well as counseling to develop strategies to deal with urges to smoke and to stay smoke free over time.
Smokers who use medications to quit smoking double or triple their success rate compared to those who quit cold turkey. Many health insurers cover all or some of the cost of these medicines or offer additional quit smoking resources to their members. Check with your insurance company or ask your pharmacist to find out what your plan covers. For an explanation of how medications aid the quitting process, click here.
Adding counseling support further improves one's chances of success. In a smoking treatment program, trained counselors guide you at each step of the quitting process. They give you support and guidance about using medications and helping you learn strategies on how to deal with urges to smoke. There are now many good programs that provide these services either in person (one-on-one or in group settings), by phone, or via the web. See the descriptions below for programs available to you. Click here for a listing of local programs and web based resources.
Cambridge Health Alliance's Tobacco Treatment Program
CHA's "Quit for Life" Tobacco Treatment Program is run by the Department of Community Affairs. We currently offer one on one smoking cessation counseling for CHA patients at four CHA health centers (Union Square Family Health, Revere Family Health, Somerville Hospital Primary Care, and East Cambridge Health Center) as well as a weekly, six session smoking cessation group that is free and open to any CHA patient. These services are offered through funding from the Department of Public Health's Care Coordination Program.
Our group program is led by a multidisciplinary team to help smokers become non-smokers. Everyone is welcome - patients who are thinking about quitting and want to learn more about why and how to quit, those who are ready to set a quit date, and those who have quit and want support to stay quit. The group provides members with education, skills, inspiration, and support to make and follow through on a decision to quit smoking. In addition to skill-building and support, the group helps participants obtain appropriate medications and use them effectively to quit smoking.
Call 617-591-6922 for a schedule of upcoming groups or more information about our groups or one on one counseling.
Massachusetts Smoker's Quitline/Make Smoking History
The MA Smoker's Quitline/Make Smoking History is a free stop-smoking service from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.
Whether you are thinking about quitting, ready to try to quit, or have already quit and want to stay that way, Quitline can help. Quitline offers you:
- A review of your smoking habits, quitting history, smoking triggers, and support systems to make a treatment plan that is right for you
- Telephone counseling sessions to help you quit and support you in the early weeks
- An Interactive website to help you design your own quit plan, track how you are doing, and celebrate big steps on the way
- Referral to tobacco treatment programs in your area that offer support groups or individual counseling
- Brochures and flyers to help you quit
- Follow-up calls to see how you are doing and offer more support if you need it
All services are free. Quitline operators speak English and Spanish, and translation services are available for other languages.
To enroll or for more information, visit the Make Smoking History website or call the Smoker's Quitline at 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669). For languages other than English and Spanish, press 1, and ask the counselor to connect you to interpreter services. For TTY services call : 1-800-833-1477. The Quitline is available Monday - Thursday from 9am-7pm and Friday from 9:00am - 5:00pm.
MGH Tobacco Treatment Service
The Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) Tobacco Treatment Service (TTS) is a multi-disciplinary team of health professionals who specialize in helping smokers become nonsmokers. The service offers low-cost, state-of-the-art tobacco treatment services to MGH patients and members of the community.
If you are ready to quit, the MGH TTS offers a smoking cessation group consisting of 7 weekly one hour sessions with seven to nine other participants. The program is offered periodically at the MGH main campus in Boston, as well as at some MGH Community Health Associates locations in Boston and surrounding areas. All groups are in English, and fees are on a sliding scale based on income.
For more information about upcoming groups, call 617-726-7443 or click here.
Fast facts about the benefits of quitting
When you quit smoking, your body gets healthier in just minutes, and the benefits last a lifetime:
- 20 minutes after quitting, your blood pressure drops. The temperature in your hands and feet rises.
- 8 hours after quitting, the carbon monoxide (a gas that can be toxic) in your blood drops to normal.
- 24 hours after quitting, your chance of having a heart attack goes down.
- 2 days after quitting, you can taste and smell things better.
- 2 weeks to 3 months after quitting, you have better circulation. Your lungs start working better.
- 1 to 9 months after quitting, coughing, sinus congestion, fatigue, and shortness of breath go down. Your lungs are now healthier, lowering your risk of lung infections.
- 1 year after quitting, your risk for heart disease is half that of a smoker's.
- 5 years after quitting, your risk of having a stroke is the same as someone who never smoked.
- 10 years after quitting, your risk of dying from lung cancer is half that of a smoker's. Your risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, bladder, kidney, and pancreas also decreases.
- 15 years after quitting, your risk of heart disease is the same as someone who never smoked.
Advice for a smoker's friends and family
Social support is very important in helping a smoker quit for good. If you are trying to help someone quit, try to keep the following in mind:
- Respect that the quitter is in charge. This is their lifestyle change and their challenge, not yours.
- Ask the person whether he or she wants you to call or visit regularly to see how he or she is doing. Let the person know that it's okay to call you whenever he or she needs to hear encouraging words.
- Help the quitter get what she or he needs, like hard candy to suck on, straws to chew on, fresh veggies cut up for snacking, etc.
- Spend time doing things with the quitter to keep his or her mind off smoking - go to the movies or take a walk to get past a craving.
- Help the quitter with chores, child care, cooking - whatever will help with the stress of quitting.
- Celebrate along the way. Quitting smoking is a BIG DEAL!
- Don't take the quitter's grumpiness personally during his or her nicotine withdrawal. The symptoms will pass in about two weeks.
- Don't offer advice. Just ask how you can help with the plan or program they are using.
- For more suggestions, click here.