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
Each time you quit smoking, you learn things about smoking and you learn things about yourself. With support, you can use what you've learned from past attempts to develop a plan to quit for good. You can also learn and practice new strategies to deal with things you found difficult the last time around. To quit smoking successfully, it is important to have a plan that addresses two main parts of addiction: the physical aspect and the habit aspect. That's why studies show that smokers have a significantly better chance of quitting for good when they use medicines to help manage nicotine withdrawal symptoms in the first weeks and months, as well as counseling to develop strategies to deal with urges to smoke and to stay smoke free for good.
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 help 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. Click here for smoking resources in multiple languages.
Cambridge Health Alliance's Tobacco Treatment Program
CHA's Tobacco Treatment Program is run by the Department of Community Health Improvement. The program offers six session tobacco treatment groups in English, which are open to any CHA patient. These groups are currently held at Somerville Hospital Primary Care and Windsor Health Center.
The group program is led by a multi-disciplinary 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.
The program's health educators are also available Monday through Friday to answer questions about tobacco treatment and refer patients and community members to available resources. Call 617-591-6922 for a schedule of upcoming groups or more information on smoking and CHA and community resources to quit.
CHA Community Tobacco Education
Cambridge Health Alliance’s Tobacco Treatment Program also offers workshops and educational sessions on tobacco treatment in community settings and provides education at community events. The goals of these activities are to provide the public with accurate information about tobacco use and effective ways to quit, to increase awareness of the benefits and availability of smoking cessation resources, to increase motivation among smokers to quit, and to educate all smokers and non-smokers about the dangers of secondhand smoke.
CHA has developed an assortment of multilingual handouts and flyers designed to motivate and inspire smokers of all backgrounds to quit. These materials cover topics including: secondhand smoke, smoke-free housing, motivational quit stories of ex-smokers, being a role model by quitting tobacco, the costs of smoking, and general quit smoking resources. All flyers and handouts are now available for download and display in your community. To access these materials, click here.
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, the MA Smoker's Quitline can help. The 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
- Phone 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 phone interpreter 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.
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.
Did you know that 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.
Support from family and friends 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.