Answers FAQ

Smoking FAQs

Reviewed by Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

Take the Smoking Quiz First! Before reading this FAQ, challenge yourself and
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Q:What is the average weight gain for those who quit smoking?

A:When a person quits smoking, the average weight gain is usually less than 10 pounds. Not everyone gains weight when they stop smoking. Among people who do, the average weight gain is between 6 and 8 pounds. Roughly 10% of people who stop smoking gain a large amount of weight (30 pounds or more). When people who smoke quit, they may gain weight for a number of reasons. The weight gain usually comes from feeling hungry, eating more snacks, drinking more alcohol, and burning calories at a lower rate because smoking cigarettes makes your body burn calories faster.

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Q:How do I know if I'm addicted to smoking cigarettes?

A: Signs of cigarette addiction include the following: smoking more than seven cigarettes per day; inhaling deeply and frequently; smoking cigarettes containing nicotine levels more than 0.9mg; smoking within 30 minutes of awakening in the morning; finding it difficult to eliminate the first cigarette in the morning; smoking frequently during the morning; finding it difficult to avoid smoking in smoking-restricted areas; and needing to smoke even if sick and in bed.

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Q:When was smoking at its peak in America?

A:1965. Smoking in America is down -- but not out. Today, 20% of U.S. adults are smokers, compared to 45% in 1965, when smoking was at its peak. But even at the current level of tobacco use, an estimated 440,000 Americans per year lose their lives to lung cancer, heart disease, emphysema, or other smoking-related illnesses. On average, smokers die 14 years before nonsmokers, and half of all smokers who don't quit are killed by their habit.

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Q:Other healthy habits may make up for smoking. True or False?

A:False. Some smokers justify their habit by insisting that proper nutrition and lots of exercise are enough to keep them healthy. Not so. "Research shows that eating a healthy diet and exercising don't reduce the health risks associated with smoking," says Ann M. Malarcher, PhD, senior scientific advisor in the CDC's Office on Smoking and Health. "Smoking affects every organ system in the body, and thinking that you're going to find the perfect lifestyle to counteract the effects of smoking is just not realistic."

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Q:What kinds of substances are contained in a cigarette? And how many?

A:Chemicals used in wood varnish, chemicals found in nail polish remover, and chemicals found in rat poison are found in cigarettes. The body gets more than just nicotine from smoking. There are more than 4,000 chemicals in cigarette smoke. Some of them are also in wood varnish, the insect poison DDT, arsenic, nail polish remover, and rat poison. The ashes, tar, gases, and other poisons in cigarettes harm your body over time. They damage your heart and lungs. They also make it harder for you to taste and smell things, and fight infections.

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Q:Which symptom is most likely to be associated with smoking cessation?

A:Anxiety. Nicotine is the addicting component of cigarettes. Almost immediately upon inhalation, the body responds to the nicotine. A person feels relaxed, calmer, and happier than before the inhalation. These pleasant feelings reflect the physical side of addiction; but then, not smoking cigarettes causes a craving for more cigarettes, which causes irritability, impatience, anxiety, and other unpleasant symptoms. Indeed, these symptoms are the symptoms of withdrawal from cigarettes. Moreover, with time, more and more nicotine is desired to produce the favorable effects and to avoid the symptoms of withdrawal.

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Q:What are risk factors for heart disease?

A:Smoking and high cholesterol. Smoking along with high cholesterol significantly increases your risk of heart disease. Smoking can also cause blood vessels to narrow, decreasing blood flow, which can lead to rupture of cholesterol plaques in the blood vessel walls and the formation of blood clots.

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Q:Smokers who want to quit should go cold turkey.

A:When it comes to quitting smoking, don't go cold turkey. It may be tempting to toss your cigarettes and declare you've quit, plain and simple. But going cold turkey isn't easy to do. Ninety-five percent of people who try to stop smoking without therapy or medication end up relapsing. The reason is that nicotine is addictive. The brain becomes used to having nicotine and craves it. In its absence, the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal occur.

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Q:Addiction to nicotine is the same as addiction to cocaine or heroin. True or False?

A:True. By definition, addiction is a chronic relapsing condition characterized by compulsive drug-seeking and abuse and by long-lasting chemical changes in the brain. Addiction is the same, regardless of whether the drug is alcohol, amphetamines, cocaine, heroin, marijuana, or nicotine. Every addictive substance induces pleasant states or relieves distress. Continued use of the addictive substance induces adaptive changes in the brain that lead to tolerance, physical dependence, uncontrollable cravings, and, all too often, relapse.

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Q:It is best to clean house during the smoking cessation phase. True or False?

A:True. Once you've smoked your last cigarette, toss all of your ashtrays and lighters. Wash any clothes that smell like smoke and clean your carpets, draperies, and upholstery. Use air fresheners to help rid your home of that familiar scent. You don't want to see or smell anything that reminds you of smoking.

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Q:Smoking increases pain perception. True or False?

A:False. There is no evidence that smoking increases the perception of pain. However, secondhand smoke -- which contains some 250 harmful chemicals -- is dangerous to children. Chemicals from tobacco smoke inhaled by a nursing mother are also known to reach breast milk. Moreover, research has shown that 50% to 75% of children in the U.S. have detectable levels of cotinine (the breakdown product of nicotine) in their blood.

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Q:Stop smoking aids can include drugs that normally treat depression. True or False?

A:True. Chantix® (varenicline), Nicotrol® (nicotine) Inhaler and Nicotrol® (nicotine) NS, and drugs primarily used to treat depression - Zyban® (bupropion hydrochloride) and Wellbutrin® (bupropion hydrochloride) - are all available prescription medications that can aid in smoking cessation. Antihypertensive drugs such as Catapres® (clonidine) and calcium channel blockers have also been prescribed to assist in quitting smoking; however, they have been less effective than other aids for smoking cessation.

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Q:Which of the following drugs is commonly prescribed for use as an aid to smoking cessation treatment?

A:Chantix® (varenicline) is indicated for use as an aid to smoking cessation treatment. Smoking cessation therapies are more likely to succeed for patients who are motivated to stop smoking and who are provided additional advice and support. It is important to provide patients with appropriate educational materials and counseling to support the attempt to quit.

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