Common myths about smoking may give you more excuses not to quit. Get the facts, so you can make good decisions about your health. Your life may depend on it.
Myth: Smoking is just a bad habit.
Fact: Smoking is more than a habit - it's an addiction. If you are a regular smoker, you're likely hooked on nicotine, a powerful drug. That's why quitting is so hard. You have to battle a physical addiction, as well as break a habit. And smoking is a serious health threat. In addition to nicotine, tobacco smoke contains over 7,000 chemicals, hundreds of which are toxic. About 70 of those chemicals are known to cause cancer. Smoking also damages your lungs, heart, blood vessels and other organs. About half of people who continue to smoke will die from it.
Myth: Smoking won't hurt me because I don't inhale.
Fact: Even if you don't inhale, you are breathing in secondhand smoke, which puts you at risk for lung cancer. Secondhand smoke includes side stream smoke, which is the smoke that comes from the lighted end of a tobacco product such as a cigarette, pipe or cigar. According to the American Cancer Society, this form of smoke may have higher amounts of toxic agents than mainstream smoke. The good news is that it's never too late to quit. Your body starts healing itself within minutes of your last cigarette.
Myth: I've been smoking all my life and I'm fine.
Fact: Though you may feel fine, years of smoking have likely taken a toll on your body. People often ignore or adapt to the little red flags such as feeling winded when going up steps or having trouble getting over colds. You can be sure that harm is being done that could lead to emphysema, a heart attack, stroke or cancer.
Myth: I only smoke a few cigarettes a day. That's not harmful.
Fact: Don't kid yourself. Smoking even one cigarette a day can have health consequences. These include increased risks of heart disease and dying at an earlier age.
Myth: My smoking doesn't hurt anyone but me.
Fact: Actually, secondhand smoke is extremely harmful to others. It causes non-smokers to breathe in the same toxic chemicals as the smoker. And living or working with a smoker raises a non-smoker's risk of lung cancer by 20 to 30 percent. Babies exposed to secondhand smoke have a higher risk of sudden infant death syndrome. Children exposed to secondhand smoke have a higher risk of more severe asthma, lung infections and ear infections. Smoking during pregnancy can harm your baby and increase the risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, premature delivery and low birth weight.
Myth: I only smoke cigars/a pipe/a hookah, so I don't have to worry.
Fact: Tobacco is dangerous and addictive, whether you smoke it in a cigar, a pipe or a hookah. Pipe and cigar smokers are at an increased risk for lip, throat, lung and several other cancers. And hookah smokers are at risk for all the same diseases caused by cigarette smoking. There simply is no safe way to smoke.
Myth: The best way to quit is cold turkey.
Fact: Quitting cold turkey may not be reasonable. Remember, you are dealing with a powerful drug addiction. For some people, nicotine is as addictive as heroin or cocaine. Many smokers quit 10 times before being able to quit for good. Talk to your doctor about using nicotine replacement therapy to quit. Studies show that combining medication with a quit-smoking program improves your chance of quitting successfully.
Myth: Quitting is expensive.
Fact: In the long run, smoking will cost you more. What you might spend over a short period for treatment like nicotine replacement therapy doesn't compare to what you will spend if you keep smoking. Think about how much you spend on your habit each day. Now multiply that by 365 to find how much you spend each year. Multiply the cost per year by 10 to see how much more you'll spend if you smoke for the next 10 years. This number doesn't include other possible costs, such as higher health and life insurance and likely health care costs due to tobacco-related problems. Why not save money and save your health?
Lucy M. Casale contributed to this report.
Created on 10/25/2005
Updated on 08/20/2013
- National Institutes of Health: National Cancer Institute. Secondhand smoke and cancer.
- United States Department of Health and Human Services: BeTobaccoFree.hhs.gov. Effects of smoking on your health.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Secondhand smoke (shs) facts.