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Smoking: NWHIC

Article title: Smoking: NWHIC

Conditions: Smoking

Source: NWHIC


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What are some of the short-term and long-term effects of smoking on women?
Is it too late to quit?
What are the most effective methods for women to stop smoking?
How effective are nicotine "substitutes."?
How effective is the new pill that claims to help stop smoking?
Can I find resources on the Web to help me quit smoking?

What are some of the short-term and long-term effects of smoking on women?

In the short term, smoking involves nicotine addiction, respiratory problems, coronary artery disease, dental problems, nervousness and depression, and a tendency toward health-damaging behavior. Most obvious are the immediate changes in quality of life: bad breath, wrinkled skin, and stained fingernails.

Smoking is also infamous for its long-term effects on health. Women who smoke have at least a 10 times greater likelihood of developing lung cancer than nonsmoking women; it even surpassed breast cancer as a cause of cancer deaths among American women. Tobacco use is a major risk factor for other cancers such as cervical and esophageal/throat cancers. A woman who smokes is two to six times more likely to suffer a heart attack than a nonsmoking women, and the risk increases with the number of cigarettes smoked each day and for young women who both smoke and use oral contraceptives. Smoking also boosts the risk of stroke and greatly increases the chances for infertility, complications during pregnancy, and an earlier onset of menopause and the development of osteoporosis. Tobacco use by pregnant women has been linked with increased risk for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and mental retardation; secondhand smoke worsens the health of children with asthma.

Is it too late to quit?

As hard a s quitting may be, the results are well worth it. In the first year after stopping smoking, the risk of coronary heart disease in women drops sharply. It then gradually returns to "normal"-- that is, the same risk as someone who never smoked. So no matter what your age, quitting will lessen your chances of developing heart disease.

Smoking Cessation

What are the most effective methods for women to stop smoking?

When it comes to quitting smoking, the most effective methods are the same for women and men. First, pick a date to quit. Quitting all at once is much more likely to succeed than trying to cut down gradually. Tell your family and friends about your plans to quit, and ask for their support. Then, before stopping, throw away all your cigarettes, don't keep anywhere you live.

Before you stop smoking, think about the situations, which make you want a cigarette. If you always smoke after a meal, plan what you'll do instead. If you smoke during certain tasks at work, figure out what can replace the cigarette. Some people like to hold something in their hand in certain situations, substituting a pencil or pen can work for them. Many feel comforted by having something in their mouth, sugar free gum or candy, or carrot or celery sticks are good choices. Some people use cigarettes to relax when they are stressed. Substituting walking, reading or meditating can be a good alternative.

Many people need help to quit smoking. Help can come in several forms. Tell your doctor or health care provider you want to quit. They can offer suggestions and support. Being in a support program makes it likelier you'll succeed. Many insurance plans, especially HMOs (Health Maintenance Organizations) offer free support groups or counselors. Some will even contact you at your convenience by phone.

How effective are nicotine "substitutes."?

If you "need" a cigarette when you first get up in the morning, or smoke even when you are sick or in very inconvenient situations, you may be addicted to nicotine. Any smoker who has tried to quit unsuccessfully should consider using nicotine substitutes to try to stop. They can be very effective because many women are addicted to the nicotine in cigarettes. Nicotine substitutes can help women work on the "habit" and "social" parts of quitting first, and then to quit the nicotine later. Nicotine comes in gum, patches, nasal spray, and now, a "puffer" with which you inhale nicotine. Generally, you quit smoking, and use the nicotine as a "substitute" for one or two months, then gradually cut down on the nicotine until you stop that, too. Some nicotine requires a prescription; gum and patches can be bought without one. Talk to your doctor, health care provider, or pharmacist. If you are pregnant or have heart problems, be sure to talk to your doctor or health care provider before using nicotine.

How effective is the new pill that claims to help stop smoking?

You may also have heard about a new pill, ZybanR that can help you stop smoking. This pill alters brain chemistry much the same as popular anti-depressants medication and requires a prescription. Especially if you have been unable to quit even using nicotine substitutes, this pill may be right for you. Talk to your doctor or health care provider.   I've tried to quit, but failed. Sometimes I feel it's impossible.

Finally, remember that many women need to try to quit once, twice or three or more times before they finally succeed. Don't get discouraged if you temporarily go back to smoking. Just pick another quit date, get support from your friends, family and health care provider, and try to quit again.

Can I find resources on the Web to help me quit smoking?

The Internet can be an excellent way to locate resources on quitting smoking. As with all health-related information on the web, search for information from reliable sources, which has been adequately researched. Be wary of "individual" sites where the author may have a financial interest in the advice being given. Finally, consult your physician or health care provider if you have questions about what may be best for you.

On the Internet you will be able to find general information on the different options available, including the nicotine patch, nicotine chewing gum, cognitive behavior therapy, and some alternative treatments such as hypnosis and acupuncture. When searching, try using the terms "smoking" or "smoking cessation". Over time, information may be modified or deleted. Here are some sites that can be excellent resources for information, programs, and other resources related to quitting smoking:

The American Lung Association (

Provides information on stop smoking options, including an on-line "Quit Smoking Action Plan"  that uses a step-by-step approach to facilitate quitting. Other resources offered on-line include descriptions of American Lung Association materials and programs which provide a variety of choices for quitting and a fact sheet entitled "Smoking Cessation Resources Fact Sheet" ( The Fact Sheet contains information on the following:

  • Freedom From Smoking: A self-help manual designed for smokers at different stages in the quitting process.

  • 7 Steps To A Smoke-Free Life: A book based on the "Freedom From Smoking" program which can be purchased on-line or at local bookstores.

  • A Lifetime of Freedom From Smoking: A maintenance manual for the new ex-smoker.

  • "In Control" Freedom From Smoking Video Program: A video package which includes the video cassette, viewer's guide, and audiocassette of relaxation techniques.

  • Freedom From Smoking Cessation Clinics: 8-session group program using positive behavior change approach.

  • Freedom From Smoking Audiotape: How To Quit Smoking: audiotape includes strategies for quitting, tools to deal with relapse, and relaxation exercises.

  • Freedom From Smoking On-Line is an on-line version of Freedom From Smoking Cessation Clinics and can be found by returning to the American Lung Association main page and selecting "programs and events", then selecting "Freedom From Smoking" then selecting "Freedom From Smoking On-line".

National Cancer Institute (

The site's smoking publication index ( provides full on-line viewing of written materials, including "Smoking Facts and Tips for quitting", "Clearing the Air: A Guide To Quitting Smoking", Smoking Facts and Tips for Quitting For African Americans", and "Why Do You Smoke?" Some of the materials are available in Spanish.  Questions and answers on the benefits of smoking cessation can be found in the site's fact sheets ( Additionally, the site provides contact information to the Cancer Information Service (which has trained staff to provide scientific information in lay language as well as smoking cessation written publications available on request), Office on Smoking and Health (OSH), and The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).

Centers for Disease Control TIPS: Tobacco Information and Prevention Source (

Provides an array of information on news-related items dealing with tobacco; Surgeon General's reports related to tobacco; research, data, and reports: guides for how to quit; and on-line educational materials. All main categories can be accessed from the TIPS home page.  See "You Can Quit Smoking" ( for detailed information on treatment options (including the nicotine patch and gum) and smoking cessation strategies. 

American Cancer Society ( ):

Provides information on local chapters as well as information on smoking cessation options.  Additional information can be found by accessing the American Cancer Society home page, and searching for the term "smoking cessation."

For More Information...

You can find out more about smoking by contacting the following organizations:

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

Office on Women's Health in the Department of Health and Human Services

Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ)

American Cancer Society

American Lung Association

Cancer Information Service

National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information

Contributing to this FAQ on Smoking Cessation: Iris Cantor - UCLA Women's Health Center, a National Center of Excellence in Women's Health, sponsored by the Office on Women's Health in the Department of Health and Human Services.

All material contained in the FAQs is free of copyright restrictions, and may be copied, reproduced, or duplicated without permission of the Office on Women's Health in the Department of Health and Human Services; citation of the source is appreciated.

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Publication date: 1998



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