Never Smoke Chapter 12

Ready to Quit

Smokers' reasons for quitting range from the high cost to their kids' health


A Shock to the System

Most smokers have some idea that they are harming their health and hurting people around them. Often it takes a life-changing event such as a health crisis, the birth of a child or the loss of a family member to inspire a smoker to make a serious attempt to quit. Sometimes a doctor's detailed warning alone is enough to shock a patient into quitting, but a smoker is even more likely to decide to quit if concerned loved ones also insist. READ MORE

Many smokers live in denial of the harm they are doing to their health. They are working, playing, enjoying their family and friends, just like anyone else. They may not be able to run as fast as their nonsmoking friends (or their kids) but feel that otherwise their habit isn't hurting them. Nearly everyone knows a smoker who lived to a ripe old age despite all the negative information about smoking, and smokers like to point out this person's story—especially if it's a relative—as evidence that maybe not everyone needs to worry so much about smoking. Then a heart attack, cancer diagnosis or other dire health consequence hits, and suddenly, the necessity of quitting for good becomes crystal clear. We often hear of people who have smoked their whole life, and live to a ripe old age. Are these stories true? “There are certainly long-term smokers who have no medical complications related to smoking,” says Michael Stein, M.D., Professor of Medicine and Community Health at Brown University, “just as there are students who never study for tests and do well. Still, the odds of doing well, health-wise or at school, greatly favors the nonsmoker or th e student who hits the books. Genetic heterogeneity in nicotine metabolism and cell repair mechanisms partly explain the absence of complications in some smokers. So does simply having good luck.” LESS


Money, Money, Money

In places with high cigarette taxes, the cost makes it tougher for young people to start smoking and for people on fixed incomes to continue smoking. The statistics tell a clear story: when the price of a pack of cigarettes goes up significantly, the number of packs sold goes down. The true cost of smoking is much higher than the price per pack. READ MORE

Cigarette prices differ from state to state, because each state government can impose additional taxes on each pack. This tactic is more effective at reducing the number of smokers than polite requests to quit from friends, frank talk about medical risks or graphic photos of disease-ridden smokers. High prices also make it difficult for most kids under 18 to take up or continue the habit. In 1991, when the average cost of a pack was around $2.50 in the U.S., about 27% of kids under 18 were smokers. By 2009, when the average price had risen to around $5.00, just under 20% of kids were smoking. Economic studies have shown that for every 10% the price of a pack increases, overall smoking goes down 3% to 5% and youth smoking falls by 6% or 7%.

Those who quit save much more than the price per pack. Smokers pay more for life insurance, health insurance, home insurance, health care, and dental care. The resale price of a smoker's home or car is lower than that of a smoke-free house or car. If you smoke, calculate the real cost of your habit by adding up all of these hidden costs. LESS


Social Stigma

In the past 20 years, tough new laws have pushed smokers out of restaurants, bars and office buildings. This protects nonsmokers from secondhand smoke. The smoking bans across the nation also have the effect of isolating the smokers, and making smoking extremely inconvenient. Sometimes, this can be an additional motivation for smokers who have thought about quitting. READ MORE

“Smoking has been so stigmatized in California that only 11.9% of its population smokes,” says Steven Schroeder, M.D., Director of the Smoking Cessation Leadership Center at the University of California, San Francisco. “Only Utah has a lower percentage of smokers. Nationally, trends are moving in the right direction.”

In 1965, more than 42% of adults in the US smoked. Now the rate hovers right around 19%. This is good news for our health. However, that smaller number of smokers includes fewer social smokers and more who are addicted to nicotine. Most of these smokers, about 70%, report that they want to quit, but have a very hard time doing it. Smokers are human beings, with different motivations and sensitivities. For some, feeling excluded and criticized is just the push they need to seriously attempt quitting. However, some smokers use nicotine to ease their depression or anxiety disorders. The sense of being harshly judged or rejected can make their situation even worse. This phenomenon inspired Dr. Schroeder to adopt the slogan: “Love the smoker, hate the smoke.” While it is imperative for overall health to keep public spaces smoke-free, a small percentage of smokers need supportive encouragement, not rejection, to find more healthful ways to live. LESS

theVisualMD Wishes to Thank our Scientific Collaborators:

The material on this site is for informational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. It should not be used to diagnose or treat any medical condition. Consult a licensed medical professional for the diagnosis and treatment of all medical conditions and before starting a new diet or exercise program. If you have a medical emergency, call 911 immediately.