Some say it's as hard to quit smoking as it is to kick a heroin habit, so it's no surprise that there are numerous Web sites, products and services dedicated to helping smokers quit. Even if you do manage to quit smoking cigarettes, there's a 75 percent chance that you'll pick the habit up again in your lifetime [source: Gorman]. Tobacco use kills close to 400,000 people each year and contributes to almost $200 billion in health care costs in the United States alone [source: American Lung Association]. On top of the well-known lung-related illnesses, smokers also have an increased risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, and cancers of the bladder, cervix, kidney, stomach and uterus.
Smoking is bad for your health and the health of people around you, and it's not too easy on the wallet either. Cigarettes cost around $5 per pack. If you're smoking a pack a day, that means you're inhaling around $1,825 of your hard-earned money every year. In the U.S., smokers spend more than $83 billion on cigarettes each year [source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention].
There are a slew of smoking cessation products on the market, from smokeless tobacco products and nicotine gum to prescription medications aimed at helping smokers quit. While there's no easy way to quit smoking, there are organizations out there that want to help you quit smoking -- including, oddly enough, tobacco companies! Read on to learn more.
The Foundation for a Smokefree America
The grandson of tobacco giant R.J. Reynolds founded the Foundation for a Smokefree America after seeing so many of his family members battle smoking-related illnesses. Patrick Reynolds sold off his stock in the tobacco company to launch the foundation in 1989. Since then, he's spoken at middle schools, high schools and universities, and he's even testified before Congress on the dangers of tobacco use. The nonprofit's mission is to "motivate youth to stay tobacco free, and to empower smokers to quit successfully."
The foundation works to educate current and potential smokers, as well as physicians and policymakers, on the dangers of smoking and smoking cessation techniques. They've also worked on media campaigns, like public service announcements starring celebrities aimed at preventing teens from picking up smoking. The foundation even produced an educational video targeting sixth through 12th graders called "The Truth About Tobacco."
Their smoking cessation efforts include online quitting tips, where they outline what they call the two phases of quitting smoking: "Quitting with Help" and "Staying Smokefree." They sponsor a helpline, 1-800-QUIT-NOW, for anyone looking to give up smoking or ex-smokers trying to avoid a relapse, and they suggest resources from other anti-smoking groups that can help as well. Their "quit smoking" page even includes a section of tips for smokers' family members on how to approach loved ones about quitting.
Become an EX
The National Alliance for Tobacco Cessation (NATC) is one of many programs that receives funding from the American Legacy Fund, part of the 1998 Big Tobacco settlement. This out-of-court Master Settlement Agreement required that tobacco companies pay $250 million over 10 years to the fund [source: Wilson]. The NATC sponsors the online resource EX, which helps people quit smoking and stay smoke-free.
Through the EX site, smokers can make a "Quit Plan," which takes detailed information about you and your smoking habits, then helps you create a quitting calendar and provides a tailored checklist designed to help you quit smoking and stay a nonsmoker for life. The program helps smokers identify their smoking triggers by tracking when they smoke, then helps them separate themselves from common triggers like eating, driving, or drinking coffee or alcohol. It also provides support as you near your quit date and tips for avoiding slip-ups.
Often, ex-smokers have just as much difficulty staying smoke-free as they did giving up cigarettes in the first place, and EX has resources to help stop them from picking up the habit again. They emphasize education, focusing on the health benefits of not smoking, and they also address two issues that ex-smokers often struggle with: maintaining a healthy weight and relieving stress.
The online community QuitNet centers on the idea that it's easier to quit smoking with social support. Started in 1995 by a Boston physician, it's now run by Healthways, a for-profit company. It's free to join the community, though they do offer a premium membership for around $10 per month that includes one-on-one counseling, an expanded "Quitting Guide," medication recommendations and milestone trophies.
The basic program is similar to the EX campaign: You choose a quit date and get support from the site. What makes QuitNet different is that it focuses on community. There's an online forum where you can meet fellow quitters, and you can add "buddies" for additional support. It's also more medication focused. Even basic members have access to the medication guide, which provides information about some of the nicotine replacement options (like the patch) and prescription medications (like Wellbutrin) that can sometimes help smokers transition off of cigarettes.
American Cancer Society
It's pretty common knowledge that smoking is linked to lung cancer, but it's also associated with bladder, cervix, kidney, stomach and uterine cancers, so the American Cancer Society (ACS) works hard to help smokers quit. Their online "Guide to Quitting Smoking" includes information on the health, economic and social benefits of quitting, along with resources to help smokers deal with the mental and physical addictions.
The ACS Web site is very realistic about the success rates for people who quit smoking: Those who quit completely on their own have just a 4 to 7 percent chance of staying smoke-free. They recommend professional help, like behavioral therapy, to increase those odds, and they also encourage smokers to look into medications, which increase the odds of quitting successfully to 25 to 33 percent.
Like QuitNet, the ACS resources include information on fighting the weight gain that often comes with quitting smoking, and suggests physical activity and getting involved in spiritual practices to help cope with stress without cigarettes.
Because smoking-related illnesses are a serious public health concern, many government organizations want to help you quit smoking.
In the U.S., the federal and state governments have programs to help smokers quit. Sites like Smokefree.gov offer quitting tips, access to professional counseling and state-by-state information about how to quit smoking. In part because of money from the Master Settlement Agreement, many U.S. states have smoking cessation programs, too. In New York, for example, residents can get support from an online "quit coach," or request free packs of nicotine gum or patches to help them quit.
The United States isn't the only place where government organizations want to help smokers quit. Australia, for example, has an extensive anti-smoking program, including a Quitline that smokers can call for support and the online community QuitCoach that offers resources for those looking to quit. In the U.K., the Department of Health runs the Smokefree service, where smokers can order a Quit Kit and learn more about nicotine addictions.
American Heart Association
The American Heart Association (AHA) identifies smoking as one of the "six major independent risk factors for coronary heart disease." Smokers are more prone to blood clots and less likely to be physically active, both of which affect heart health. Their "quit smoking" page combines detailed information on smoking's health risks, along with resources to help you quit, fight the urge to smoke and create a plan to quit and stay that way.
Their quitters plan is a little bit less involved than some of the other services out there. Rather than an interactive site, the AHA provides ideas for dealing with the urge to smoke, whether you're home, outside or in social situations. They encourage smokers to "keep a list of pleasurable activities you can do when you feel urges during your transition phase."
While it's not directly associated with Alcoholics Anonymous, Nicotine Anonymous applies that same 12-step approach to quitting smoking. It's not a religious or government organization, and it's free to join and attend meetings.
Nicotine Anonymous holds in-person meetings, as well as Internet and telephone meetings, to help support smokers who want to quit. Via the group's online search tool, smokers can find meetings in 46 states and in Washington D.C., as well as 38 other countries. If there isn't a meeting in your area, the organization also offers a "Meetings Starter Kit" for smokers who want to start a Nicotine Anonymous meeting in their area.
Along with the 12 steps, Nicotine Anonymous is based on "Twelve Traditions," which outline the group's mission and commitment to never become organized, never take money from outside organizations and never become a commercial group. While the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions do mention God a number of times, Nicotine Anonymous is emphatic in its literature that it doesn't promote any specific faith.
American Lung Association
The American Lung Association (ALA) has an extensive stop-smoking campaign, including resources on quitting for individuals and employers. Their Lung HelpLine offers smokers the chance to talk with a nurse or respiratory therapist about all aspects of lung health. They also sponsor "Not on Tobacco" and "Freedom From Smoking," two tobacco support programs.
Not on Tobacco targets teens and aims to educate youth on the dangers of smoking to keep them from starting the habit in the first place. Freedom From Smoking is a smoking cessation program that specifically targets adults. Smokers can try the program for free, but there is a cost for premium membership. The program prepares smokers to set a quit date and helps them follow through with quitting and coping with a cigarette-free life.
What makes the ALA program unique is its resources for employers to help them reduce health care costs for their employees by assisting them in quitting smoking. The Freedom From Smoking program offers special tools, like small, seven-week clinics, to help employees kick their smoking habits.
It might seem a little counterintuitive, but a large tobacco company actually sponsors one popular smoking cessation Web site.
Philip Morris, which produces cigarette brands like Marlboro and Parliament, runs the QuitAssist program, which provides tips and resources to help smokers quit. QuitAssist isn't a stand-alone quitting program, but instead compiles third-party resources to help smokers quit, like different quitlines and Web-based quitting communities. It also features testimonials from ex-smokers and goes into some of the health benefits of giving up smoking.
Of course, a tobacco company advocating smoking cessation is a little bit fishy to some, and there are people out there who say that Philip Morris sponsors QuitAssist not to help smokers, but to spread its brand identity and even skirt the regulations on marketing cigarettes to teens.
Cigarettes are big business, and with millions of smokers out there trying to quit, so is smoking cessation. There are a number of mainstream and less conventional products available aimed at helping smokers quit.
You're probably familiar with the more mainstream products, like nicotine replacement therapy and smokeless tobacco. Products like NicoDerm and Nicorette are probably the most common products for smokers trying to quit. The idea is that a nicotine patch or gum helps stave off the physical addiction, allowing smokers to taper off their nicotine intake and finally quit. Smokeless tobacco products, on the other hand, target the mental addiction to smoking, allowing smokers to go through the motions of smoking without actually smoking a cigarette.
There are also alternative therapy programs designed to help smokers quit. Hypnosis, acupuncture and meditation CDs aim to help smokers beat the emotional addiction, which many find to be just as difficult as nicotine withdrawal. There are even "subliminal meditation" anti-smoking products on the market, which combine meditation music with subliminal messaging that they claim helps smokers quit.
For more great information on how and why to quit smoking, check out the links on the next page.
The FDA recently announced plans to explore nicotine reduction in cigarettes to non-addictive levels. HowStuffWorks takes a look at the possibility.
- American Cancer Society. "Guide to Quitting Smoking." (May 26, 2011) http://www.cancer.org/Healthy/StayAwayfromTobacco/GuidetoQuittingSmoking/index
- American Heart Association. "Kick the Habit. Quit Smoking." May 2, 2011. (May 26, 2011) http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/QuitSmoking/Quit-Smoking_UCM_001085_SubHomePage.jsp
- American Lung Association. "Stop Smoking." (May 19, 2011) http://www.lungusa.org/stop-smoking/
- Australian Government. "Quit Now." (May 26, 2011) http://www.quitnow.gov.au/internet/quitnow/publishing.nsf
- Become An EX. "My Quit Plan." (May 26, 2011) http://www.becomeanex.org/my-quit-plan.php
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Economic Facts about U.S. Tobacco Production and Use." March 21, 2011. (May 19, 2011) http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/economics/econ_facts/index.htm
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Health Effects of Cigarette Smoking." March 21, 2011. (May 19, 2011) http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/health_effects/effects_cig_smoking/index.htm
- The Foundation for a Smokefree America. "Gift and Grant Request." 2003. (May 26, 2011) http://www.anti-smoking.org/info/info.pdf
- Gorman, Christine. "Why It's So Hard to Quit Smoking." Time. June 24, 2001. (May 19, 2011) http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,149368,00.html
- National Alliance for Tobacco Cessation. "Financing." (May 19, 2011) https://www.thenatc.org/137.aspx
- National Health Service. "Smokefree." (May 26, 2011) http://smokefree.nhs.uk/
- New York State Smokers' Quitline. "We can make quitting easier." (May 26, 2011) http://www.nysmokefree.com/
- Nicotine Anonymous. "Introducing Nicotine Anonymous." (May 26, 2011) http://www.nicotine-anonymous.org/pubs_content.php?pub_id=533
- Nicotine Anonymous. "What Is Nicotine Anonymous?" (May 26, 2011) http://www.nicotine-anonymous.org/about_us.php
- Polito, John R. "What Tobacco Issue is Important to Philip Morris?" Why Quit. June 3, 2005. (May 26, 2011) http://whyquit.com/pr/060305.html
- Smokefree.gov. "Quit Smoking Today!" (May 26, 2011) http://www.smokefree.gov/
- Wilson, Joy Johnson. "Summary of the Attorneys General Master Tobacco Settlement Agreement." National Conference of State Legislators. March 1999. (May 26, 2011) http://academic.udayton.edu/health/syllabi/tobacco/summary.htm