Explore the harms of smoking, the benefits of quitting and the possible methods and strategies of how to quit smoking successfully.

What is smoking?

Smoking the act of smoking tobacco in the form of burning it so they can breathe it or to taste the smoke. Nicotine is a chemical in tobacco which is toxic and highly addictive. It is smoked in different ways.

Cigarettes are tobacco wrapped in a roll of paper which when lit, an individual breathes in the smoke.

Cigars are tobacco wrapped in a leaf made from tobacco pulp.

Pipes contain loose leaf tobacco which can be smoked.

Other options are present in the form of chewable tobacco, oral tobacco and snuff – currently illegal to import or sell these in Australia.

It is the largest preventable cause of death in Australia. It affects the health of the individual smoking and of those around you through second hand smoke.

Smoking is a major contributor to various health issues, including cancer. A person who smokes is at a 10 times higher risk of cancer than an individual who doesn’t smoke. Smoking is linked with diseases such as heart disease, stroke and the experience of respiratory problems. 

Cigarettes contain nicotine, a highly addictive substance found in tobacco products. It can become a hurdle in smoking cessation. Individuals may experience symptoms of irritability, cravings, mood swings which make quitting challenging. 

Smoking can also affect the health of non-smokers through second hand smoke. Inhaling secondhand smoke is called passive smoking. Individuals inhale the same cancer-causing chemicals as those who are physically smoking. 

Smoking Cessation

The health benefits of quitting smoking begin almost straight away. The excess carbon monoxide leaves the body within a few hours followed by the nicotine leaving the system in 5 days time. Individuals will experience increased oxygen flow leading to better energy and improved physical stamina.

The lungs begin to repair  improving the lung capacity, reducing coughing and shortness of breath. Individuals will have enhanced sense of taste and smell followed by improved appearance in the skin. 

In the first year the risk of developing heart disease halves. There are many longer term benefits. In 5 years the risk of stroke is dramatically decreased. Additionally in 10 years the risk of lung cancer is less than half followed by the same health of a non-smoker in 15 years time.

How to quit smoking?

Start by setting a quit date even if it’s weeks away. This will help you prepare for the journey and set a clear goal. Establishing why quitting is important, understanding the cravings and withdrawal symptoms and listing out the trigger factors for smoking are all vital to the quit plan.

Support is essential to have a successful journey. Discuss with friends and family and support groups so the journey isn’t isolating. It’s important to have a health professional on board for additional guidance. 

There are many ways to begin the journey. Some individuals stop suddenly (cold turkey), others would gradually cut down on the amount of cigarettes until they reach zero. Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) is available in various forms and prescription medication is in the form of tablets. Alongside the above, getting professional counseling and support is essential.

The chances of success in remaining smoke free is higher when combined with many methods at once to limit a future relapse. It is important for individuals to identify and avoid situations that trigger the desire to smoke and distract themselves with other activities. 

In NRT provide small doses of nicotine to help decrease the nicotine withdrawal symptoms while avoiding the dangerous chemicals in cigarettes. They come in the forms of patches, gum, nasal, oral sprays, lozenges and tablets. They are available to purchase from pharmacies and other stores.

It is effective to use a combination of different forms of NRT to successfully stop smoking. Nicotine patches can provide a slow steady dose of nicotine. On the other hand nicotine gum can give a quick release of nicotine to help with the urge to smoke.

Bupropion hydrochloride is a prescription medication that helps in smoking cessation. How it works, is not entirely understood however it is known it affects the neurotransmitter activity in the brain. It helps to reduce withdrawal symptoms and cravings with stopping smoking.

There are alternative methods to help quit smoking such as acupuncture, hypnotherapy and cognitive behavior therapy. Other options are of electronic cigarettes or vaping which are nicotine free products. There are support resources available online and the quit helplines. People find it important to have professional support and a trusted health professional to help in the journey towards quitting smoking.

Consult a doctor


How to quit smoking | Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care

What is smoking and tobacco? | Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care