Freedom from Smoking

Ready to Quit Tobacco? How to Get Started

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By Henry Ford Health System Staff

Quitting an addiction like smoking or chewing tobacco is not easy for a number of reasons, both physical and mental. Finding the motivation to quit is important – and health reasons are often top of the list, as they should be.

Did you know how quickly your body begins to recover? Once you finish your last cigarette, research shows that changes can happen almost immediately and continue as time goes by. Consider this timeline of the effects quitting has on your body:

  • After 20 Minutes: Your heart rate and blood pressure drops.
  • After Eight Hours: The carbon monoxide level in your blood drops to normal.
  • After Two Weeks – Three Months: Your circulation improves and your lung function increases.
  • After One – Nine Months: Coughing, sinus congestion, shortness of breath and fatigue decrease.
  • After One Year: The excess risk for heart disease is half that of a smoker’s.
  • After Five Years: The risk for cancer of the lung, mouth, throat, and esophagus is half that of a pack-a-day smoker.
  • After Ten Years: The risk of dying from lung cancer is the same as that for people who never smoked.
  • After 15 Years: The risk of heart disease is no higher than the risk for people who never smoked.

How to Set up a Personal Quit Plan

Some people do well by quitting cold turkey but most people need a plan to address short-term cravings and long-term challenges of preventing relapse, according to Amanda Holm, MPH, who manages tobacco treatment services at Henry Ford Health System. First, it’s important to identify your triggers to lighting up a cigarette and the patterns you’ve developed around the act of smoking or chewing. Then, START your plan with the following important steps:

S – Set a quit date.
T – Tell your family and friends about your quit date.
A – Anticipate challenges that will come up and how you will overcome them.
R – Remove all cigarettes and tobacco products from your home, work and car.
T – Talk to your doctor about getting more help to quit smoking, which may include medication, support groups, online tools or other resources.

Managing Cravings

One key element of successfully quitting is to learn to evade the triggers that tempt you to smoke. “Cigarette cravings do not last long. If you are tempted to light up, remember that the craving will pass and try to wait it out,” says Holm.

You know that cravings will happen, so it also helps to be prepared in advance and have a plan to cope, including:

  • Finding ways to distract yourself until the craving passes.
  • Reminding yourself why you quit.
  • Getting out of a tempting situation.
  • Reward yourself when you resist a craving.

Ready to quit? Learn more about our fall “Freedom from Smoking” classes, which begin soon. Sign up online now! 

Or make an appointment with a doctor at or by calling 1-800-HENRYFORD (436-7936).

Amanda L. Holm, MPH, is the immediate past chair of Tobacco-Free Michigan and project manager for Tobacco Treatment Services for the Henry Ford Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention.