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6 Smoking Myths That Are Keeping You Sick

Don't let these misconceptions keep you from quitting.

Medically reviewed in February 2022

Updated on April 11, 2022

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We all know smoking has countless negative effects on our health—from discolored teeth to heart disease and stroke, to the development of cancers—but quitting can be extremely difficult. Common misconceptions about quitting smoking, like fear of gaining weight, can make it even tougher.

Based on 2019 statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 14 percent of American adults smoked cigarettes and 4.5 percent used electronic cigarettes. If you’re part of that group, it’s prime time to kick the habit. Not sure where to begin? Start by forgetting these common myths about smoking cessation.

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Myth: You’ll gain significant weight

About 80 percent of smokers who quit gain some weight, but the benefits of quitting far outweigh a 5-10 pound weight gain. In fact, one study by the National Institutes of Health found that former smokers without diabetes halved their risk of developing heart disease, despite gaining a moderate amount of weight. Plus, quitting improves lung and cardiovascular health, so following a regular exercise routine to stave off post-cessation weight gain may feel easier. Most weight gain occurs within three months of quitting, so that is a critical time to watch calories and eat healthily. Quit aids and medication may also help limit weight gain during this time.

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Myth: Quitting is expensive

This myth is easy to debunk. Smoking cessation treatments, like patches or counseling, may be available at no or minimal cost. However, the cost of a pack of cigarettes can run upwards of $10 in some states. That’s $3,650.95 per year for a pack-a-day smoker. Plus, smoking-related illnesses and loss of productivity chalk up more than $300 billion in US spending each year. Many insurance companies offer incentives and discounts for smoking cessation and cover the cost of quit aids, so check with your provider. You can also try utilizing your state or sponsored telephone Quitline or online services, dedicated to helping participants quit smoking. 

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Myth: You’re only harming yourself

Your smoking habit doesn’t only affect your health: Nonsmokers can be exposed to over 7,000 chemicals found in secondhand smoke. In fact, according to the CDC, secondhand smoke causes 34,000 premature heart disease deaths among nonsmoking adults every year in the US. It also increases the risk of stroke and lung cancer deaths in those who do not smoke; and increases the risk of asthma, respiratory symptoms and infections, ear infections and even Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) in children.  

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Myth: There are safe alternatives

If you’ve swapped cigarettes for cigars, snuff, chewing tobacco or electronic cigarettes, you’re still exposing yourself—and those around you—to toxic substances. Not only are they highly addictive tobacco products, but they’ve been linked to many cancers.

Smokeless tobacco can cause cancers of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, esophagus and pancreas. It can also cause gum disease and tooth decay and/or loss and can increase the risk of deadly heart attacks and strokes. Cigars can cause damage similar to cigarettes. And e-cigarette aerosol containing harmful chemicals and particles that can be inhaled into the lungs, some of which may be linked to outbreaks of e-cigarette, or vaping, product use-associated lung injury (EVALI).

The bottom line? There’s no risk-free level of tobacco use. 

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Myth: You’ll lose your social circle

Smoking is often considered a social activity, but quitting doesn’t mean you’ll lose your friends—especially if you take the time to explain why quitting is so important to you.  You will likely find that your friends will want to help you succeed. Tell them specifically how they can help support you.

You may simply ask smoking friends to avoid smoking in your presence or ask them to join you in nonsmoking activities and be available when you are struggling with cravings. You could even inspire some fellow smokers to quit themselves. 

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Myth: You can’t do it

It’s true that it can take several attempts to quit smoking, but don’t feel discouraged if you have a slip-up. Rather, take the time to assess the situation: What made you crave a cigarette? How can you overcome cravings in the future? Try to take control of those stressful situations, so you can finally kick the habit and addiction.

You can join the 61.7 percent of adult former smokers who have been able to quit!    

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