If you’re struggling to quit smoking, or know someone trying to kick the habit, take note. Common smoking misconceptions could be keeping you or your loved one from succeeding.
“People tend to know very little when it comes to the dangers of smoking,” says Alexander Prokhorov, M.D., Ph.D., professor of Behavioral Science at MD Anderson. “They think cutting back to a few cigarettes a day is good enough or trying other tobacco products is a safe alternative.”
The truth: Any amount of smoking can increase your risks for cancer, heart and lung disease, premature aging and death.
And, it’s not just cigarettes that are harmful. “All tobacco products are dangerous,” Prokhorov says. Products like electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes), hookahs and cigars contain the same disease-causing chemicals.
To help you or your loved one quit smoking for good, Prokhorov debunks common smoking myths.
Myth: It's too late to quit smoking now. Why bother?
Truth: It’s never too late to benefit from quitting. Quitting at any age can lower your disease risks, improve your health and help you live longer. Even if you quit at age 50, you’ll be 50% less likely to die young from smoking-related diseases.
Myth: E-cigarettes will help you quit smoking.
Truth: E-cigarettes have not been proven as a safe or effective way to help smokers quit smoking. In fact, some smokers end up using both, which is worse than just smoking alone. And most e-cigarettes are loaded with nicotine.. So even if you switch completely to e-cigarettes, you are still dependent on nicotine.
Myth: Healthy habits will cancel out the damage done by smoking.
Truth: Risk doesn't work like that. Healthy lifestyle choices, like eating a balanced diet and exercising, are beneficial, but they won’t prevent or make up for the harmful effects of smoking. Smoking is responsible for most lung cancer deaths and one-third of all cancer deaths. It contributes to heart disease, stroke and lung disease. That’s true regardless of your other healthy habits.
Myth: light, filtered, menthol or low-tar cigarettes is safer than conventional cigarettes.
Truth: Light and low-tar may sound less dangerous, but these products pose the same health risks as conventional cigarettes.. Smokers who use these types tend to smoke more to get their nicotine fix and inhale deeper, taking in even more damaging substances like tar and carbon monoxide. And, filters are designed to make smoke particles smaller. That makes nicotine easier to absorb and increases addiction.
Myth: Cutting back or smoking only a few cigarettes a day is good enough.
Truth: No amount of smoking is safe. There are more than 7,000 chemicals in tobacco smoke. “Smoking any amount increases your risk for cancer and tobacco-related disease,” Prokhorov says. And, if you’re trying to quit, cutting back is not recommended. You’ll still experience withdrawal symptoms that may be unpleasant and stressful. Research shows setting a quit date or choosing when to stop can be more effective.
Myth: Smoking is a personal choice. It's nobody's business if I smoke.
Truth: Secondhand smoke, or the smoke given off by a burning cigarette, kills an estimated 50,000 non-smokers each year. It contains almost 70 cancer-causing chemicals and is associated with heart disease in adults, and asthma attacks and ear infections in children.
When you choose to smoke, you are taking away the choice of those around you to breathe healthy air.
Myth: Nicotine replacement therapy doesn’t work.
Truth: Nicotine replacement products deliver a measured dose of nicotine into your body, which helps to relieve any cravings and withdrawal symptoms.Evidence shows nicotine replacement treatments, like gum, a patch, lozenge and inhaler, result in better smoking cessation rates. And, your insurance may cover such treatments.
“Quitting smoking isn’t easy, but with knowledge and the right tools, you can be successful,” Prokhorov says. “Plus, it’s important to know there are ways to manage any side effects, like weight gain, stress or depression, which may be stopping you from trying to quit.”
If you’re ready to quit smoking, there are free resources to help. So, don’t delay. Kicking your smoking habit is one of the best things you can do to help you live longer.
To help you quit, call the Quitline at 1-800-QUIT NOW or text QUIT to 47848 to get smoke-free text messages.
If you’re an MD Anderson patient, employee or family member, join our Tobacco Treatment Program. Request an appointment at MD Anderson's Lyda Hill Cancer Prevention Center online or call 877-632-6789.