Quitting Smoking

Thinking of quitting smoking? Congratulations!

Quitting smoking is an excellent way to improve your life and the lives of those around you. No matter how much you’ve smoked, it’s never too late to quit or to experience the benefits of quitting.

  • Why is smoking harmful?
  • What are the benefits of quitting smoking?
  • Why is it hard to quit smoking?
  • What’s the best way to quit smoking?
  • How can my pharmacist help me quit smoking?

Why is smoking harmful?

Cigarettes, cigars and pipe tobacco contain more than 4,000 chemicals, many of them cancer-causing. Smoking increases your risks of developing serious health conditions, many of which can lead to death.

In addition to the familiar health conditions that smoking can cause – heart disease, stroke, breathing issues and lung cancer – potential conditions include:

  • Leukemia
  • Tooth and bone decay
  • Oral cancer
  • Cancer of the stomach, bladder, kidneys, cervix
  • Pregnancy issues

People who encounter second-hand smoke are at risk of developing these conditions and more.

It is estimated that tobacco use kills more than 37,000 Canadians and second-hand smoke kills up to 7,800 Canadians each year.

What are the benefits of quitting smoking?

It can be surprising to learn how quickly and to what degree a former smoker’s body can begin to recover.

When you quit smoking, within:

  • 20 minutes – your blood pressure drops to a level similar what it was before your last cigarette
  • 24 hours – your risk of experiencing a heart attack begins to drop
  • 1 to 9 months – your coughing lessens and you can breathe more easily
  • 1 year – your added risk of coronary heart disease has dropped to half that of a smoker
  • 5 years – your risk of having a stroke is now similar to that of a non-smoker
  • 15 years – you’ve greatly reduced your risks of dying from lung cancer and of developing cancer in other areas, and your risk of coronary heart disease is now similar to that of a non-smoker

Even after experiencing a heart attack, people who quit smoking may reduce their chances of having another attack by as much as 50%.

Why is it hard to quit smoking?

Nicotine, one of the main ingredients in tobacco, is a powerful, addictive drug that speeds up the functions of your brain and central nervous system.

As a result you can feel better:

  • Calmer
  • More alert and focused
  • Happier (some people may smoke to reduce symptoms of depression)

However, because nicotine is addictive you can also feel ill and upset if you go without it for awhile, so you learn when to smoke to avoid these withdrawal symptoms, and your smoking can become linked with habits such as drinking your morning coffee.

Your smoking can also become linked with emotions such as anger.

These links make quitting even more difficult.

What’s the best way to quit smoking?

Some smokers can just stop smoking. However, it’s not that easy for most people.

There are many smoking cessation programs to choose from. They may include counselling and/or medication to reduce nicotine cravings.

It’s important to develop a plan that best suits you. Some of the steps you may decide to take include:

  • Thinking about your reasons for smoking and the related habits you may need to change or replace to help you quit.
  • Thinking about the benefits of quitting, for you and those around you.
  • Writing down your reasons for quitting.
  • Deciding how you will quit. Your pharmacist or medical professional can help you choose a method that seems right for you.
  • Planning for success by preparing yourself for the challenges you may face; for example, you might set up new routines and join or create a support group.
  • Setting a quit day during a lower-stress period if possible.
  • On your quit day, completely avoiding smoking.
  • Celebrating your successes and staying positive if you slip.

How can my pharmacist help me quit smoking?

If you’re thinking of quitting smoking or have already decided to do so, your pharmacist can help in a variety of ways.

These include:

  • Helping you determine whether you’re ready
  • Providing you with materials that can help you prepare
  • Helping you create a customized plan
  • Recommending medication that can help you quit, if appropriate
  • Supporting you with follow-up meetings


For more information on quitting smoking, speak with your pharmacist or medical professional.

This health information material was sourced from The Lung Association™ (www.lung.ca), the Government of Canada (www.healthycanadians.gc.ca), Health Canada (www.hc-sc.gc.ca), the Heart and Stroke Foundation™ (www.heartandstroke.ca) and the Ontario Pharmacists Association (www.opatoday.com). It is intended for information purposes only and should not be used in place of consultation with a health care professional. This pharmacy and participating vendors and/or agencies are not responsible for errors, omissions, and/or inconsistencies with respect to the information contained in this material and do not accept any liability whatsoever for reliance by the reader on the information contained herein.