Stop Smoking Timeline: 5 Questions Most People Ask

by Dr Antonio Howell, MD

in quit smoking

Dr. Howell

The first days and weeks of quitting smoking are often the toughest. But the old saying goes – no pain, no gain! Eventually, all the undesirable effects that come along with smoking cessation will wane and won’t leave any mark on your mind and body.

Here are some of the most common questions people ask about quitting smoking, particularly during the first stages of it.

I find it hard to quit. What’s the problem?


The problem is that cigarettes are so addictive and research shows that 70% of smokers who say they will quit still find themselves lighting up. Quitting smoking may be easy for some but hard for others. On average, it takes about 7 years before a person could quit for good. Nicotine is an addictive substance that reaches your bloodstream in minutes and alters various brain chemicals in your brain that change mood and concentration. Once your body become dependent on cigarettes, quitting smoking could lead to feelings of anxiety, irritability, and even depression – a fact that makes the cessation process difficult.

Can I just cut down rather than completely give it up?

Whether you smoke one or two cigarettes, it doesn’t change the fact that you are a smoker. Cutting down will not help reduce your risk of cancer and other smoking-related diseases. Another thing, cutting down won’t just work. When you cut down, you tend to puff deeper, trying to get as much as nicotine your body needs. This means you also get to inhale more toxic compounds.

What should I expect on the first days of quitting?

Craving is intense at this stage. You may find it hard to take cigarettes off your mind. You may feel somewhat ‘hopeless’ and ‘deprived’. You may easily get tempted to light up when you see other people smoke. And as you try to resist these undesirable emotions, you are more likely to feel anxious, stressed and irritated. But that’s normal. Anyway, there are plenty of strategies to counter nicotine craving. Exercising is one. It stimulates your brain to produce the feel-good chemicals that counter negative emotions and help you fight your urge to smoke. Practicing relaxation techniques and keeping your stress levels low can also help.


Will I gain weight?

Yes, but only if you do not watch your diet. Many smokers gain weight after quitting because they replace cigarettes with food. Whenever they feel the urge to smoke, they go ahead and reach for a snack. And often, they choose foods that are high in fats, sugar and salt which all increase their risk of gaining weight.


Should I undergo therapy?

While it is not necessary, it is advisable especially if you find it hard to withdraw. There are a variety of treatments available. They include medications, nicotine replacement therapy (NRT), and counseling. Consult your doctor today and ask for your treatment options. Your doctor can help you choose the best treatment to ward off your nicotine addiction.


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