Five things to know about quitting smoking

Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of disease, disability and death in the US. Nearly every part of the body is negatively affected by smoking and tobacco use.

Smoking cessation has ramped up over the past decade, resulting in more nonsmokers than smokers. Quitting smoking isn't for the young or old. Everyone can do it.

No matter when you quit you will experience improved quality of life for yourself and those around you. Here are five things you still don't know about quitting smoking.

1. Quitting may not be a hard as you think

Addressing an addiction as powerful as nicotine can be challenging, but with education, support, medications and a focus on comfort, it can be done. Some people quit without help, however the majority of smokers need help. Taking advantage of local programs like Northwell’s Center for Tobacco Control or the NYS Smokers’ Quitline can make a quit attempt easier, less stressful, and more successful.

2. Quitting improves overall health and often increases self-esteem

After quitting smoking, many people say they feel as if they can accomplish anything. They often take on new challenges, like weight management, increased exercise, new travel adventures and even training for marathons.

3. Trying is the first step

Smokers do not always quit the first time they try. On average, it may take five-to-seven times to accomplish the goal. It is important to look at a slip or a relapse, not as a failure, but as an opportunity to learn something about your quit attempt that may help you in the future. Developing strategies to alter your approach to quitting may lead to success in the future. Never give up.

4. After you quit, you will be able to relax

Many smokers believe that cigarettes relieve their stress, when in fact it can add to your stress and anxiety, particularly about your health concerns. Every time you smoke you are treating your symptoms of withdrawal from nicotine, which can feel like stress relief.

Once you quit, there are many other healthy options for stress relief, such as exercise, deep breathing, yoga and music.

5. Air is the only healthy alternative

Cigars, hookah pipes and spit tobacco contain the same toxic and cancer causing agents that are in cigarettes. The aerosol in electronic devices also contains harmful chemicals and the flavorings are damaging to the lungs. Electronic devices may be safer than cigarettes, but they are not considered safe and have not demonstrated their effectiveness in helping smokers quit.

Patricia Folan, RN, DNP, is the director of the Northwell Health Center for Tobacco Control. A registered nurse with more than 30 years of experience, she has presented research and tobacco control information at local, national and international conferences, and she is member of the Tobacco Control Committee of the American Thoracic Society.