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Am Fam Physician. 2008;77(4):491-492

See related article on tobacco use.

How does smoking affect my health?

Smoking can cause many diseases, including lung cancer, mouth cancers, and heart disease. It can also cause cough that won't go away, and it may make it hard for you to breathe. Smoking can shorten your life by as much as 14 years.

How does smoking hurt me right now?

  • Smoking gives you bad breath.

  • Smoking makes your clothes and hair smell bad.

  • Smoking turns your teeth and fingers yellow and makes your skin wrinkle more easily.

  • Smoking makes it hard to run fast and makes you get tired more quickly when you exercise.

  • Smoking makes you get sick more often. You may get colds, the flu, or even pneumonia more often if you smoke.

  • Smoking can affect your sexual performance by making it more difficult for blood to reach all of the body's organs.

  • Smoking weakens your tendons and ligaments, making it easier to get injured. It also makes it harder for injuries to heal.

What if I smoke just a few cigarettes a day?

Even a few cigarettes a day are bad for your health. Once you start smoking, it can be very hard to stop. The nicotine in cigarettes is poisonous and very addictive. Once you start using it, your body will feel like it cannot function without it. Most adult smokers started when they were teenagers, and later found that they couldn't stop smoking.

But isn't smoking relaxing?

No, smoking actually makes your heart beat faster and can make it hard to think clearly.

Where can I get help if I want to quit smoking?

You will need some help to stop smoking. Nine out of 10 smokers who try to go “cold turkey” fail because nicotine is so addictive. But it is easy to find help to quit.

Talk to your doctor. He or she may suggest programs available at their office or in your community. Your doctor may prescribe medicine that can help you quit.

Your school may have a program that can help you stop smoking.

There are also several Web sites and toll-free telephone numbers where you can get help:

National Network of Tobacco Cessation Quitlines

National Cancer Institute

  • Telephone: 1-877-44U-QUIT (1-877-448-7848)

Smokefree Online, sponsored by the National Cancer Institute

Freedom from Smoking Online, sponsored by the American Lung Association

The Foundation for a Smokefree America

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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