Quitting Tobacco

Man holding cigaretteMany people enjoy tobacco, but most people also know the dangers of tobacco use. About 1,192 Americans die every day from tobacco use.

More than four out of five people want to quit. Sadly, quitting is not easy. Why is quitting so hard? Quitting is hard because people get addicted to nicotine. Nicotine is a very addictive drug found in tobacco.

Within seven seconds of inhaling a cigarette, nicotine reaches the brain. Nicotine affects your brain similarly to cocaine. This means each time you take a puff, you get a quick dose of an addictive chemical. This makes it hard to stop.

Because it is addictive, when you quit tobacco, you begin to have withdrawal symptoms. For example, when you quit you might feel irritable, tired or fidgety. You may have cravings to smoke, have a hard time focusing or you might feel down. These are normal symptoms. The good news is these symptoms are temporary, and there are safe medications to help ease these symptoms. This makes quitting much easier. People who use medications double their chances of quitting for good!

It might seem difficult, but nearly 50 million adults have quit tobacco. If they can do it, you can too!


What's in Tobacco?

Burning tobacco produces about 4,000 chemical compounds, many of them harmful to the human body.

A short list includes the following:

  • Arsenic (poison)
  • Ammonia (used in household cleaning products)
  • Acetone (fingernail polish remover)
  • Carbon monoxide (car exhaust fumes)
  • Cyanide (poison, deadly in large doses)
  • Formaldehyde (embalming fluid)
  • Methanol (rocket fuel)
  • Toluene (industrial solvent)

Other chemicals found in cigarette smoke are used to kill insects and found in toilet cleaners, mothballs, barbecue lighter fluid and cigarette lighter fluid.

Interactive Tools 


This information has been approved by Amy Lukowski, PsyD (October 2010).

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    Learn about QuitLine, our telephone or Web-based tobacco cessation program to help motivate and guide individuals who want to give up tobacco for life.