Lung Cancer Team

Patient Education: Smoking Cessation

Making the commitment to quit smoking is one of the best choices that smokers can make for themselves, but also a difficult one. There are various opportunities for support available. Here is an overview of them.

Nicotine is the addictive chemical in tobacco. Many people experience withdrawal symptoms such as:

  • Anger
  • Anxiety
  • Cravings 
  • Depressed mood
  • Difficulty concentrating 
  • Frustration
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Restlessness
  • Weight gain

There are various forms of nicotine replacement therapy available to assist with minimizing these symptoms. They are nicotine gum, nicotine patch, nicotine nasal spray, nicotine inhaler, and nicotine lozenge.

Which kind of nicotine replacement therapy will best work for you can be discussed with your doctor or nurse to help you understand the pros and cons of each.

Non-nicotine replacement therapy is also available. Bupropion (Wellbutrin, Zyban) is a mild anti-depressant that is also effective in helping people to quit smoking. It can be used alone or with nicotine replacement therapy.

Varenicline (Chantix) is another medication that helps people who what to quit. This medication is not a form of nicotine replacement therapy, but it helps with the withdrawal symptoms.

Studies have shown that the best success rates for people trying to quit include counseling and/or support groups.

Nicotine Anonymous is a support group; you can call them at 631-665-0527.

The Suffolk County Department of Health offers an excellent program that involves a series of classes to help people understand the best strategies to help break the smoking habit. Its phone number is 631-853-4017, and its website is

Both of these resources are free, and assistance is also available through HealthConnect here at Stony Brook University Medical Center (631-444-4000).

New York State offers a hot line, 1-866-NY-QUITS or 1-800-QUIT-NOW, and a website ( that offers free kits that include nicotine replacement therapy.

Some helpful hints include:

  • Avoidance. Stay away from smokers and places where you are tempted to smoke.
  • Activities. Exercise or do hobbies that keep your hands busy.
  • Alternatives. Use oral substitutes such as sugarless gum, hard candy, and carrot sticks.
  • Change of habits. For example, if you usually smoke during a coffee break, then go for a walk instead.
  • Deep breathing. When you have the urge to smoke, do a deep breathing exercise and remind yourself why you quit.
  • Delay tactic. If you feel that you are about to light up, delay. Tell yourself you must wait 10 minutes. Often this simple trick will allow you to move beyond the urge.
  • Discussion. Call a friend for support.
  • Drink of water. Use as an oral substitute such as water.

Many people say the reason they smoke is to deal with stress. Unfortunately, stress is a part of all our lives. When quitting, you will need to find new strategies to deal with stress. There are stress-management classes, and self-help books that can help you discover new ways to reduce and deal with stress.

The bottom line is: don't just try to go it alone-reach out for support to help you achieve your goal.