It’s coming, the annual Great American Smokeout; an opportunity to commit to a healthy, tobacco-free life with people across the country. Tobacco use is the single largest preventable cause of disease and premature death in the United States. Each year, over 480,000 people die from illnesses related to tobacco use; that’s 1 out of 5 deaths annually. In Montana, 1,600 people die each year from smoking.1

It’s no secret that quitting tobacco isn’t easy. It starts with a plan, takes time, and requires a lot of support. It is also the most important thing you can do to improve your health.

The good news. (Yes, there is good news.) The benefits of quitting start happening immediately.

  • 20 minutes after quitting your heart rate and blood pressure drop.
  • 12 hours after quitting, the carbon monoxide level in your blood drops to normal.
  • 2-3 weeks after quitting your circulation improves and lung function increases.
  • 1-9 months after quitting coughing and shortness of breath decrease.
  • 1 year after quitting, the risk of coronary heart disease drops by half and your risk of heart attack drops dramatically.

So you’ve decided to quit, now what?

Make a plan. Write down your reasons to quit and tell your family, friends and co-workers. Pick a date within the next month. (Give yourself time to prepare, but not too long, you don’t want to change your mind!) Decide if you want to use a nicotine replacement therapy or prescription medication. Find support—this can be counseling, a nicotine support group or the FREE Montana Tobacco Quit Line, which provides support, assistance developing a quit plan and FREE nicotine replacement therapy.

Prepare for Quit Day. Get rid of all cigarettes and ashtrays. Stock up on oral substitutes like sugarless gum, carrots, hard candy or toothpicks. If you are using a nicotine replacement therapy or prescription, make sure to have them on hand. Ask those who still smoke to not smoke around you.

Quit Day! You can do it. Keep these tips in mind and stay present in the moment.

  • Do not smoke.
  • Stay busy.
  • Drink lots of water and juice.
  • Avoid situations where you have the urge to smoke.
  • Drink less alcohol, coffee or other drinks you link to smoking (or avoid them altogether.)

Those darn urges. When you feel the urge to smoke think about the four “D’s”:

  • Delay for 10 minutes
  • Deep breaths
  • Drink water, (slowly)
  • Do something else

We know it’s not easy, but it’s worth it. To get going, call the Montana Tobacco Quit Line, 1-800-QUIT-NOW, or go to

1 Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids: The Toll of Tobacco in Montana. : accessed September 2015.