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July 26, 2016

The benefits of quitting smoking

Ros JeurgensHow butting out affects your body

Did you know that your body starts to recover from the effects of tobacco just hours after you quit smoking? Or that quitting can improve the effectiveness of cancer treatments like chemotherapy or radiation?

Dr. Rosalyn Juergens, a lung, stomach and esophageal cancer specialist at Juravinski Cancer Centre, put together this handy infographic (below) on the different health milestones your body reaches when you quit. Why not print it out and hang on your fridge as a friendly reminder! You’ll be amazed by what your body can accomplish in just one year smoke-free!

It’s never too late to quit smoking

There are many great reasons to quit using tobacco. Maybe you’re a new parent or grandparent and want a smoke-free home. Perhaps you’re worried about getting cancer. Or maybe you have cancer, and know that quitting can help with your treatment and recovery. Quitting smoking after a cancer diagnosis may seem daunting, but it can improve the effectiveness of treatment.

Once you’re ready to quit, your best chance of success is through a combination of support and medication.


• Build a support network: Share your goal with friends, family members and coworkers.

• Community Resources: Include Smokers’ Helpline in your support network. It offers a free phone service and 24/7 online and text messaging support. Another great community resource is hamiltonquitssmoking.com

• Talk to your healthcare provider: Your family doctor or nurse practitioner can write a prescription for medication if necessary.

• Triggers: Identify triggers and try to avoid or replace them. Common triggers include drinking alcohol, coffee and smoking after meals.

• Help manage cravings with the 4Ds:

    • Deep breathing — to help relax and focus on something else
    • Drink water slowly — to keep your hands and mouth busy
    • Distraction — find something else to focus on
    • Delay –tell yourself, over and over if needed, that the cravings will pass

• Rewards: Use the money saved by not buying tobacco to treat yourself to something special.

• Baby steps: If you’re not ready to quit, try cutting back. It can be the first step towards quitting for good.


• Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) comes in many forms including patches, gum, lozenges, mouth spray and inhalers. It’s sold in pharmacies and some stores, and you don’t need a prescription to buy it. Using NRT can increase your chance of quitting by reducing nicotine cravings and withdrawal symptoms. If cost is an issue, contact Smokers’ Helpline. They operate a provincial database of services and can tell you what’s available in your community.

• Non-nicotine prescription medications may also be an option. Two prescription drugs are available to help reduce nicotine cravings and prevent relapse — Champix and Zyban. They require a prescription.

If at first you don’t succeed, forgive yourself and move on. Some former smokers reported needing 30 attempts before giving up tobacco for good.

Dr. Rosalyn Juergens is a medical oncologist at the JCC. Monica Bennett is a health promotion specialist for tobacco cessation with the Regional Cancer Program. 

How does quitting smoking benefit your body?


Smoking is prohibited both indoors and outdoors on all hospital properties in Ontario, including all Hamilton Health Sciences sites. If you’re caught smoking on HHS grounds, you can receive a fine starting at $250. Click for more information on our smoke-free policy and resources to help you quit.

If you’re considering quitting, smoking cessation medications can improve your chances of butting out. Talk to your healthcare provider about creating a plan that will set you up for success.

Watch our Facebook Live Q&A for tips for quitting smoking with Monica Bennett!