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Understanding Smoking and Nicotine

Thousands of nicotine receptors are activated in your brain the very first time you smoke. Run out of nicotine in those receptors, and the brain wants more to feed the craving. This happens every time you smoke.

Medications along with counseling and support by the Quitline are the best ways to reduce the cravings and increase your chances of quitting by 50%.

Nicotine receptors in your brain eventually become dormant, but it will take a while. That’s why weekly support calls with your Quitline counselor are so important.

Quitting is hard because nicotine is as addictive as heroin and cocaine. Most people make 5 - 7 attempts to quit before succeeding. We give you the tools to quit for good.

Don’t consider vaping and e-cigarettes the way to quit tobacco. They still introduce nicotine into your system and cause immediate reactions in your body:

  • Increased blood pressure
  • Stimulated heart
  • Raised blood fat levels
  • Constricted blood vessels

The purity of e-cigarette vapor results in a very powerful dose of nicotine. Therefore, the effect is even more pronounced than if you were simply smoking cigarettes.

Smokeless tobacco is argued to be less lethal than smoking, yet dippers and chewers get about the same amount of nicotine as smokers. They also get at least 30 chemicals known to cause cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure, and increased risk of heart attack and stroke.

Some manufacturers imply or claim that smokeless helps people quit smoking. There’s no proof. In the very least, smokeless is addictive and as hard to quit as smoking.

Many hookah smokers believe hookah carries less risk of tobacco-related disease than cigarette smoking. Not so.

Hookah smoke has many of the same deadly toxins as cigarette smoke and has been linked to lung cancer, respiratory illness, low birth weight, and periodontal disease.

A hookah smoking session may expose the smoker to more smoke over a longer period of time than smoking a cigarette. Because of how a hookah is smoked, hookah smokers may absorb higher concentrations of toxins than those in cigarette smoke.

Cigar smoke is possibly more toxic than cigarette smoke because of high concentrations of cancer-causing nitrosamines, more tar, and a greater level of toxins. The larger size of most cigars — thus more tobacco and longer smoking time — means more exposure to toxic substances.

Cigar smoking causes cancer of the oral cavity, larynx, esophagus, and lung. It may also cause cancer of the pancreas. Cigar smokers and cigarette smokers have similar risk levels for oral cavity and esophageal cancers.

Although most cigar smokers do not inhale, there is no safe tobacco use. Users of any tobacco product should quit.

Give yourself a big cost of living increase when you quit. Pack a day smoker? Well over $2,500 a year goes up in smoke. Find out how much quitting can save besides your life. Free Cost Calculator.

Positive health changes happen in your body almost immediately when you quit smoking. Serious, long-term diseases and conditions can be minimized or eliminated by quitting.


Smokers often experience the same symptoms as people going through an asthma attack. This happens for the same reason — airways get irritated by smoke and become inflamed. Smoking can cause asthma attacks to happen more often or make attacks more difficult to control with medication.

Smokers may have ongoing asthma symptoms and poor control of their asthma. The Quitline has a lot of material to help you understand and manage asthma.


Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) causes the tubes in your lungs that air flows through to become blocked making it very hard to breathe. Cigarette smoking is the biggest risk factor for developing COPD.

Smokers are 80% - 90% of the people diagnosed with COPD, yet those who have never smoked can get it from secondhand smoke. Many times it’s confused with asthma or bronchitis. Symptoms are chronic; they can be controlled but not cured.

Those 40 or older with a history of smoking and have any of these symptoms for over a few weeks should go to a doctor for a COPD breathing test. If you are diagnosed with severe COPD, oxygen therapy may be used to help you breathe.

Lung Cancer

Cigarette smoking is the major risk factor for lung cancer. Someone smoking one pack daily for 40 years is 20 times more likely to get lung cancer than a non-smoker.

Approximately 10% of patients won’t have any symptoms at diagnosis. Patients with lung symptoms alone have a better prognosis than those with many symptoms which can be a result of cancer spreading.

For those who quit smoking, the risk of developing lung cancer falls for about 15 years before leveling off and remaining about twice that of non-smokers.

Illinois Tobacco Quitline

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