Myths around stopping smoking

There are a range of myths around stopping smoking. There's no truth behind them - don't let them put you off stopping before you get started.

'The damage is done'

You might feel that because you smoke, you’ve already increased your chance of getting cancer or another smoking-related disease, and that quitting now won’t make any difference.

It's never too late to stop smoking. As soon as you quit, your body will begin to repair itself. You’ll notice improvements in your breathing, sense of taste and smell just a few days after stopping. Within a year, you'll have reduced risk of cardiovascular and respiratory disease.

You’ll also improve the health of your family and friends by protecting them from second-hand smoke.

Read more about the benefits of stopping smoking

'I’ll put on weight'

It's normal to have concerns about gaining weight when giving up smoking. Some people do put on weight after they stop. This is down to nicotine suppressing your body's natural appetite and making it burn calories faster.

If you quit smoking and replace it with unhealthy snacking then you're likely to put on a bit of weight. However, if you stop and keep to a healthy diet it's unlikely that you'll gain weight because you've stopped smoking.

Not everyone who quits smoking will gain weight. It's the decisions you make around what you eat and how active you are that will affect your weight.

Read more about keeping active and food and nutrition

'Nicotine is harmful'

Nicotine is a very addictive substance but it isn't harmful. It's the other ingredients and chemicals such as carbon monoxide and tar in tobacco smoke that will cause serious damage to your health. This is why Nicotine Replacement Therapy can help you to stop smoking. It will give you a clean, safe dose of nicotine.

To quit successfully, you need to deal with:

  • your chemical addiction to nicotine
  • the fact that smoking has become part of your daily routine

Read more about help to stop

'I’ll get stressed'

Despite this popular myth it's been proven that non-smokers usually have lower stress levels than smokers.

You may find you feel more relaxed after having a cigarette because:

  • nicotine returns to the level you feel comfortable with
  • it stimulates the release of a feel-good chemical in the brain called dopamine

Nicotine is a powerful drug, it can overcome the brain’s ability to control the release of dopamine.

When you smoke, you'll feel that you need a cigarette to control your dopamine levels. Therefore, having a cigarette makes it seem like it's helping you to relax, but the physical stress on your body is actually increasing. The good news is that after 3 months of being smoke-free, the ability to control dopamine returns to a normal state.

Read more about cravings

'It’s not the right time to quit smoking'

Although it’s maybe true that you shouldn’t try to quit during particularly stressful times, don’t use this as an excuse to never try.

Set a date that works for you, such as the beginning of a holiday or the beginning of the week. Work out what makes you want a cigarette, such as having a cup of tea or going to the pub, and pick a day when you can avoid these triggers.

Tell your family and friends that you're planning to quit on that date and let them know what you need from them. It might be a good idea to tell your work colleagues you're planning on quitting so they don't offer you a cigarette or put temptation in your way.

Read more about getting ready to quit

'Hand-rolled tobacco is healthier'

You may think it’s safer to smoke hand-rolled tobacco rather than cigarettes. It can be cheaper, but roll-ups actually expose smokers to 4,000 toxic chemicals through their smoke, many of them poisonous and carcinogenic (causing cancer).

The levels of nicotine and tar are higher in roll-ups than in most ordinary cigarettes. Many people who smoke roll-ups don’t use a filter, so they inhale more tar and nicotine.

My smoking doesn’t harm anyone else

Second-hand smoke is a very real danger. Smoking has been banned in all enclosed public places across the UK.

Non-smokers exposed to other people's smoke long-term have a:

  • 20% to 30% increased risk of contracting lung cancer or stroke
  • 25% to 30% increased risk of coronary heart disease

Second-hand smoke is also a cause of respiratory illnesses and infections, cot death, middle ear disease and asthma attacks in children.

Children breathe faster than adults, which means they take in more of the harmful chemicals in second-hand smoke.

Read more about second-hand smoke

Quit Your Way Scotland

For the facts about smoking, contact Quit Your Way Scotland.

Last updated:
19 December 2022

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