Primary Care in Rochester and Kasson

Is it time to quit smoking?

11/8/2021 by Jon Ebbert, M.D.


Cigarette smoking kills 480,000 people each year in the U.S. People who smoke take at least 10 years off their life expectancy. On the other hand, those who kick the habit reduce the excess risk of death associated with continued smoking by about 90%.

The Great American Smokeout is held on the third Thursday in November every year, and it's an opportunity for you to quit smoking.

Quitting isn't easy

Most smokers want to quit, and more than half attempt to quit every year. However, less than 1 in 10 can stop smoking for good.

Four out of every 9 adult cigarette smokers who saw a health care provider during the past year did not receive advice to quit. Less than one-third of adult cigarette smokers use cessation counseling or medications approved for cessation by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) when trying to quit smoking.

What help is available?

Several treatments are available to help you quit smoking:

  • Varenicline
    This is one of the most effective medications, but a national shortage means it is not widely available.
  • Nicotine replacement therapy
    This includes medications that contain nicotine designed to replace the nicotine obtained from smoking. These are effective and widely available. Consider over-the-counter options, such as a nicotine patch, nicotine gum and nicotine lozenges, or prescription options, such as nicotine nasal spray and nicotine inhaler.
  • Bupropion
    This anti-depressant medication is used to reduce cravings, and it is effective in helping people quit smoking. For a prescription, talk to your provider.
  • Electronic cigarettes
    While these devices may help people quit, the FDA has not approved them for this purpose.

People who want to quit also can call 800-784-8669, where they can be connected to a telephone counselor. These counselors can talk you through the quitting process and help you obtain free nicotine replacement therapy. The National Cancer Institute's website also offers a texting service to help you quit. You can sign up by texting "QUIT" to 47848. The program lasts for six to eight weeks.

If you are considering quitting smoking, talk to your health provider today. Or join the Great American Smokeout.

Jon Ebbert, M.D., is a physician in Primary Care in Rochester and Kasson's Division of Community Internal Medicine. He is chair of Community Internal Medicine's Division of Telehealth and offers virtual visit care across Southeast Minnesota.