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Reaching for a cigarette after a meal, during a break or while having a beer outside a pub is part of many people’s lives. However, most smokers try to kick the habit again at some point.

As we know, there are many good reasons for this: Smoking increases the risk of various diseases and is a burden on the wallet. But it is difficult to break an ingrained habit like smoking. It often takes several attempts before you succeed.

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Smoking has many health disadvantages. For example, it promotes infectious diseases such as the flu , colds or pneumonia. In the long run, it can lead to chronic cough and lung disease. It worsens physical fitness and damages the cardiovascular system, which can lead to secondary diseases such as heart attacks and strokes. Smoking also increases the risk of many types of cancer – especially lung cancer and malignant tumors in the mouth and throat area.

It also affects dental health. For example, smokers deal more often with gingivitis and periodontitis. In addition, wounds heal more slowly in smokers. There is also an increased risk of complications after surgery.

During pregnancy, smoking interferes with the development of the unborn child: Nicotine and harmful substances from smoke can reduce oxygen supply. This is one of the reasons why pregnant women have more frequent miscarriages when they smoke. It also increases the risk that the child is born too early, is too small or weighs too little.

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Once you are addicted to nicotine, it is very difficult to give up smoking again. That is why it is best not to start smoking in the first place. However, most smokers started smoking as adolescents. Thoughts about one’s own health often do not play a major role at this age.

Many parents wonder what they can do to prevent their children from smoking. On the one hand, they have a direct influence as role models: Those who have parents, siblings or friends who smoke are more likely to start themselves. On the other hand, it’s good if parents know the dangers of smoking and talk to their children about it. It is often easier to stay in the conversation if you are patient, listen and hold back on criticism as much as possible.

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There are several strategies to quit smoking. Many smokers manage to quit on their own after a few attempts. With support it is often easier – but even then several attempts are usually necessary. Support can be provided, for example, by doctors, counseling centers, or self-help groups . Some health insurance companies also promote non-smoking courses.

Nicotine replacement therapy can relieve physical withdrawal symptoms and thereby help with cessation. Tobacco is replaced by nicotine patches or chewing gum, for example. Certain medications can also provide support. It is not yet possible to say whether e-cigarettes can be a quitting aid.

More knowledge

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Most people who stop smoking gain some weight. Especially in the first year, weight gain can be noticeable. The reason is not only that many eat more or reach for snacks more often – the metabolism also changes. Also, smoking suppresses the feeling of hunger. But how the weight changes can be very different. Some ex-smokers don’t gain weight at all or even lose weight, while others gain more than five pounds. In any case, it is better for your health to gain weight than to continue smoking – and in the long run, your metabolism and weight can return to normal.

German Society for Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Psychosomatics and Neurology (DGPPN), German Society for Addiction Research and Addiction Therapy (DG Addiction). S3 guideline: screening, diagnosis, and treatment of harmful and dependent tobacco use . AWMF Register No.: 076-006. 09.02.2015.

IQWiG health information should help people understand the advantages and disadvantages of important treatment options and health care offerings.

Whether one of the possibilities described by us is actually meaningful in the individual case, can be clarified in the discussion with a lady doctor or a physician. Health can support, but not replace, discussions with physicians and other specialists. We don’t offer personalized advice.

Our information is based on the results of high quality studies. They were prepared by a team of authors from the fields of medicine, science and editing and reviewed by experts from outside IQWiG. How we develop our texts and keep them up to date is described in detail in our methods .

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Updated on 09. August 2017
Next planned update: 2022

Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG)

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