Today is the Great American Smokeout. It's a good day to be a quitter.

In this article:

  • If you smoke and want to quit, the Great American Smokeout can help.
  • Ready to quit? For those who qualify, Swedish offers lung cancer screenings and support for smokers who want to kick the habit.
  • Smoking is the single largest cause of preventable death in the United States.
  • On Nov. 16, thousands of people across the country will take a major step toward ending their tobacco use by participating in the Great American Smokeout.

Anyone who’s ever done it will tell you that quitting tobacco isn’t easy. Whether it’s cigarettes, e-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco, quitting requires time, persistence and a commitment to a profound life change. And on many days, the short-term pain might seem to exceed the long-term benefits—but it doesn’t have to. If you need more support, there’s help at Swedish.

Nurse Practitioner Emily Grob runs Swedish’s Smoking Cessation Program. Emily works with patients who qualify for lung cancer screenings based on their age and smoking history. Through her work helping people quit every day, Emily understands the challenges of giving up tobacco, the need for support and the importance of collecting the small victories that come with the process. 

“We know it can be challenging to quit smoking. Swedish offers a wide range of services to help you reach your goal. Our lung cancer screening program allows us to monitor the condition of your lungs and identify potential issues while they are still in their earliest stages,” says Emily.

“When you’re ready to quit smoking, we provide tools to help you succeed, such as one-on-one coaching, individualized treatment plans and medication. We examine the issues that kept you from quitting in the past and help you develop solutions to overcome any obstacles to success,” she says.

Whatever form of tobacco you want to give up, the Smokeout is an opportunity to turn one tobacco-free day into the first of many, and the first step on the road to a longer, healthier life. Your Smokeout can include not smoking for the entire day, planning for a future quit date or marking Nov. 17 as your quit date.

“Don’t give up. Most people who quit smoking don’t quit the first time. We know it takes multiple attempts for most people to be forever quit...If you do have a lapse, focus on what worked and then plan ahead and move forward. It’s never too late to quit smoking.”

There’s plenty of hard evidence to support your personal reasons for quitting. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), tobacco use is the largest single cause of preventable death in the United States. On average, people who smoke die 10 years earlier than those who don’t, and tobacco use is associated with diseases that can damage nearly every organ in the body, including your lungs, heart, blood vessels, reproductive organs, mouth, skin, eyes and bones.

Your health starts to improve almost immediately after quitting and the trend continues the longer you remain tobacco-free, according to the ACS:

  • After 20 minutes your blood pressure and heart rate drops.
  • After a few days the carbon monoxide level in your blood drops to normal.
  • Between the two-week quit anniversary and the three month mark your circulation improves and lung function increases.
  • From one to 12 months after you quit, coughing and shortness of breath decrease. Tiny, hair-like structures called cilia that move mucus out of the lungs start to regain normal function.
  • After one to two years your risk of heart attack decreases dramatically. 
  • After five to 10 years with no tobacco your risk of cancers of the mouth, throat and voice box is cut in half. Your risk of stroke also goes down. 
  • At 10 years your risk of lung cancer is roughly half that of a person who is still smoking. Your risk of cancer of the bladder, esophagus and kidney also decreases.
  • At 15 years your risk of coronary heart disease is close to that of a nonsmoker.

Stopping smoking isn’t easy and very few people succeed on their initial try. That’s ok, says Emily, as long as you keep trying.

“Don’t give up. Most people who quit smoking don’t quit the first time. We know it takes multiple attempts for most people to be forever quit,” she says. “Make a plan. Think through your habits and routines and the role tobacco plays in your day. Think about how you’re going to manage cravings and withdrawals. If you do have a lapse, focus on what worked and then plan ahead and move forward. It’s never too late to quit smoking.”

Additional resources

Health benefits of quitting smoking over time | American Cancer Society

Lung Cancer: Early detection is critical to successful treatment

A recent study found rising cancer rates among younger adults. What to know.

Lung Cancer Awareness


Learn more and find a provider

Do you or a family member need help quitting tobacco use? If you’re thinking about quitting, or your doctor has advised you to quit, Swedish can help. You can also learn more about developing a plan and finding support to quit at the Washington State Quitline

If you want to learn more about lung cancer or care for patients with lung cancer, the experts at the Swedish Cancer Institute are here for you. To talk to someone or make an appointment, call 1-855-XCANCER. 

Swedish Virtual Care connects you face-to-face with a nurse practitioner who can review your symptoms, provide instruction and follow up as needed. If you need to find a provider, you can use our provider directory.

Join our Patient and Family Advisory Council.

This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional's instructions.

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