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Do you smoke? If you do, why did you start? Or do you even remember?

People smoke for a wide variety of reasons – peer pressure, parental influence, stress factors, friends who smoke, hunger, just wanted to try it, or thought it was the cool thing to do.

But, it’s not too late to quit.

The Great American Smokeout will be observed on Thursday, November 16. Supported by the American Cancer Society, this is an opportunity for people who smoke to commit to healthy, smoke-free lives – not just for a day, but year round, for the rest of their lives. Thousands of people across the country take this step toward a healthier lifestyle. There are resources out there to support you.

So, just how addictive is smoking?

Addiction to nicotine in cigarettes is one of the strongest and most deadly addictions one can have. Quitting is hard for many people who smoke. It takes commitment and starts with a plan, often takes more than one attempt to quit, and requires a lot of support. Often, the younger you were when you started to smoke, the more intense the addiction.

Inhaled smoke delivers nicotine to the brain within 20 seconds, which makes it very addictive – comparable to opioids, alcohol, and cocaine. This “rush” is a major part of the addictive process. When the person stops using tobacco, nicotine levels in the brain drop.

Nicotine is the drug in tobacco that causes pleasant feelings and distracts the user from unpleasant feelings. Over time, a person becomes physically dependent on and emotionally addicted to nicotine. This physical dependence causes unpleasant withdrawal symptoms when you try to quit smoking or other forms of tobacco. There are mental and emotional effects, too. Nicotine actually affects brain chemistry and emotions.

According to the U.S. Surgeon General, “Smoking cessation [stopping smoking] represents the single most important step that people who smoke can take to enhance the length and quality of their lives.” Quitting is hard, but you can increase your chances of success with help.

Remember, tobacco addiction is both mental and physical. For most people, the best way to quit will be some combination of medicine, a method to change personal habits, and emotional support.

Cigarette smoking, the leading cause of preventable death in the United States, causes more than 480,000 deaths each year in the U.S. alone. That’s one in five deaths. It causes about 90 percent of

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