Quit Smoking

The best thing they can do is reduce or stop smoking

No matter what stage of COPD a person has.

People who smoke all have unique reasons for doing so. They might use smoking as a way to manage stress, socialize, manage weight, and more. Smoking can often be tied to routines like waking up, driving, taking a break, or having a coffee.

Many Canadians have stumbled into this highly addictive behaviour for a variety of reasons. But regardless of the reasons a person may have for smoking, the benefits of quitting far outweigh the challenges.


According to Health Canada, smoking is the main cause of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Chemicals in tobacco smoke cause the lining of the air passages (called bronchial tubes) in your lungs to become swollen and produce excess mucus. Cigarette smoke also damages structures essential to the natural filtering processes of the lung. When this happens, the body is unable to clear the excess mucus and the debris it traps from the lungs. This can lead to an increased risk of infections like pneumonia. Chemicals in the smoke can also damage the small air sacs (called alveoli) of the lungs.

The damage that occurs in the lungs is why many people with COPD have trouble breathing.

Why Quit?

Some people with COPD might not see the purpose of quitting smoking, feeling that it won’t make a difference now that the damage to their lungs has already been done. But this is not true. No matter what stage of COPD a person has, the best thing they can do is reduce or stop smoking.


Quitting smoking is the best way to slow the progression of COPD and preserve lung function. The benefits of quitting smoking can be seen immediately and in the long term.

After 20 minutes of quitting, your blood pressure drops to a level similar to what it was before your last cigarette.
After 8 hours from your last cigarette, the level of carbon monoxide (a toxic gas) in your blood drops to normal.
After 24 hours, your risk of having a heart attack starts to drop.
After 2 weeks to 3 months without a cigarette, the airways in your lungs relax, allowing you to get more air into your lungs and breathe easier.
After 1 to 9 months smoke-free, you cough less and your lungs work even better.
After 1 year without cigarettes, your added risk of coronary heart disease is half that of a person who smokes.
After 5 years of kicking the habit, you have the same chance of having a stroke as someone who has never smoked.
After 10 years, your chance of dying from cancer is much lower.
After 15 years smoke-free, your risk of coronary heart disease is similar to that of someone who has never smoked.

And there are lots of other reasons to quit smoking in addition to health. Saving money is another big motivator for lots of people.

According to Health Canada, the average smoker would save $235 a month or $2,860 a year if they quit. What would you do with that money? Many also choose to quit for their families, friends, and pets. Some do it because they are expecting a baby. Others because they want to set a good example for their loved ones.

Regardless of the reason, quitting smoking will benefit not only you but also those around you.

How can I quit?

There are many steps you can take to make the process of quitting easier:

Make a plan to start quitting: Pick a quit date that’s within the next 30 days and identify why you want to quit.
• Seek support from family and friends.
• Identify triggers in your day-to-day routine that make you crave a cigarette.
• Decide how you want to deal with cravings.
• Reach out to your doctor and ask for help.
• Ask your doctor about medications, such as nicotine replacement therapy or medications to help lower cravings.
• Seek out group counselling to connect with people who understand your situation.
• Anticipate withdrawal symptoms, such as low energy, sleepiness, irritability, cold-like symptoms, dizziness, lack of focus, chest tightness, and hunger. Make a plan in advance for how you want to handle withdrawal symptoms, and remember that they’re only temporary.

How to get help

If you have decided to quit smoking, you don’t have to do it alone—there are many resources and supports available to help you.

Canada offers provincial and territorial services to provide individuals with the support they need to quit smoking. Trained specialists can provide counselling, help you develop a plan to quit smoking, and answer your questions.

Free smoking diaries can be used to track how much you smoke and better understand the reasons why. The diary will help you set goals that will motivate you to cut down your smoking.


Nicotine replacement therapy, or NRT, can be an effective tool to help you quit smoking. It can come in the form of patches, gum, inhalers, lozenges, or sprays. These may be used alone, or in combination (such as the patch for long-lasting relief and lozenges for short-acting relief). Some are given over the counter, while others require a prescription. NRT reduces withdrawal symptoms by giving small and controlled amounts of nicotine without the dangerous toxins that are inhaled while smoking. By doing this, a person can focus on life changes to stay smoke-free, without being distracted by the withdrawal symptoms.


Medications to help prevent cravings are also available by prescription from your healthcare provider. Medications like Champix (varenicline) and Zyban (bupropion) are effective at helping people quit. They can even be started while you are still smoking; you do not have to quit completely before taking these medications. They are usually taken for at least 3 months but are often used for much longer, even indefinitely. If a person has used them to quit in the past and has started smoking again, the medications may be used again.


Most provinces have smokers’ helplines that you can call or websites that you can visit to receive information and support.

• In Alberta, visit www.albertaquits.ca or call 1-866-710-7848.
• In British Columbia, visit www.quitnow.ca or call 1-877-455-2233.
• In Quebec, visit www.tobaccofreequebec.ca/iquitnow or call 1-866-527-7383.
• In Ontario and Saskatchewan, visit smokershelpline.ca or call 1-877-513-5333.
• For more information, or to find support in provinces or territories not listed above, visit Health Canada’s website or call the pan-Canadian quit line toll-free at 1-866-366-3667.

Fighting an addiction like cigarette smoking isn’t easy, but it will dramatically enhance your quality of life and slow the progression of your COPD. Don’t hesitate to seek the help you need, and remember that it will get easier over time.

The habit of smoking is closely related to a person’s mental health.

To learn more about mental health and COPD, click here.