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June 25th, 2009
01:34 PM ET

Is an occasional cigarette that bad for you?

As a regular feature of CNNhealth.com, our team of expert doctors answers readers' questions. Here's a question for Dr. Gupta.

From Troy in Silver Spring, Maryland:

“I heard President Obama recently admit that he still smokes cigarettes occasionally. I know he is trying to quit but I’m curious what the health ramifications are for someone who just smokes once in a while?”

Answer:

Great question, Troy. More than 46 million adults in America smoke cigarettes. But 70 percent say they would like to quit, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study. There is no question that smoking is a hard habit to break. It's been suggested that nicotine could be as addictive as heroin. And like many Americans reading this right now, the president also struggles to break the habit. Obama admits that,  “as a former smoker, I constantly struggle with it. …Have I fallen off the wagon? Yes."

However, it’s a myth to believe that if you smoke only two cigarettes a week for example, or just on the weekends, that it won't affect your health. Even a few cigarettes can increase your blood pressure,and  put you at a slightly increased risk of heart disease and stroke. Some studies show that young smokers who light up only occasionally have signs of artery disease. And though their risk of developing cancer is nowhere near that of a regular smoker, compared with a non-smoker, the risk is elevated.

One group the new anti-tobacco bill targets are so-called "social smokers.’" The concern is that social smoking can turn into a full-time habit very quickly. Big tobacco companies spend millions of dollars researching and marketing to this demographic.

What’s constitutes a social smoker? If you were to ask them, they’d tell you they don’t consider themselves smokers because they don’t do it every day. Studies show social smokers are younger, often  smoke only with friends at social functions and typically don’t typically purchase their own cigarettes in packs. Because of this, tobacco companies often market to social smokers in bars and clubs. The FDA will now regulate tobacco industry marketing in an effort to reduce social smoking in America.

Bottom line, Troy, is that no quantity of cigarettes is safe or healthy for our body. But for the millions of people struggling to quit right, don’t be discouraged if you slip up and smoke. Smoking one cigarette is much better than an entire pack. And by no means does it mean you’re a smoker again. Start fresh tomorrow. And check out www.smokefree.gov for great information on cessation and support programs.


soundoff (65 Responses)
  1. Dan Callahan, LMSW

    So many people believe that moderation in all we do is key! However, when it comes to issues that are as dangerous as smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol, or smoking marijuana, the dangers may outweigh the potential for good. People love to cite studies, but if you do your homework you may find that the folks behind the studies may change your opinion of their results. For instance if a cigarette company funds a study would you trust it?

    Thank you Dr. for taking a stand!

    Dan Callahan, LMSW
    http://www.TheLastResortPa.com

    June 28, 2009 at 13:41 | Report abuse | Reply
    • dangerouslyhigh

      Moderation IS the key in drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana – which are nowhere near as dangerous as smoking cigarettes. Don't lump them all in the same group together. Of the three – cigarettes, alcohol and marijuana – marijuana is the least detrimental to the health, but it is the most demonized.

      February 28, 2011 at 03:50 | Report abuse |
    • elizabeth

      smoking was not bad for u untill they put all that junk in it..they make more on patch..then a pack of smokes..our food we eat is just as bad ..it just people that don't care all they want is to make money

      March 1, 2011 at 07:09 | Report abuse |
    • gggg

      "People love to cite studies." What an evil uneducated ignorant people, how come they cite studies, they should make up facts and exaggerate things like the rest . who scientists think they are? because they study, research and experiment that means they know a lot more than a guy on the internet? how arrogant.

      December 15, 2012 at 01:01 | Report abuse |
    • charles

      Personally I think drink and smoking (weed and tobacco) in moderation is fine. The simple fact is, everyone is going to die. If smoking and drinking 1-2 times a month shortens my life, whatever. However I know from experience that it doesn't affect my quality of life negatively at this frequency currently.

      August 15, 2014 at 18:24 | Report abuse |
  2. Mark

    When someone smokes and takes anti-oxidant drugs and coffee,does it reduce the risk of getting diseases related to smoking especially cancer.

    June 28, 2009 at 16:10 | Report abuse | Reply
    • the one

      Mark, taking anti-oxi A is bad if you are a smoker,....i'm refering to the beta form. but other than that, yes it does help reduce damages caused by smoking.

      December 8, 2010 at 00:06 | Report abuse |
  3. Mark L.

    The carbon monoxide from the cigarrettes effects the integrity of the inner lining of your arteries (Tunica Intima). This inner lining becomes cobblestone in appearance and allows free radicals in the blood stream to become trapped and oxidized in the arterial lining. This is the creation of plaque progression in the arteries. As time progresses, more free radicals, as well as macrophages are recruited by the bodies inflammatory response and they get trapped inside the lining of the artery as well. The plaque gets bigger and bigger until the artery is completely occluded (heart attack) or the clot breaks off and floats downstream (stroke).
    These are the biggest dangers to smokers... So just don't do it!

    July 2, 2009 at 12:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Elaine

    I have a history of depression that has dragged me down for over 10 years. I recently put on the patch and swore off smoking. This might seem unreal or not tested to be true. When I guite smoking my depression that I have suffered with for so many years seemed to disapate. I quite for 7 weeks and I could actually smeel the flowers and the grass outside as I had when a young child.
    I let my younger sister sway me into taking the patch off. So now I have to set another new start to stop smoking date.
    I just wanted to let anyone who had these problems know another benefit of quiting smoking. The first two weeks where so hard for me I am so sorry I let my sister talk me into it.
    It has to be harder than any drug out there to guite.
    However, I was able to get 4 people to quite with me they said if I could do it they could do it. One positive success story has come out of it. I'm proud of that.

    July 4, 2009 at 03:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. ben

    Elaine-
    Thank for sharing your story. Very upliffting. I encourage you to go buy the patch and put it on RIGHT NOW. Don't blame your sister, don't delay. Do it for yourself and family but also for those who are watching you. Depression also effects your judgement. Write your goals in a journal, and don't let anyone "talk" you out of them. Read and update the goals every morning, it will strenthen your resolve to remember why you are quitting. You can do it, and now......America is watching.

    July 13, 2009 at 08:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Janice

    Smoking should be illegal. If other less harmful street drugs are illegal, I do not understand smoking being legal. I have never used an illegal drug in my 60 years of life, but I do smoke a pack of cigarettes a day. I am so addicted until honestly saying that I want to quit is difficult. Reaching an I want to quit point is my present prayer to God. I am stuck in the I want to want to stop smoking.

    Cigarettes make my house stink, my clothes smell, and limit my interaction with others, even my children. I smoke in my bedroom when others are present, so I stay in my bedroom. Enter my bedroom at your risk is my motto. I do not visit family and friends because I cannot smoke around them or I am ashamed to smoke around them.

    Just the other day, my granddaughter asked me to do a very inexpensive activity with her. I told her I did not have the money for this little excursion. She replied, " Grandma, how come you can buy cigarettes than? How much do they cost?" Well, I am an unemployed schoolteacher because I am too depressed to work. Before I perceived that I was being suckered in by a fifth grader who is smarter than I; we discovered that I spend $1,800.00 a year on cigarettes. Sadly, I could not afford to take my granddaughter on a bus ride to the French Quarters to eat Beignets and take a ride on the ferry. This is a crime.

    I am planning to attend a prayer meeting tomorrow, and my prayer request is to be delivered from the smoking habit. I can thank my granddaughter for this first step I am taking.

    July 17, 2009 at 09:07 | Report abuse | Reply
    • dc

      god won't help you quit smoking – only you have the power to stop smoking. I believe that god is the reason why you know you need to quit, but we are humans and the choice is ours (garden of eden story anyone?)

      September 14, 2011 at 18:28 | Report abuse |
    • jj thompson

      i love you and im sorry you're so addicted

      December 24, 2011 at 01:48 | Report abuse |
    • alex

      Its a lot easier to ask Jesus for help, reading His word and asking for the Holy Spirit to empower you to stop... that is the best way I think...

      January 19, 2012 at 08:46 | Report abuse |
  7. Don

    I agree with Elaine that cigarettes should be illegal. Apparently it is OK to kill people as long as you do it slowly. If you do it suddenly it's called murder. The time factor is what must matter.
    I don't know if the Feds are still giving the tobacco farmers subsidies to grow tobacco or not. As long as we have a health care problem in this country, money should be going to make the problem go away, not get worse. Tobacco fields should be treated like poppy fields in Afghanistan or marijuana fields in Columbia.

    July 23, 2009 at 15:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Dennis

    ALCOHOL is a WAY bigger Killer of EVERYBODY,Not only does it Kill The Human Body Inside and Out but It KILLS OTHERS,It cost This Country 175 Billion a year because of ALCOHOL Related Disease,Murders,Rapes,Suicides, Child and Spousal Abuse,Liver,Brain,Kidney,Throat,Spleen,Pancreas,and Other DISEASES too many to mention........You cannot even comapre SMOKING TO A DRUNK ...PERIOD.......A perfect EXAMPLE GEORGE BURNS Lived to be 100 Smoking CIgars.....And what did he DIE OF,He fell in the SHOWER and hit his head causing a trauma From most likley having ONE TOO MANY .SO ? Whats the HULLABALLOO about SMOKING ????
    Many other things destroy your arteries Like,Fast Foods,Cheese,Milks,Butters,Bagels,ALCOHOL,ASPARTAME which is in most candies,Gum,Sodas,Speed Drinks,TYLENOL Rots the Liver out,ASPRIN eats up the stomach,Oils,Steaks,Veggies,(SALMONELLA) ,Most Bypass People never smoked a DAY IN THEIR LIVES,Here's a few more Fact for you ANTI'S for you :"A standard alcoholic drink, will release into the air, in one hour, as much Class A carcinogen to equal 2,000 cigarettes!

    By the pseudo scientific standards of the Passive Smoking hysteria, ALL cooking, food and drink would have to be banned in public places too!

    Using the same methodology, drinking a glass of whole milk every day, was found to increase the risk of lung cancer to 3 TIMES that of passive smoking but this was deemed to be too small to be of any significance!

    NO fatality from SHS has ever been scientifically proven. After many years of being asked for ‘names and dates’ of just a few of the many ‘thousands’, no health authority
    in the world has produced even ONE, that has stood up to scrutiny!

    July 23, 2009 at 16:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Anne

    Uh Dennis...I think you are missing the point. You are probably right that Alcohol is a more dangerous substance, but the article is about smoking. Just because alcohol is more dangerous doesn't mean that smoking isn't dangerous. And you can rant all you want about there only being a correlation between smoking and fatality, but you'll just be one more person sticking their head in the sand. For your sake I hope you are not a smoker. Chances are that smokers won't die of cancer or a heart attack, instead they usually suffocate to death with diseases like emphysema. To all smokers currently feeling okay or unsure about quitting, I recommend visiting someone in the end stages of this disease. Our nursing homes and hospitals care for many of them. When you ask these patients how they are, they probably won't be able to gasp out an answer very easily, but you'll see the answer in their eyes.

    July 24, 2009 at 00:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Ron

    Good comment Anne....I quit 3 years + ago after many attempts...finally just quit "cold turkey" by drinking more water and doing breathing exercises....and, praying....breath in with "Jeeeeeess"....breath out with "suuuus." Repeat an least 10 times several times a day..... should feel real good in 12-18 days...It worked for me.....I continue with the good breathing exercises.

    July 24, 2009 at 16:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Jason

    Recently I was standing in the line at the gas station and a lady was in front of me complaining about the price of cigarettes. (They recently raised the cigarette tax to $1) Anyway they guy at the counter was trying to explain that it will help the states economy and the lady was shocked and said "How? By bankrupting its citizens?" It's amazing how warped peoples minds become when they are addicted to something.

    July 24, 2009 at 21:07 | Report abuse | Reply
    • tom

      if this is new york city its completely true the city makes 400% off what company makes. the company makes $2.00 per pack and city makes $8.00 per state and federal taxes if not more. she completely right to complain nothing else in this country is taxed more then 100%

      June 5, 2012 at 23:49 | Report abuse |
  12. Mark L.

    Dennis,
    I agree with Anne and Ron on this one. Your statistics on the U.S. mortality rate are way off base. The number one killer in the U.S. has nothing to do with alcohol, It is all cause CARDIOVASCULAR disease. One of the top contributors (if not the top) of cardiovascular disease in the country is smoking. Smoking leads to atherosclerotic plaque buildup which progresses into myocardial infarction (heart attack) and/or stroke.

    Alcohol can certainly be a deadly drug if someone gets behind the wheel and drives after using it. Tobacco on the other hand, is a deadly drug regardless of where you use it. Not to mention the effects of second hand smoke on those around you while you use it.

    July 27, 2009 at 13:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Dennis

    TO ANNE:

    Health Dangers are DRINKING BOOZE,EATING GARBAGE,STRESS,TAKING ALL THESE POISON DRUGS DOCTORS GIVE YOU,Smoking,And SMOKING POT.......They are all REALTED ANNE I dont want to hear that Booze is not REALTED,But GET THE BOOZE OUT OF THE RESTUARANTS and keep it in the BARS where it belongs,This way the DOCTORS can RAKE IN MILLIONS for LIVE,Kidney TRANSPLANTS.................

    July 27, 2009 at 17:56 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Brandon

      just to get this straight smoking weed(pot,marijuana,etc.) is not harmful. the government might tell you that only because they are making thousands on it, its been proven that marijuana helps reduce and even "remove" tumors, there are no recorded deaths that are directly from marijuana, its not marijuana that kills its when stupid people do it and do stupid things, im tired of people believing everything they hear about marijuana and other drugs just because its illegal(in most states and federally) that its bad for you, do your research before you say something is harmful and stop believing everything they tell you.

      November 7, 2011 at 02:01 | Report abuse |
    • Seth

      This is actually to Brandon.

      Sorry to burst your bubble, but smoking anything (cigarettes, marijuana, etc.) is equally harmful. Burning organic material (tobacco, wood, oil, marijuana) releases hundreds of carcinogens in smoke. Inhaling that smoke is what ends up causing cancer. Also, I strongly doubt marijuana "removes" tumors. Do you have a reputable source for that? I'm sick of hippies trying to say smoking pot is "safe" when they do not realize that it's just as bad (if not worse) than some of these other poor habits!

      June 3, 2012 at 04:53 | Report abuse |
  14. Mark L.

    HA HA...

    Wow Dennis...
    Way to "REALTED" your point to everyone! Did you smoke pot before writing that?
    This forum is about smoking... one of the leading causes of death in the U.S. and the world.

    Yes, there are certainly other dangers in the world... like crossing a busy street, or fishing with rusty fish hooks. Drinking in and of itself does not create health risks until it's an everyday occurence in excess. Having a glass of wine every now and then or enjoying a beer or two during a ball game doesn't harm you...
    HOWEVER, it takes a minimum of ONE YEAR after complete smoking cessation to heal the damage done to your lungs. Every cigarette lit up takes time off of your life. The risks associated with smoking include, but are not limited to, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, atherogenesis, cardiovascular disease, lung cancer, choronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, not to mention disgusting breath and stained teeth.
    In moderation, a glass of wine just makes you more fun to be around... sounds like you could use one...although based on your spelling of the word RELATED, perhaps you've already got a head start!

    July 28, 2009 at 14:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Dr. Matt Vernon

    Dennis –
    While you are right that alcohol certainly causes its share of problems, dozens of studies have shown that smoking is the number one contributor to preventable deaths in this country.

    Here's one from Harvard, for example:

    http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/press-releases/2009-releases/smoking-high-blood-pressure-overweight-preventable-causes-death-us.html

    As I said, there are plenty others if you care to look them up.

    The truth is smoking led to about 7 times the number of preventable deaths as alcohol (in this study at least). The top three killers in the US are heart disease, cancer, and stroke. Smoking drastically increases the risk of all three. Lung cancer is the number one cancer killer and smoking certainly leads to other cancers as well.

    So while I agree alcohol is more widespread and is responsible for more deaths and probably more difficult to quantify problems like abuse, property damage, and so forth than most ILLEGAL drugs, it still doesn't come close to smoking when it comes to causing disease and death.

    July 29, 2009 at 13:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Dr. Matt Vernon

    One more thing to Anne –
    While your comment was undoubtedly well-intentioned, if you look at that article and the leading causes of death you will see you were mistaken as well; though emphysema is a terrible disease and certainly caused by smoking, if you look at the numbers the chances are in fact more likely that smokers will die of a heart attack, stroke, or cancer.

    My take-home message is the same as yours though – if you are thinking about quitting, DO IT! And if you are not thinking about it, you should be! As a doctor I find it hard to find that fine line between encouraging patients to quit and nagging them (and no one ever responds to nagging), and it's frustrating because it is just such an important issue.

    July 29, 2009 at 13:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Dennis

    You all need to OPEN your EYES to all the LIES of this SOCIETY,Foods,Booze,Junk Foods,Cause Cancer too,The only Real Issue I have is Why Not BAN THEM TOO ? Ask your DR GUPTA how many people who never smoked in their LIVES Have had BYPASS,And Artery Diesase,I know people Who Have artery Disease that is HERIDITARY..So...Lets Look at That,Of course I know Smoking is No Good for Anyone Im not saying it is,There are way more things on this Planet That Cause disease Like SALMONELLA,LUPUS, and the other 5000 things....Now if you get a MEDICATION from a Doctor you dont know if your ALLERGIC,SO THAT CAN KILL YOU...Now why is it alochol is CONDONED and SMoking Is Not ? Its all about MONEY and Most Politicans are DRUNKS ANYWAY..........SEE YA LATER

    July 30, 2009 at 11:59 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Victoria

      hey im sorry i know its not just you but you were the most passionite about it but im 13 doing a health project for school and i was trying to read comments to find more information about smoking but instead i found an argument and things i don't need to know if im looking into smoking

      September 9, 2010 at 00:58 | Report abuse |
  18. yasmin

    Christ, it’s laughable how whenever someone posts a reasonable question regarding cigarette smoking it seems everyone turns into a preacher, preaching their narrow minded, ignorant opinions upon everyone else. I'm guessing most of these who feel their of huge merit to our society are earning sub $20,000 P/Y. Do these people not realize you don’t have to be hooked on cigarettes to enjoy the occasional Marlboro? If you live a healthy life (gym, eat well) I can’t see the odd cigarette doing much harm.

    I use to smoke a 20 pack a day, i now only smoke perhaps once a week when having a few beverages. I’m considering becoming a full-time smoker again as i don’t want to turn into one boring MOFO who preaches to smokers how bad it is blahblah. Another favorite of mine is to smoke as many on Non-Smoking day.

    Smoke away, enjoy your life. It’s a gamble. But could you really imagine making a BBQ with a cigarette hanging from your mouth? Or whilst waiting at the departure gate at a busy airport having a crafty tab in the disabled toilets?

    My Great grandfather died at the age of 96, smoked 40 a day. I know this is not typical but there you go.

    Because someone smokes should not suggest their addicted, using similar logic , someone enjoying a few beers are they a full blown alcoholic? No. As for the individuals posting these questions..on the internet, don't bother ask friends and family or make your own judgment. The majority of posts on this page are nothing short of pathetic. As addictive as heroin? What's that about? I find i can give up cigarettes for long periods without any 'withdrawal' symptoms at all.
    Regards,
    Yasmin

    October 24, 2009 at 08:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. vertiwal

    Okay, some of the things these people are saying sound a little extreme. I'm not a fan of extremes on anything – I agree that we should keep it out of the hands of kids and such, but banning it? Fast food and the like can harm you quite a lot too, but it's a matter of choice. I'm sure McDonalds gets into people's heads – kids, too – and many would be better off health-wise if it was banned. But people should have the choice.

    On the other hand, yasmin, I can't agree with a lot of what you're saying either. Particularly comments about things like wages. That's unnecessary, and I'm sure smoking is just as prevalent among low-wage folks (and wouldn't it seem LESS likely they'd be on the internet if they didn't have money?). And your comment about becoming a full-time smoker again so you don't become boring and preachy... Talk about sounding pathetic. Not only that, but you already sound like you're preaching about the opposite side, telling people they should smoke. You really think that's something you should try to make a case for? Yeah, your grandfather was fine, but mine has emphysema and can't walk further than thirty feet in one go. He's only in his sixties, but his capacity to just "enjoy life" as you suggest is pretty well shot. I hope you're not going to tell me that it was caused by something besides smoking, that smoking doesn't harm your lungs.

    November 14, 2009 at 20:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. fred jones

    An interesting question and I think pretty well answered by the DR.

    The bottom line is the odd cigarette like the odd beer ie: once a week at most is a treat and will have little effect on your health.

    The problem with much of America is things like hamburgers and fries should also be viewed in the same way, A weekly treat to enjoy that will have little effect on your health but are seen by many wrongly as ok to eat on a daily basis creating fat heart disease prone individuals. Eating fast food daily is easily as unhealthy as being a full time smoker.

    February 2, 2010 at 12:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Kim

    Thank you all for posting here. Thank you, especially, doctors, who kept the facts flowing in the face of all the emotionally charged thinking.

    I came upon this site because I'm on my 11th day, 12th hour of being quit (for about the 5th time)... the longest I ever went was six years. After smoking 2pks /day for 23 years, i quite and healed enough to run several marathons. then one divorce later, i had started again. i here on this site cuz was looking for the "its ok to have a cigarette" page... to support my desire to go rob a cig from my bf's pack.

    Thank you, dennis and jasmin and others who absurdly think that other things kill you more. I've heard over and over again that cigs kill 450,000 people a year.. car crashes kill 43,000 a year. so 10 times as many.
    fyi, i have been diagnosed with emphysema (my function tests show i cant exhale like a normal person.. something i can actually feel now).. and thanks to reading how ridiculous your brain can be, tricking you into thinking smoking is fine, I have the fortitude to carry on my mission into my 13th hour, and the next day, and so on.

    Who knows, maybe i'll train for another marathon. hope i'm not too late. logging off and hitting the celery sticks now... :)

    February 11, 2010 at 11:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. epoc

    I quit 6 months ago...
    it feels like there is more weight day after day. I know that you are supposed to take it day by day, but it has felt like hour by hour lately. I feel more irritable and fight with others more and have uncontrollable fits more often... does anyone else? Afraid that if this trend continues that I lose my job and wife etc. Feels like as much as I hate it smoking is a better alternative!
    I know that this sounds like immature cop out. I can guarantee you it is not.
    Background: I was a 6-7 cigarette/day closet smoker. I hid this from everyone until grad school where I found many people as smart as myself who smoked! Before from when I was 18 to my 38th birthday I hid this from everyone. I did not want to seems like I did not fit in especially in college and professionally in my 20s.
    My wife is pregnant; but not why I quit. Coincidentally, we conceived a week after I quit. I am 38, my teeth have increased in problems since quitting and now I need to go to the periodontist ever 3 months (might have been a coincidence or caused by smoking).
    It seems like I initially measured the quit by weeks ("if I can make it a week...blah blah") and now it is minutes! I am struggling as I write this! Positives:
    1. My health is likely better (it must be right!).
    2. Conceived!!! Can spend more time with parents who never knew I smoked.
    3. I started buying nicer clothes: $7k watch, $2k shoes... I dress awesomely now without concern of the smell I guess.

    Negatives:
    1. I have become highly addicted to extremely expensive food as a guilt payment for not smoking. The most recent of which is that I took vacation at the worst time to go to the south of France to go to the one of the best restaurants in the world and then fought with my wife the entire time. I have no patience, and appear to pick these fights.
    2. Spend less time with inlaws who knew I smoked.
    3. I drive much much faster, perhaps this is the american phenomenon of risk consumption (when one mitigates certain risks behavior manifests itself to eat up said risk – like SUV drivers driving at ridiculoius speeds in snow because they feel safer). Regardless, 4. I feel that everyday my life is slipping out of my hands as I get more and more obsessed with smoking. I talk about it all the time, and the cravings are now almost hourly.
    5. I was VERY successful and feel that I am not able to contribute at work due to my preoccupation with smoking. I relocated my office to a lower traffic area, I am not int he center of what is going on since I quit, because I feel like I have lost both creativity and that fire inside me, the inspiration that comes with smoking. I am useless and fear getting fired where 6 months ago I was a star employee!!! I have now no staff and feel like I am about to be fired!
    6. Sport: I have found it much harder to do my cardio. I have such intense cravings after exercise it is unmanageable! And I am more and more out of breath as time passes.
    7. When I get into those arguements I have responded with violence toward myself and have punched myself int he chest and face... embarrassingly but only in front of my wife. Never in front of coworkers but I have done it at work.
    8. By the way, soon after I quit my Chess game has become horrible (I was a rated player decades ago and now it is a hobby), I cannot concentrate for any period of time.

    Do you have any idea what is going on as these data points MUST be related, this does not feel "mental" it feels "physiological" like I cannot control this... I clearly need help or I will relapse! I am not trying to rationalize starting smoking again, but rather want to stay quit if for no other reason thatn to be a good father in the near future. I hate not smoking!

    February 25, 2010 at 18:28 | Report abuse | Reply
    • magnus

      You sound like a nightmare to live with. Your poor wife and child stuck with you. They probably would rather have a happy you for 20 years than a miserable you for 40 years.

      January 15, 2013 at 10:33 | Report abuse |
  23. Kim

    dear epoc.. the symptoms you describe should be LONG gone by now... consider perhaps that either you are trying to blame cigarettes for everything that is wrong with your life .. or go to the doctor and get some meds to help you focus on whats real.

    If you have been having the occasional cig, you are doing this to yourself by confusing the hell out of your brain. if you are truly nicotine free, then something else is at play here.. . start talking to someone to get it figured out. cuz for sure, its NOT the absence of cigarettes that is screwing up your life.

    roll around this site for a while.... http://www.whyquit.com

    (i'm 29 days now... )

    March 1, 2010 at 12:57 | Report abuse | Reply
    • lolfail

      You would rather him take meds to turn him into a zombie than smoke? funny.

      July 16, 2010 at 20:17 | Report abuse |
  24. epoc

    Kim, et. al.
    I quit with whyquit.com! And I did send this writeup to Joel as well. I have had absolutely nothing to smoke and no nicotine – quit cold turkey- believe it or not! Was a tough first three days as Joel said and after that relaxed a bit and about a month later is getting worse and worse!
    Not sure where to go to help, talked to my doc and he said plainly, that is not supposed to happen... that was about it. I am wondering if quitting caused permanent scarring in the way the brain processes neurons work or move; or it might just be that I was just more confident when I smoked???
    It is very hard to keep composure and quality of life is now a serious concern... what kind of a person is a specialist in these matters. In all fairness, I am not so confident with the competency of the medical field but willing to give anything a shot at this point!

    March 4, 2010 at 18:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. thomas

    Hello everyone, I quit about 5 months ago cold turkey. I had smoked off and on for about 12 years. I would quit while going to school but often wouldn't be able to buckle down to prepare for a presentation or project. One cigarette and I was focused, relaxed and able to complete whatever assignment. It took too long for me to get to this point but I have contemplated smoking as I need to step into high gear. The winter hasn't helped as it has been hard to get out and stay active. I'll go on a run today as the weather is fairly nice and that might help.

    March 18, 2010 at 16:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Paul

    I used to occasionally smoke when I was younger but never really got the whole addiction thing. Guess everybody has a different system or something. Problem is that I also even though it was very occasional I chain smoked for say a night of partying, which in retrospect was just lousy. After completely stopping for years now just wanted to have the taste of one so started doing one a day or so. I can tell you that even after skipping a day my mouth starting tasting cigerette smoke as if I just lit up which was confusing because didn't know what exactly was going on and was for possible other sources which I was getting it from other than my own system. Don't recall experiencing that before. So quite possibly even smoking that lilttle may be going though your system and could be effecting you more than you think.

    May 28, 2010 at 16:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. James

    Hello;

    I have smoked around 3-12 cigarettes for around 10 months now, and have noticed absolutely NO change in my body. I can still run my 4 miles daily, eat, drink, smell regularly, no problem with physical activity at all, and I'm in the military.

    Am I just lucky? Or do the problems and issues everyone talk about tale longterm to set it.

    I like smoking, gives me and my buddies time to go hang out and talk while relaxing, and it doesn't "seem" to be hurting me. Should I quit?

    July 8, 2010 at 16:46 | Report abuse | Reply
    • James II

      Yes, you should quit. I know that's not what you want to hear. I smoked like you... and got away with it, just like you all through college and graduate school. At 29 years old, I realized it was catching up with me. My heartbeat got irregular (to the point I thought I was having a heart attack), I lost the drive to exercise, which made me fat. And I'm in the beginning stages of emphysema, which will kill me eventually, if cancer doesn't first. So, what started off as something I did when I was drinking with friends has made me weak, fat, unattractive, boring... and now its going to kill me. Stop now!

      July 15, 2010 at 18:57 | Report abuse |
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    October 4, 2010 at 20:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. ronald

    ok smoking is not that bad if we want to smoke we will smoke they talk about cancer well smoking really doesnt affect your body like that in other word if a person hasnt smoked all his/her life they still can get cancer just as fast so they say smoking is bad WHATEVER!!!!!!! smoking is what pays for everthing (taxes) so actually it would be hurting them more then us smokers

    November 26, 2010 at 19:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Ram

    Just quit smoking and stop making excuses that its doing something wrong with you .. yes the smoking did hijacked your mind and even if you quit those wired brain cell would force you to smoke and try to convince you smoke again and argue about all negative affect on your health/wealth/social condition.

    Once addicted its very difficult so one thing is clear its really a bad habit .. we don't even think about so many thing that we love to do every day or hour, say hiking/skiing, ice-creams even free vacations ..but do think about smoking – so its different and in bad way ..
    make plans, quit and simply don't think about it too much .. stay away from people who smoke or try to convince you to start again ...

    good luck ..
    4th week smoke free.. used to smoke 4-5 cigg a day for 12 yrs.

    April 6, 2011 at 12:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Bob Ross

    I'm a 52 year-old Brit. As far as I understand it most Americans smoke... I don't mean European Americans, but REAL Americans, you know, the ones that were herded into reservations after having their land stolen...
    I know people that smoke loads but are fine... I know people that don't smoke that have heart disease, cancer...
    I smoke about 1 cigarette every 3/4 weeks myself...although I could easily smoke full-time, but that would be more or less suicidal... as for those of you who turn to prayer, I cite Sir Francis Galton, to me, prayer is self-delusion...
    but like smoking, if it makes you feel good, then it's your choice.. you know the risks...

    April 7, 2011 at 09:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Jacob

    It has been proven that even if someone breaths in just one puff of one ciggtrette, then that is enough to change the dna of cells and make them cancerous.
    A cancerous cell is defined as any cell in the body whose DNA has been reprogrammed to grow at an accelerated and unstoppable rate.
    If you smoke a little (1 or 2 a day) it is harmfull but you should not have any bad things happen for many years (30 or 40 years) If you smoke 20+ a day then it is a case of when will u die against to if. But all in all is it worth the rist? I say, if you want to smoke and you enjoy it, simply smoke and good luck but please when and if you do get cancer please do not moan. Just die.

    June 8, 2011 at 17:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Jacob

    Stopping smoking tips. 1, before you quit buy loose tobacco, cigg papers and filters. Buy a rolling machine if you caint roll them. Loose tobacco does not contain 1,000's of chemicals that packs of ciggs do so if you smoke packs of ciggs and you stop smoking, your body misses all the chemicals. In loose tobacco the chemicals are not there so it will be easyier to stop. I suggest smoking loose tobacco for 2 weeks before you stop. 2, on the day before you stop, smoke many ciggretts and make yourself sick with them. Before you smoke each cigg on this final day drink cod live oil and salt water. The reason for this is that smoking is in the mind. Once you stop and you get a craving, you will think of how sick you felt when you smoked. It is gross but it works.

    June 8, 2011 at 17:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Tina

    How about smoking once a month to destress. Is that very risky?? I typically smoke occasionally (once every 1-3 months) depending on my stress level and what's going on in my life.

    September 18, 2011 at 17:29 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Tim

      According to most of the fascist health nazis on this comment forum, having a cigarette now and then to destress is apparently suicidal, and you are an apparent disgusting human being who should be thrown under a moving bus. Nevermind the countless other ways to deteroriate one's cardiovascular health, including eating fatty foods, sitting around playing video games and watching TV all day, motionless office work, not getting enough exercise, and, of course, the real shocking kicker–stress. If having a cigarette now and then helps you to destress, then I say whatever. Sure, it comes with risks, but so does living life like a tight-lipped, anal-retentive, stressed-out buttwad. Cheers!

      October 20, 2011 at 14:58 | Report abuse |
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  36. HippieSmoker

    Why is this considered smart public policy? All our policies these days are based on "let's all try to live forever!" That isn't smart, that's overidealistic.

    People KNOW the health risks. If a person decides that smoking is good for their "being" it doesn't matter if it's good for their health or not.

    They are trying to socially enforce an ethic of trying our hardest to live forever and giving up everything enjoyable(and I'm not saying you need to smoke to enjoy life, you just need to "be" and that is different for each and every person) in the process. It reminds me of the original Gulliver's Travels movie where the blind, permanently crippled immortals try to get Gulliver to join them. Our pursuit of immortality is blinding us to the truth and crippling us from living our lives.

    Forget all the rules and just be free.

    October 20, 2011 at 15:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. Sean

    I love cigars. I am a college student, and a Friend and I enjoy visits to lounges, a glass of scotch. I probably smoke too many, though I am not addicted, as my craving for them is like a craving for cake. But I know they are unhealthy, and that is why I moderate my usage. More to the point, I am a Free man. I am a citizen of the United States, and last time I checked, the rallying cry of the Pro-Choice lobby is that women should have absolute control over their own bodies. I agree with this, and I think this ought to be understood to extend to all people, regardless of the political incorrectness of the activity. Smoking is terrible for you–so is overeating, drinking too much, driving too fast, and doing drugs. Despite what some, well, conspiracy theorists on this board claim, marijuana is BAD for you. Why? You are smoking! and you are smoking an illegal substance that has been cut with any number of chemicals and pesticides and, often, a little tobacco. Also, despite common belief, marijuana is illegal EVERYWHERE on the planet; there is an unofficial policy by some municipalities and town to not enforce those laws, however, i.e. Amsterdam. Smoking a little pesticide will kill you more quickly than tobacco. But that is beside the point. How can a society regulate what you put into your body, and so arbitrarily? The waste from a tailpipe is far more virulent, and yet that has yet to be banned in most of Times Square. If we are to live up to our purpose as a nation, that is, one in which man is as unregulated by government, the ultimate in individual freedom whilst still consistent with law and order, we must except that in our pursuit of our lives, our bodies are ours. So long as we do not cause direct harm to others, we ought not be punished for enjoying a cigar on a walk along an open street, for drinking a glass of absinthe, or smoking marijuana in one's own home. Nor should we be stopped randomly at checkpoints for breathalyzer tests, nor should men be subject to legal consequences for failing to sign up for selective service.

    November 30, 2011 at 23:37 | Report abuse | Reply
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  41. Jacob Levi-Kauffman

    A great question. Ok, even breathing in a smokers smoke while you walk pass them on the street is enough to alter your cells in a bad way but would be at a very, very low risk. Like, 1 in a billion. You would be more of a health risk eating a McDonalds burger. Smoking one cigg a day is still harmfull but no were near as other things which we all do day to day. I am sick of all people saying that smoking is so bad but never talk about the other more harmfull things. A non smoker living in a large City is like a person living in the true Countryside smoking 1-2 ciggs. Now, if a smoker should stop smoking then a non smoker should move out of the City and into the Countryside. Even if they have a job in the City, a family and and a house, simply leave your job or find another becuase your health is at stake. If a City dweller stays in the City then they are putting that above their health just like a smoker.

    January 30, 2012 at 12:23 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Dan

      I'm currently doing a research project on smoking and smoking kills more people in the U.S. than any other causes of death. Smoking can't kill, but it causes many diseases and cancer which are the leading causes of death in the U.S. Smoking a ciggarette is proven to shorten your life span by 11 minutes. 10 years of smoking 10 cigarettes a day is 9 less months you will live.

      February 8, 2012 at 16:37 | Report abuse |
  42. Andrew

    Cigarettes are primarily addictive mentally, the actual physical part isn't that bad. Anyone looking to quit should read Allen Carr's "The Easy Way to Stop Smoking" and you'll be done with cigarettes.

    April 2, 2012 at 03:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. Mari

    I quit smoking 6 years ago and it has been the best thing I have ever done! That being said when I did smoke I loved it! I smoked carltons and I smoked a pack a day! I have always been interested in health herbs vitamins eating well Juicing, I exercise daily and always have but for me my health improved tremndously when I quit! I was sick every month with a cold or bronchitis and since I quit I have not had bronchitis or upper respatory problem!! However I have a brother who smokes and is never sick and has better blood work than me! We all come to this planet with a purpose and with free will, we all know the risk involved and to each is own!!!

    May 10, 2012 at 02:56 | Report abuse | Reply
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  45. Lizzy

    I quit smoking in 2005 and then started smoking an occasional cigarette with a friend. Now I smoke 4-5 a day and think, 'What's a few cigarettes?' No one knows, aside from my immediate family (who think I smoke 1 cig. a day), I say I'm a non-smoker. I'm sort of shocked to read that even just one cigarette per day or month is harmful? It doesn't ring true to me. One a day? One a month? Can someone explain how one cigarette per day is suicidal? I need to stop again, I know, but I just had to share how hard it is to believe that it's so bad. I grew up in the 60s when everyone smoked, my dad is 84 and still smokes and is super healthy and not on a single medication, is thin, exercises, etc. My mother is 80, she quit when she was 56. She now has very mild emphysema but isn't that something that elderly non-smokers get? A little baffled.

    October 26, 2012 at 23:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. Jimbo

    Just to keep this thread alive, my wife and I literally share one cigarette every couple of days, so I smoke maybe the equivalent of 2-3 cigarettes per week. We just started this ritual about 5 years ago after neither of us smoked for 20-25 years (we both quit when my wife got pregnant the first time). We appear to be among the minority who are truly able enjoy an occasional cigarette without having to worry about addiction. In fact, I recently went nearly 2 months without smoking. I just didn't feel like it. Is good for us? No. Is it bad for us? That's difficult to answer because I don't know of any hard data on this specific demographic, but I can't imagine it's all that bad in the scheme of things. As was already noted, is it worse that not exercising, or eating too much fatty foods, salt, or sweets, or not perfectly controlling my blood pressure or other chronic diseases? I say if you can keep it to a minimum don't worry about it. I don't judge anyone and simply ask for the same consideration.

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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.