EX Community

BecomeAnEX FAQ

Below are some of the most common questions that we have received from EX members over the years about quitting smoking, using this website, and participating in the Community. Click on the question to see the full answer.

Quitting Smoking and Symptoms

I've been quit for several months now, why am I still having such cravings?

Cravings become less intense and less frequent with time from your last cigarette, but may not disappear forever. About half of people who have quit for longer than 6 months report having occasional strong cravings. Some (about 10%) report having a strong cravings at least monthly.  However, these extended cravings do not seem to put a person at any more danger of relapse than people who do not experience intermittent cravings.  There are two types of craving, “background craving” and “triggered craving.” Background craving fluctuates throughout the day and is related to withdrawal from cigarettes.  Background cravings tend to increase for a few days to a week after the last cigarette, and gradually dissipate.  “Triggered cravings” are a second type of craving caused by the pairing of internal or external ‘triggers’ to smoke. These cravings have a rapid onset, and more short-lived than background craving.

Extended use of medication, rewarding alternative healthy habits, mindfulness techniques, and physical activity all have been found to reduce these types of cravings.

What are the quickest ways to distract yourself from a crave?

The good news about cravings is that they are relatively short-lasting whether a person smokes a cigarette or not!  Distracting yourself from a craving isn't as much about NOT thinking about smoking, but choosing something else on which to focus.  Since most urges will last between 3-5 minutes before they pass, distractions don't have to be time-consuming or complicated.  Here is a link to a helpful infographic on 100 things to do instead of smoke: http://community.becomeanex.org/pg/blog/read/8007931/what-to-do-instead-of-smoking

Why do I become more impatient/down/depressed or experience other emotional symptoms when I stop smoking and how long will I feel this way?

Nicotine is a mood-altering drug that creates dependence when used in high doses such as smoking.  Feelings of anxiousness, depression, or impatience are common symptoms of withdrawal when the body stops receiving nicotine.  

What are common symptoms of withdrawal and how long do they last?

The process of stopping smoking comes with its challenges as the body is working to return to a healthy state physically and mentally.  Withdrawal commonly peaks within the first 3-5 days of quitting and normalizes after 2-4 weeks of stopping smoking.  This process can vary between individuals and may last for several months.  Here are some common symptoms of withdrawal:

·         Feeling down or sad, irritable, on edge, or grouchy

·         Having trouble sleeping, feeling restless and jumpy

·         Having trouble thinking clearly and concentrating

·         Slower heart rate

·         Feeling more hungry or gaining weight

·         Coughing or producing more phlegm

Remember that these symptoms are temporary and will go away the longer you stay quit!

I've been smoking over 40 years, is it too late for me to quit?

No matter how old you are, it is never too late to stop smoking.  Within minutes of stopping smoking, positive changes are taking place within your body.  The longer you remain smoke-free, the lower your risk of developing tobacco-related illnesses such as cancer and heart disease. Research shows that among smokers who quit at age 65, men can gain 1.4 – 2years of life and women can gain 2.7 –3.4 years.

How long does withdrawal last?

Physical symptoms of nicotine withdrawal such as anger, anxiety, depression, difficulty concentrating, impatience, and restlessness can appear within several hours after tobacco use.   During a quit attempt, these symptoms peak within the first week and last 2–4 weeks.

When does it get better?

Withdrawal symptoms can last a few days to a few weeks.  The habitual trigger to smoke will become less intense rather quickly, but can last many months.  Medication, counseling, and environmental changes can help make both withdrawal and craving more manageable.  Unfortunately, many people who become addicted develop a life-long sensitivity, so that after many years of abstinence, even one cigarette can cause adaptations in the brain to occur very quickly bringing about a return to regular smoking, so it is important to not smoke even "just one."

Why is it so hard to quit?

Cigarettes are very addicting.  When you inhale smoke from a cigarette, it delivers large amounts of nicotine to your brain very quickly. This stimulates a release of dopamine, a chemical transmitter that is responsible for attention, reward, and habit forming.  Particular activities like taking a break or drinking coffee, or feelings such as stress, boredom, or anger, become associated or reinforced with using tobacco.  These associations can be very strong and unconscious. It might even seem like your body reaches for a cigarette before your mind even realizes it. In addition to the automatic habit, many people have uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms.  Withdrawal happens because the brain has changed, so that nicotine is now needed to produce what was once a normal amount of dopamine.  Your ability to resist the habit of reaching for a cigarette and the intensity of withdrawal varies from person to person due to a number of factors, including the availability of cigarettes, life stressors, and genetics.  You can learn more about tobacco addiction in the 3 minute video available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ewwzazHfq4  

Quitting Smoking and Health Effects

Wouldn't smoking be better than becoming overweight?

Smoking is not better than gaining weight! Gaining a few pounds when quitting smoking is not a risk factor for any of the tobacco-related diseases that smokers are at higher risk of having.  Gaining weight is often something that occurs when people quit smoking, but should not be a barrier to try and make a quit attempt. Ask your health provider about seeing a registered dietitian, as they can help you devise an eating and exercise plan to help you when you quit smoking.

How much weight do people typically gain when they stop smoking?

On average, smokers weigh 10 pounds less than nonsmokers. When a person stops smoking, typical weight gain is around 8-10 pounds within 6-12 months of quitting.  Significant weight gain can be a fear for many people who are thinking about stopping smoking.  However, research shows that only 13% of smokers gain more than 10 pounds.  The lifestyle changes you choose to make following a quit attempt can influence how much weight you may gain.

How can I quit without gaining weight?

 It is possible to quit smoking without gaining weight!  Here are some general tips for minimizing weight gain during a stop smoking attempt:

· Increase the amount of exercise that you do. This seems to be the method that makes the most sense, since exercise can also help manage those cravings to smoke and can burn the calories.

· Exercise may address psychosocial and physiological needs that nicotine replacement alone does not address.

· Exercise (as little as 10 minutes) reduces withdrawal symptoms and urges to smoking
o Reduces nicotine craving
o Reduces feelings of tension
o Reduces subjective stress

Why do people gain weight when they quit smoking?

People often substitute the oral fixation of smoking with food, and often that food is unhealthy – for example:  foods that are high in sugar and fat.  Nicotine increases metabolism about 10%, so when you quit smoking it is important to readjust food intake or increase exercise to counteract the effects that nicotine has.

Is it okay to use nicotine medication while nursing?

Talk with your health care provider about using nicotine replacement medication while nursing.  Smoking while nursing is potentially quite harmful.  Nicotine crosses over into breast milk as do many other chemicals in tobacco smoke.  Nicotine replacement is certainly a safer alternative, but also has risk for the baby. 

I've heard the stress of stopping smoking can be more harmful to my baby than continuing to smoke, is this true?

Stopping smoking can only be helpful to you and your baby. It is absolutely not true that quitting smoking is harmful to you or your baby.

I exercise and eat right. Is smoking all that bad for me?

Research has demonstrated that smoking as little as one cigarette per day increases the risk of developing heart disease and cancer.  Exercise and healthy eating is recommended for everyone.  To put the impact of smoking in perspective, the stress on your heart of smoking one pack of cigarettes per day is about equal to being 90 pounds overweight.

How do I know I don't have a smoking related illness?

If you have questions or concerns about your health, you should see your doctor to arrange any recommended tests. Cigarettes contain more than 7,000 chemicals, many of which are dangerous to our health.  The chances of developing a smoking related illness increase with continued tobacco use.   Stopping smoking is one of the best things you can do to improve your health. 

Is it safer to smoke natural tobacco over store-bought cigarettes?

The short answer is that both are unsafe to consume. As previous WHO Director-General Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtlan put it, “A cigarette is the only consumer product which, when used as directed, kills its consumer.”  While there are additives in many tobacco products, it is the combustion (or “burning”) of the tobacco leaf itself that creates thousands of dangerous chemicals.  Smoking natural or manufactured tobacco will still produce carbon monoxide and other harmful chemicals from burning the cigarette.

Why do doctors want patients to stop smoking before surgery?

Stopping smoking before and after surgery has many benefits that can lead to better and faster healing.  Within 12 hours of stopping smoking, your heart and lungs start working better, and your blood delivers more oxygen to your body.  Getting more oxygen helps you heal faster and reducing the risk of problems happening during and after surgery such as wound infections, breathing problems, and heart attacks.  A surgery can make for a great time to quit, too.  Smokers who quit before or at surgery report fewer cravings and are more than twice as likely to succeed in stopping long term.

To read more, see Why Quit: Smoking and Surgery.

What are the risks of smoking if I cut down to a couple of cigarettes per day? It's better than smoking a pack/day, right?

There is strong evidence for substantial health gains from stopping smoking completely, but not much evidence that reducing smoking, in the absence of quitting, improves health.  There may be minor health benefits from reducing by more than 1/2 the number of cigarettes smoked per day, but stopping smoking completely is the only sure way to improve health.

I've heard that stopping smoking can actually increase your chances of getting cancer or cardiovascular disease, is this true?

Absolutely not true: Stopping smoking does not increase your chances of getting cancer or any other illness.  Stopping smoking will almost immediately begin to reverse the processes that lead to cardiovascular disease and over time reduce risk for cancer.  This myth probably began because many people are motivated to stop smoking when they don't feel well and may be experiencing symptoms indicating that an underlying disease process has already begun.  However, even in this case, stopping smoking can only improve your health. 

Quitting Smoking and Effective Quitting Methods

Why does Chantix give me bad dreams and what can I do about it?

About 20-25% of people who take Chantix will experience vivid dreams. Some people report they enjoy the dreams, and others find them bothersome. Why Chantix causess vivid dreams is not understood completely.  Chantix does stiumlate dopamine, a nuerotransmitter that is implicated in dreaming, and this may in part explain this effect. 

Acupuncture? Hypnosis? Laser Therapy?

Every quit attempt is a step in the right direction and should be encouraged as long as the treatment is safe.  Many alternative therapies are offered to help people quit smoking - many that claim very high success rates.  While acupuncture, hypnosis, or laser therapy may work for some, recent research shows minimal benefit for most smokers who try them.  In 2014, a meta-analysis reviewed 38 scholarly articles measuring the effectiveness of these alternative treatments.  The study concluded that hypnosis, acupuncture, and laser therapy may have some benefits, but were not effective at increasing success rates as other quitting methods.  Fortunately, there are effective strategies with strong evidence backing them such as stop smoking medications and behavioral counseling. 

Is it safe to switch from smoking to chewing tobacco?

While it may seem like an alternative to smoking, chewing tobacco - one product within a growing category of smokeless tobacco products - can cause serious health problems.   There is no safe level of tobacco use.  Read more about the health effects of chewing tobacco here: http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/quit-smoking/in-depth/chewing-tobacco/art-20047428?pg=2

How long does it take for Chantix to work?

Chantix reduces cravings by binding to nicotine receptors in the brain and activating them. It also partly blocks nicotine from tobacco from binding to those receptors.  It seems to become more effective over time.  People who keep smoking after the first week of taking Chantix, the suggested stop date, are more likely to stop smoking up to 10 weeks after beginning the medication if they continue to take it. The typical starter pack is designed to be used a week before an individual's quit date.  The recommended length of treatment with Chantix is 12 weeks.  It is important to talk with your health care provider about the best schedule and dose for you.

What can I do about my patches itching?

If you develop itching or red skin at the site of your patch, here are several recommendations to consider: 

·         Remove the old patch after applying a new one each day.

·         Rotate the patch site each time a new patch is put on. 

·         Apply 1 % hydrocortisone create to the irritated area 2-3 times a day.  

If you see continued irritation that is not relieved by the cream, contact your health care provider.

How many NRTs are safe to use together?

Nicotine replacement medications can be used on their own or in combination with another.  It is recommended to talk with your health care provider about whether NRT is right for you and to determine an appropriate medication and dosing plan. 

Is it okay to use NRT if I have heart disease?

Many major studies have looked at smokers with heart disease diagnoses who use NRT and have found no increased risk.  It is important and may be beneficial to speak with your health care provider before starting a cessation medication plan.

What do I do when using medications to quit and I slip and have a cigarette?

The FDA has determined that there are no significant concerns with using NRT products when a person slips and smokes.  If you slip while trying to stop smoking, don't give up!  Throw away whatever you're smoking, continue using quitting medications, and re-commit to your quit smoking program.

Won't NRT just keep me addicted to nicotine?

Cigarettes are highly efficient delivery devices for the drug nicotine.  The amount of nicotine in nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) is less than in cigarettes and it is delivered more slowly.  Thus, the risk of addiction in NRT is very low compared to smoking cigarettes.

Should I use an NRT or go cold turkey?

Studies show that nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) has the potential to double quit rates, though 'real world' studies show that many people neither use NRT as directed nor for as long as needed.  While some smokers do quit 'cold turkey', it is quite difficult and success rates are very low.  One way to maximize the benefits of NRT is to use it at the same time as behavioral counseling.

I only took a couple of puffs. Do I need to reset my quit clock?

There is a big difference between a slip and a relapse (returning to old pattern of behaviors) and how you think about it can greatly impact your success in quitting. If a slip occurs, immediately getting back on a solid plan to remain abstinent is important. Although the formal definition of a relapse varies among experts, most would consider a return to daily smoking as a relapse.    

I'd like to gradually cut down my smoking until I quit, is this an effective strategy?

Recent research has shown that quitting abruptly (setting a quit date and stopping smoking) leads to greater success rates than those who gradually cut down with a quit date weeks or months away.  If you are set on decreasing your smoking over time, consider developing a plan with daily quotas.  However, as your smoking gets lower, nicotine withdrawal symptoms may increase, so consider strategies or medications that can help you effectively manage them.

Quitting Smoking and Second Hand Smoke

How bad is SHS to non-smokers health?

There is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke (SHS).  SHS has been shown to cause a multitude of health issues to non-smokers exposed to SHS including lung cancer, heart disease, and respiratory illness.  Click here to learn more about the risks of SHS smoke: http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/secondhand_smoke/health_effects/index.htm

What is SHS?

Secondhand Smoke (SHS), also known as environmental tobacco smoke, is the smoke produced from another peron's cigarette, pipe, or cigar use.   There are two forms of SHS - mainstream and sidestream.  Mainstream smoke is that which is exhaled from another person that we then inhale.  Sidestream smoke is the smoke that comes from the burning tip of a tobacco product.  Sidestream smoke is thought to be the more toxic of the two.

Quitting Smoking and Providing Support

How do I set my quit date?

You can set your quit date on your My Quit Plan profile.

I'm a non-smoker, how can I help my friend/family quit?

While tobacco use is an individual decision and quitting smoking begins with a personal decision, there are many ways support people can help their loved ones achieve and maintain abstinence smoke-free life.  Some suggestions include:

·         Be patient and understanding during the withdrawal period

·         Never suggest an ex-smoker go ahead and have “just one”

·         Remind them that urges will soon pass and become less frequent

·         Express your confidence in their ability not to smoke

·         Understand the need to avoid tobacco users and situations that are linked to smoking

Recognize that tobacco dependence is a chronic disease and may require multiple quit attempts 

Quitting Smoking and E-Cigarettes

Aren't e-cigarrettes a good alternative to smoking?

Electronic cigarettes are different from smoked tobacco products in that they deliver nicotine by vaporizing a liquid solution rather than burn organic material like a cigarette.  Though people who use vaping devices will not inhale the tar and carbon monoxide they would get from tobacco smoke, e-cigarettes contain a number of other chemicals that are known carcinogens and toxins.  Research on short-term health effects indicate reasons for concern and the risk of repeated, long-term exposure to the combination of "e-juice" chemicals are unknown.  Additionally, these liquid solutions are not currently regulated in a number of countries.  It is for these reasons among others that many healthcare providers do not recommend e-cigarettes as safe alternatives, although many researchers believe that e-cigarettes are likely to be better than combustible cigarettes. Continued use of cigarettes while also using e-cigarettes ("dual-use") is also not recommended, as it may prolong use of cigarettes among those considering quitting.

Aren't e-cigarettes similar to the nicotine inhaler?

There are several key differences between the nicotine inhaler and electronic cigarettes.  The nicotine inhaler is a smoking cessation device that delivers non-visible nicotine vapor when puffed into the mouth.  It has been demonstrated to help people stop smoking and follows safety standards regulated by the FDA.  Inhalers do not contain batteries and other liquids.  Electronic cigarettes, while popular, are unregulated nicotine delivering devices that come in many different shapes and sizes.  Visit Dr. Hays' blog on electronic cigarettes to learn more about them: http://community.becomeanex.org/pg/blog/read/7924373/faqs-about-electronic-cigarettes    

Do newer e-cigarettes help people stop smoking?

To date, two studies have been published that suggest e-cigarettes may help smokers reduce their smoking.  While some newer models of electronic cigarettes deliver nicotine more efficiently than older models, the effectiveness of e-cigarettes for smoking cessation is modest and appears to be comparable to the nicotine patch when combined with minimal behavioral support. It should also be noted that e-cigarettes are not currently regulated by the FDA as a smoking cessation device.

Using the EX Community

How do I log out from my mobile phone?

You can log out from your phone using this link.

How do I stop email notifications?

You can modify your personal notifications here for the community.

You can modify your group notifications here for the community.

You can modify your becomeanex.org notifications by expanding the Communication section of your profile and then adjusting your preferences.

How do I post photos?

To post a photo you need an image available via public hosted address.  You can display an image from the web on most posts on BecomeAnEX by clicking the little house button next to the world with a link icon.  There will be a pop-up. In the URL field, paste the link to the image you wish to show on the page. You can get an image from the web by right clicking on an image and then choose the option for Copy image location. Please ensure you have permission from the image owner before posting any copyrighted content. BecomeAnEX is not responsible for any copyrighted content posted by its members.

I am from a country outside the US, may I join the community?

Anyone can join the community.  We welcome everyone! Currently most of our members are English speakers though we do have some Spanish speaking members on the community.

Have you developed an app for smartphones yet

Our site is now mobile-friendly but we do not have a mobile application.

I'm seeing people with 7 badges, or 9 badges, or 11 badges What is it? and how do i earn it?

You can go to your profile and then click on My Badges to see the list of missions and how you receive the badges.

Where do I find my stats on this site?

You can see your stats here for the community.

Is there a certification form that I can submit to my health provider/employer/insurance company?

Currently we don't have any certification forms. You can view your progress on you My Quit Plan, then click view all steps.

How do I re-subscribe to text messages?

If you were previously subscribed to text messaging but you opted out for a while, the only way you can re-subscribe is through your phone.

To re-subscribe, send QUITNOW to 202-759-3080. Then reply with the confirmation word to re-enroll.

Do you have anything I can hand out to people to refer them to the site?

Yes! You can request wallet cards. We'll send them within a few business days straight to your United States Postal Service Address. Regrettably we don't send cards outside the U.S. at this time.

I want to take a break from the site. Can my account be disabled?

Yes, we can disable your account temporarily. Please send a Private Message to the EX Admin.

If you choose to come back to the site, simply send an email or fill out the Contact Us form to request your account be re-enabled.

How do I delete my account?

Because the support community is an integral part of our site, we're unable to delete accounts. We can disassociate your personal information from your account so that your information(Name and email address) is no longer in our system*. If you choose this option we would not be able to restore your information at a future date. If you wish to proceed, please send a private message to the EX Admin to start the process.

*Note: Personal information contained within text posted on the community would not be automatically removed..

I have a suggestion to improve the EX community. How would I go about submitting it?

The EX Community is only as strong as its members and we rely on suggestions from our members to continually improve the site and the user experience. If you have a suggestion for improving the EX community, feel free to send the EX Admin a personal message or drop us a message on our message board.

How do I change my username?

While we don't recommend that you change your username (may cause confusion with other members!), you can change it if you need to by following these steps:

1. When logged into the Community, in the top right corner of the page, you should see text that reads "Welcome, [Your Username]. Hover your mouse over that text and a dropdown menu will appear. Select Edit EX Account.

2. Click on "Account Information" and look for the field "What would you like your community name to be?"

3. Scroll to the bottom of the page and click "Save".

How do I change my profile picture?

You can update your profile picture in just a few quick steps. Please follow the directions below:

1. Once you are logged in to the EX Community, click on the "My Page" Tab. This will direct you to your profile.

2. Once there, click on "Edit Profile Picture"

3. On this page, you have two options. You can either select a profile from our gallery of icons or you can upload your own image from your computer. To upload an image from your computer, Click Browse and select the image from where it is saved on your computer. Once you have selected it, click open. Make sure the image is a JPEG or PNG file, all other file types will be rejected. Make sure to click upload after you have selected your new picture. If your image is too large, you can crop it using the tool on the page.

How should I respond to a message on my message board?

Often people will want to send you a message on your message board to say hi, give thanks, or just give a general update. Your message board is viewable to anyone who comes to your profile page, but remember that if you post on your own message board, the other member does not get a notification about your response, so the best way to respond to someone who posts on your message board is to go to their message board and post a response. To access their message board, click on the small icon/picture next to their name in the message they left you and it will take you to their profile page where their message board is located. There will be a box at the top of their message board where you can type in your message and post (remember you have to be logged in to post!).

What is the difference between message boards and the blogs?

Message Boards and Blogs are two great ways for you to communicate with other Community members. While both can be used for day to day communication, they serve two very different purposes. Blogs are great for discussing any successes or struggles you've had, advice you want to give, or just general updates you want to give to the entire Community. Message Boards are great for one-on-one communication with another member. This is a good space for catching up with a friend, sending them an inspirational message, or asking them a question. This is similar to how you would use Personal Messages but what you post on the message board is visible to anyone who visits that user’s profile page while personal messages are private between two users.

How can I post pictures on blogs?

In order to post pictures on a blog post you are writing, they must already be uploaded to the internet via another site, like Facebook. BecomeanEX does not allow you to upload a picture directly from your computer to a blog. However, once you have the URL for your image, you can easily post a picture on your blog by following these steps:

1. Click the image button on the "Write a Blog Post" Page 

2. On the pop-up, paste in the URL of the picture you want to place in the blog where it says URL

3. Once you have pasted in the URL, select OK and the image will appear with the text for your blog

4. Once you have finished writing the rest of your blog post, select publish.

I’m new to the Community. How do I navigate this site? Where do I go to talk with the EX community or find the conversations in the Community? How do I communicate with other members using blogs, message board, etc?

Welcome to the Community! A great resource that answers all of these questions is our EX Step-by-Step Community Guide. This guide shows you how to set up your profile, how to navigate the Community, how to communicate with other members using blogs, message boards, and personal messages, and most other things you may need to get started. And, if you are still unsure about something, feel free to contact the EX Community Admin. We are available to answer your questions and help you navigate the site.

Quitting Smoking and Mental/Emotional Health

Do quit smoking treatments work for people with mental health conditions?
If you have depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, or other conditions, quit smoking treatments work for you just as they do for people without a similar diagnosis. However, you might need some extra help to be successful. For example, you might need higher doses of quit smoking medications or more than one kind of medication at a time. In addition, it might help you to get treatment more often or for a longer period of time. 
Quitting smoking can change the way some medications work, especially those used to treat severe mental illness. For many people, quitting smoking means they need less of their other medications. 
You should discuss any changes in medication with your health care provider. If you have serious mental illness, you should tell your doctor when you are stopping smoking so you can talk about any medication changes. 
Is it true that quitting smoking can make a mental health condition worse?
If you experience depression, anxiety, or stress, quitting smoking can make you feel better! Even if you have schizophrenia, studies show that quitting smoking does not make your symptoms any worse. 
As you are quitting, you might feel irritable or restless, have trouble sleeping or concentrating, or feel anxious, depressed, or hungry. Don’t worry! In most cases, these are symptoms of nicotine withdrawal, and not your mental health condition getting worse! These feelings usually go away in a few days. Once you get past the withdrawal symptoms, quitting smoking can make you feel as good as using anti-depressants!
I have been diagnosed with a mental health condition. Is it possible for me to quit smoking?

Many people with mental health conditions also have other life challenges that make it harder to quit. These may include: more friends who smoke, stronger physical dependence on cigarettes, and fewer resources. However, if you have a mental illness and you smoke, YOU CAN QUIT with the right treatment, support, and medication!

I have heard that people with anxiety, depression, or other mental health conditions don’t want to stop smoking. Is that true?

Smokers with mental illness want to quit as much as any other group of smokers! Most have tried to quit in the past, and more than half are thinking about quitting within six months.