About 34 million Americans still smoke cigarettes - Where to start if you're quitting in 2024

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Sunday, December 31, 2023
Quitting smoking in 2024? Here's where to start
What healthy resolutions will you make this new year? 34 million American adults and a growing number of teens and adolescents smoke.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- What healthy resolutions will you make this new year? For many, it's to quit smoking.

Thirty-four million American adults, and a growing number of teens and adolescents, smoke. The evidence for quitting is indisputable yet, it's one of the hardest habits to break.

Jonathan Caliup, a new father, said the year 2024 he quits smoking for good.

"It's a very tough hill to climb," he said.

Caliup started with cigarettes when he was 12. The more he smoked, the more he got hooked.

"There will be times where I feel like I'm almost dependent, and I'm like, 'Oh man, I really need a cigarette,'" said Caliup.

Starting young is not unusual. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 13% of high schoolers have smoked in the last 30 days.

"About 7% of middle schoolers have done the same," said Family Practice physician Dr. Kimberly Petrick with Kaiser Permanente Southern California.

Petrick said smoking is more than just cigarettes, it's vaping and hookahs.

"The more concerning thing is that with flavoring and coloring, it makes it much more attractive and appealing to younger generations," she said.

And more addictive.

"Now, you just hit a vape wherever you want ... you can go to a bathroom and hit a vape and not smell like a cigarette," Caliup said.

Mounting evidence shows vaping can be just as bad for health as traditional cigarettes -- possibly worse.

"Vaping can create more chemical reactions and elicit different responses and inflammation in our body," said Petrick.

She added that no matter how long you've smoked, once you quit, the benefits are immediate.

"If you take your last cigarette, within minutes, your blood pressure and heart rate will start coming down," she said.

Within 1-2 years, your endurance improves. Plus, in years 3-6, your heart attack risk drops by half.

"By year 10, the risk of lung cancer goes down by 50%," Petrick said.

And after 15 years of not smoking, your risk of coronary artery disease drops to close to that of someone who has never smoked.

"So the long-term benefits are much, much higher than the risks of us still smoking," Petrick said.

Petrick's advice is to set a quit date.

Get your friends and family involved so you have support.

Working with a doctor can improve your odds of success two to threefold. Be prepared for cravings: munch on veggies or chew gum.

Caliup wants to quit for himself and his 1-year-old daughter.

"I want to be there when she graduates and I want to be there when she gets married," he said. "I want to be there when she has her first kid. So I feel like a good way to do that is just healthier habits."