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Tobacco smoke is made up of thousands of carcinogens, or chemicals that are known to cause cancer. Most people know that it’s the major cause of lung cancer. Up to 90 per cent of all lung cancers in men, and 65 per cent of lung cancers in women, are attributed to smoking. The risk of lung cancer increases with the length of time spent as a smoker and amount of cigarettes smoked.

But it’s not just lung cancer that’s a higher risk—there are 16 different cancers that can be caused by smoking tobacco.

People quit for many reasons. Those who have successfully quit say that knowing your reasons is an important step, and can help you get through the tough times.

Some commonly reported reasons to quit include:

  • Feeling healthier—tobacco smoke increases your risk of getting sick, as well as heart and lung diseases and diabetes, and can block oxygen from travelling around your body, leading to decreased physical fitness and shortness of breath.
  • More money—smoking can be an expensive habit, with standard packs costing upwards of $25. Pack-a-day smokers are looking at over $9,000 per year.
  • Fewer hassles―many smokers find that life is simpler without always having to think about their next cigarette break, or constantly cleaning their car, clothes and stained teeth.
  • Less stress―it’s a myth that smoking relieves stress beyond the short-term. In most cases, ex-smokers report feeling far less stressed after they’ve quit.
  • More control—it’s an empowering feeling to overcome addiction, and feel in charge of your behaviours.

Quitting smoking is a process that is different for everyone, but those thinking of quitting can follow three simple steps to get started.

1. Understand why you smoke

There are three common reasons why people smoke.

  • Addiction―you do it to satisfy your body’s craving for nicotine.
  • Emotion―you do it to relieve stress, to console yourself if you’re upset, or as a reward when you’re happy.
  • Habit―certain situations can trigger you to think about smoking, like seeing your friends who smoke, or having a cup of coffee.

Knowing when and why you smoke can help you prepare for withdrawals, anticipate cravings and avoid known triggers.

2. Make a plan

Making a quitting plan involves looking at all of the different ways to quit that are available, and working out which strategy, or which combination of strategies could be best for you. Quitline counsellors are able to help you through this process.

3. Get support

You don’t have to go it alone. And in fact, your chances of quitting successfully are doubled when you reach out to a support service like Quitline. You might also like to speak with your family and friends about your decision and how they can help, as well as your GP and pharmacist.

Cancer Council SA works to reduce smoking and smoking-related cancer in the community. Recent achievements include successfully advocating for the implementation of a smoking ban in alfresco dining areas, smoke free zones around playgrounds and public transport stops in South Australia and supporting the implementation of plain packaging and ongoing tax increases nationally.


This webpage was last reviewed and updated in January 2020.