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    Mayo Clinic Minute: Strategies to quit smoking

The American Cancer Society has hosted the Great American Smokeout on the third Thursday of November for more than 40 years. This year, it's on Thursday, Nov. 17, and you could join thousands of people across the U.S. taking charge of their health by quitting smoking.

Watch: The Mayo Clinic Minute

Journalists: Broadcast-quality video (0:57) is in the downloads at the end of this post. Please courtesy: "Mayo Clinic News Network." Read the script.

Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S., and a listed risk factor for numerous diseases.

"I think the reasons for quitting are primarily to avoid the adverse health effects, live longer and live better," says Dr. J. Taylor Hays, director of the Mayo Clinic Nicotine Dependence Center.

The addictive nature of smoking can be traced to nicotine, a chemical that alternates between stimulant and depressant. Dr. Hays says reducing cravings requires a combined approach of behavioral and medication therapy.

"It's generally the same for all addictions, that we want to change the way people think and the way they behave surrounding the use of the substance," says Dr. Hays.

Avoiding triggers, trying exercise and relaxation techniques, and leaning on a support system are just a few tips to consider when quitting. The results can reduce stress and improve overall health.

"Even though people use smoking as a stress reliever, it probably creates more stress," says Dr. Hays. "We know that people who quit have a significant reduction in psychological distress."


For the safety of its patients, staff and visitors, Mayo Clinic has strict masking policies in place. Anyone shown without a mask was either recorded prior to COVID-19 or recorded in a nonpatient care area where social distancing and other safety protocols were followed.