Nicotine is about as addictive as heroin. It is also about as hard to kick, according to Dr. James Davis of the Duke Center for Smoking Cessation.
His organization is participating in the Race To Quit, NC campaign this week to raise awareness about the dangers of smoking, and to point smokers to resources.
Davis says motivation is a huge predictor of whether someone will successfully quit smoking. He says a life changing realization often plays a part.
"Approximately half of smokers are going to die from a smoking-related illness. In the past, it became obvious that smoking was leading to lung cancer and emphysema," Davis says. "But now we see that it's associated with heart attacks, with strokes, with diabetes, with 14 different kinds of cancer."
One smoking cessation resource is the Quit Line, a phone hotline where callers can get information to help them quit.
Pam Seamans leads North Carolina Alliance for Heath, which advocates for tobacco and obesity prevention. She says the Quit Line operates even though the state cut funding to the tobacco branch of the Division of Public Health .
North Carolina still receives about $140 million per year from the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement, but now diverts it to the general fund.
"We have seen the erosion of support from state government for these programs. The fact that the state gets $140 million every year, and not a penny of it goes to tobacco prevention or cessation is wrong, and we need to change that," Seamans says.
North Carolina has more smokers than the national average.
Davis says people who want to quit smoking usually prefer to handle it themselves, often buying over-the-counter drugs, like nicotine patches.
"But the reality is that people who try to quit on their own have under a 5 percent chance of success," Davis says. "Using combination pharmacotherapy—the kind of thing that you can sort out with a medical provider—and adding to that skills training or treatment to help manage stress and these relapse challenges that people have, it just makes a tremendous difference."
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recently recommended that Americans have access to a comprehensive quit-smoking benefit, including access to seven FDA-approved medications and three forms of counseling.
Davis recommends talking with your doctor to make a plan to quit. He says people can also find out about local resources by calling 800-QUIT-NOW or at the Race to Quit, NC website.