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Smoking Tobacco - Are you ready to quit?

Current and former smokers are at an increased risk for COVID-19 - vaccinations and boosters can help reduce this risk.

What is tobacco?

When we think of smoking, we generally refer to cigarettes, but tobacco can cause long-lasting damage in any form. Tobacco can include...

  • Cigarettes

  • Dip or Chewing Tobacco

  • Vapes or E-Cigarettes

  • Hookahs

  • Cigarillos or Cigars

The chemicals in tobacco products can lead to cancer and other harmful bodily damage. Let's take a few minutes to dive into each tobacco type further to understand how it is affecting your body. Nicotine can change the way your brain works, and not for the better.


There aren't any benefits to smoking cigarettes and the negative health effects seem endless. Cigarette smoking can stain your teeth, cause bad breath, and lead to tooth loss through gum disease. It changes the chemistry of your blood and increases your blood pressure. Long-term damage can make your bloodstream vulnerable to blood clots and/or heart attacks. It can lead to cancer anywhere in your body, not just your lungs.


There is a misconception that the vaping industry was created to help people quit smoking. They are often thought of as a healthier alternative to smoking. They are created with a liquid substance that is heated to create an aerosol users inhale.

Vapes have not been approved to help with tobacco cessation and they expose you to the same cancer-causing chemicals and brain-altering nicotine.

Vaping also exposes your lungs to acrolein, nickel, lead, chromium, tin, and aluminum, which can all cause irreversible lung damage.

Dip or Chew

Dip also contains harmful substances like lead and formaldehyde. Formaldehyde is a substance used to preserve dead bodies and should not be consumed. Many dippers develop red or white patches inside their mouth that have a high risk of becoming cancerous. It is also a contributor to gum disease and tooth decay or loss.

“I noticed my mouth was getting raw and it didn’t feel like chewing was adding any value to my life. I watched my dad chew growing up and remembered thinking it was gross. I didn’t want my child to think it was ‘normal’ to chew.” – Robert, former chewer.

How does tobacco cause addiction?

Using tobacco provides relief to stress and provides a response desirable to the individual. Our bodies begin to learn that tobacco usage in result causes the unconscious desired response. For many individuals that use tobacco, it can become habit-forming, as the unconscious behaviors become routine (operant conditioning). By the time we realize what is happening, our body has become conditioned to the use of tobacco and depends on the use in order to prevent withdrawal and/or unwelcome symptoms. Those who try to quit the use of tobacco at that point are unable to stop without cessation programs or tobacco replacement therapies.

Dive into the Data

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) commit their time and energy to scientific standards to ensure the accuracy and reliability of their results. This means you can trust the data they provide.

  • Smoking leads to disability and harms almost every organ of the body. It is the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the United States.

  • Smoking causes more than 480,000 deaths every year in the United States which is more than HIV, alcohol use, illegal drug use, motor vehicle injuries, and firearm-related injuries COMBINED.

  • In 2021, approximately 28.3 million adults smoked cigarettes and each day about 1,600 youth try their first cigarette.

  • Smoking causes about 90% of all lung cancer deaths and 80% of deaths related to COPD.

  • E-cigarettes are still the most used tobacco product.

Tobacco has other health risks outside of cancer, COPD, and death. Tobacco can affect women’s pregnancies, making it harder to only conceive a child, but increase the risk for preterm labor, stillbirths, low birth weights, SIDS, ectopic pregnancy, and orofacial deficits. It can affect fertility in men and increase the risk of birth defects and/or miscarriage. Other health effects can include: an increased risk of rheumatoid arthritis, decreased immune function, and can significantly increase risk of type 2 diabetes and cataracts. Dental problems can occur from tobacco usage which can lead to tooth loss or poor gum health.

The Tobacco Industry Targets Teens

The vaping industry is extremely popular amongst our youth, and it is no accident. They create flavors to entice users to try something until they find what they like. What they can easily get addicted to. The Alaska Quit Line estimated the vaping industry has over 7,500 flavors. They are advertising cigarettes to kids near playgrounds and schools and tactfully place the products next to sweet and colorful products in the store. They know that targeting youth will generate life-long smokers. Addiction is real.

More than 1 out of 4 high school and middle school students used tobacco within 30 days of a 2018 survey (CDC). Nicotine changes the way brain synapses are made. A brain synapse is when connections are built between brain cells and a memory is created. Continued use reduces the brain's ability to complete successful synapses and charms parts of the brain that control attention, learning, mood, and impulse control.

Talking to Teens

You may think your child would never try tobacco and if they did, they would tell you. We hope this is true and want to empower you to have meaningful conversations with your children about their health and their future. Teens generally try tobacco because their peers are already using it. Start with an open dialog to ask them if they've tried tobacco or if they've wanted to.

  • Stay Calm: It can be heartbreaking or frustrating news to hear that your child has tried such a harmful substance but yelling, judging, criticizing, or pressuring your child will not bring them closer to understanding. Ask questions and listen to your child's experiences.

  • Keep it Short: This is an uncomfortable conversation for both the parent and the teen. They may feel embarrassed or nervous to tell you the truth. Create a comfortable environment to have a quick conversation vs a 'sit down lecture'. The open-ended dialog can help your child ask questions and understand the risks in a way that makes sense to them.

Smokers Sharing Stories

Sometimes the best information is received through testimony and storytelling. If you know someone who has quit using tobacco or is in the process of quitting, ask them about their journey. Ask them what motivates them to quit using tobacco products. Ask them what they do when they experience a craving. Ask them if they can support you.

"I started smoking in high school because it felt like I wasn't cool unless I did. I ended up smoking and chewing tobacco for almost 10 years. It makes me sick to think of how much time I dedicated to this substance." – Sierra

Ready to Quit?

Quitting is difficult and you shouldn't have to do it alone. We encourage you to use the resources below to make sure you have the tools you need to quit for good. There are various options to quit the use of tobacco. Some of these options include the use of tobacco replacement, tobacco cessation classes, medication, etc. Before taking the step to quit tobacco, it is encouraged to see your medical provider for an assessment to discuss options to reduce the effects of withdrawal and come up with a plan to help you accomplish your goal.

Sunshine Community Health Center

Sunshine Community Health Center realizes quitting is a difficult journey and we are here to support your journey. We encourage you to schedule an appointment with your provider to talk about tobacco cessation and create a plan that works for you. SCHC utilizes an integrated model where medical and behavioral health professionals are on-site to assist collaboratively about your addiction and assist you in making healthier choices in a safe way. Your provider will utilize a patient-centered approach to help discuss options, risks/benefits, and identify a plan that aligns with where you are at in wanting to quit tobacco. Our contact information is:

Talkeetna Clinic

1-907-733-2273 (CARE) 34300 South Talkeetna Spur Road Talkeetna Alaska 99676

Willow Clinic 1-907-495-4100 24091 Long Lake Road Willow Alaska 99688

Alaska Quit Line

The Alaska Quit Line offers FREE services to Alaskans who are ready to quit using tobacco. There are several resources depending on the need. To access any of the services below call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669), text QUITNOW to 333888, or visit

  • Individual Services: This is a program customized to fit your needs that includes supportive text messages, helpful emails, a quitting guide, and a tree starter kit that includes a two-week supply of free patches, gum, or lozenges.

  • Web Coach: This is a program that provides a private online support group where you can access digital tools, develop your own quit plan and track your progress. You can also receive web coaching, supportive text messages, helpful emails, and a two-week supply of free patches, gum, or lozenges.

Interested in both web coaching and individual services? No problem! The Alaska Quit Line offers an all-access package that combines the resources above.

“I was a pack-a-day smoker for 15 years. Quitting is all about your mindset. Be done. It can be that simple. I haven’t had a smoke in 6 years!” – Josie, former smoker

Download the quitSTART App.

The app is available on Google Play and the Apple Store and offers a wide range of support tools to help you quit for good. You can review tips and information on the go, monitor your progress and earn badges for smokefree achievements set by you, manage your cravings and mood changes, distract yourself from those cravings with games, save resources in your very own Quit Kit and share your progress with those that support you.

Other Quit Tips

Remember that it takes time. Relapse does not mean failure, but instead, it is another opportunity to dive back into the challenge. The winning prize is worth playing for.

  • Prescription Support: sometimes medications help users quit tobacco and that may be the right answer for you. Make sure you ask your doctor about available options and learn what is the best option for your care plan.

  • Environmental Changes: tobacco use is habitual and there are certain triggers that may give you the urge to use again. Change your environment and know it is okay to say no to social gatherings that may be triggering while you are on your journey.

  • Let People Know: tell your friends and family you are quitting tobacco use so they can support you.

  • Stay Occupied: idled minds can lead to thoughts about tobacco use. Find something to distract you when you get an urge. Many people will chew sunflower seeds or cinnamon sticks to keep themselves occupied. Remember that not all our thoughts are true and when it comes to urges, your thoughts are trying to convince you that is okay to use tobacco again. Remember that you don't have to listen.

  • Reflect: when you have an urge, take a few moments to observe your surroundings. Where are you? Who are you with? What were you doing or thinking about leading up to the urges? What can you do differently in this scenario to avoid that temptation?

Sunshine Supports You

Remember that we are here to serve you. You can call for an appointment to discuss quitting resources, reach out to our behavioral health team for additional support, swing by for some tangible Alaska Quit Line resources, and more. We want you to reach your quit goals and will do what we can to help you.

“I felt like I cheated because I used medication to quit smoking. I started taking Welbutrin for my depression and a side effect of it was being absolutely grossed out by the thought of smoking, but it worked!” - Jocie, former smoker.


Sunshine Staff

Sunshine Community Health Center 1-907-376-2273 (CARE)




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