Canadian Lung Association Blog

Clearing the Air: 5 Myths about Tobacco Addiction

November 16 – 22 is Canada’s National Addictions Awareness Week and the BC Lung Association would like to acknowledge this week by addressing a number of persistent and dangerous myths about tobacco and tobacco addiction.

1) The damage is already done.

151116_Quitnow_Fa_Myths-of-Smoking_damage_RNo matter how old you are or how long you’ve smoked, absolutely everyone has something to gain from quitting tobacco. In general, the less you smoke and the sooner you quit, the better for your overall health. However that said, even long-term smokers can reap great rewards by quitting smoking. Recent research has shown that risk of premature death reduced by 28 percent for people who quit in their 60s.

As Jack Boomer, Director of BC Lung Association’s QuitNow program, explains, “no matter how old you are, there is no single more important decision you can make to improve your health and well-being than to quit smoking.”

2) Just a few cigarettes a day won’t hurt.

151116_Quitnow_Fa_Myths-of-Smoking_Few-Cigarettes_RWhether you smoke a full pack a day or just a handful of cigarettes a day, smoking poses a significant risk to your heath, according to the research.

“Just 3 – 5 cigarettes a day can significantly increase risk for cardiovascular disease and coronary heart disease says Dr. Menn Biagtan of the BC Lung Association.   Another major risk is that casual smoking will develop into a full scale addiction. “Nicotine should not be underestimated. It is no exaggeration to say that it is as addictive as heroin or cocaine. There is just no such thing as a ‘social smoker,’” warns Dr. Biagtan.

3) Natural tobacco is safe.

151112_Quitnow_Myths-of-Smoking_Natural-Tobacco_RThere is a major misperception by many smokers that the problem with tobacco is the tobacco industry, and that organic or natural tobacco is much healthier. Unfortunately, this is just not the case.

The main danger from smoking tobacco is the smoke itself – not the additives. Inhaling any smoke of any kind causes respiratory disease and cancer.

As Boomer explains, “Smoking tobacco with additives is the equivalent of falling from the 5th floor, while smoking tobacco without is like falling from the 4th floor. Both are going to kill you.”

There are as many as 600 chemical additives in commercial tobacco, many of these chemicals are harmful in their own right. However, while it is true that commercial tobacco is almost certainly worse than natural tobacco,  natural tobacco is still extremely dangerous.

4) Once a smoker, always a smoker.

151116_Quitnow_Fa_Myths-of-Smoking_Once_RToday in Canada there are twice as many former smokers than current smokers. “What that means,” explains Boomer “is that there are two people who have successfully quit smoking for every person who hasn’t quit yet. Those millions of Canadians are living proof that addiction can be beaten.”

5) I’ve tried everything, I just can’t do it.

151112_Quitnow_Myths-of-Smoking_Tried-Everything_RQuitting is not easy, and very few people manage to quit on their first, second, or even third time.  According to one study, it can take up to 30 attempts to finally quit successfully.[1] That might seem like a lot, but the longer you stay smoke free, the better your chances. After just one day, your odds improve 11%, after one month 24%, and after one year 71%.

“The key to quitting smoking is persistence,” advises Boomer. “The more times you attempt to quit, the more likely you are to eventually make it. If something doesn’t work the first time – don’t give up. Try another. And then another. Eventually you will get there.”

“Everyone’s path to becoming smoke-free will be slightly different – and there are many approaches to try. The professional Quit Coaches available through are a great resource to explore your options,” adds Boomer.

BC’s #1 Quit Smoking Service

QuitNow is a BC-based, free-to-use service run by the BC Lung Association and funded by the BC Ministry of Health.  Free quit smoking counseling, resources, and easy to use tools, are available 24/7 at or by calling 8-1-1.

Media contact:
Katrina van Bylandt, Communications Manager
BC Lung Association
T 604 731 5864  E

[1] Chaiton, Michael; Diemert, Lori M.; Bondy, Susan J.; Ferrence, Roberta; Brown, K. Stephen; Schwartz, Robert. Number of quit attempts it takes to quit smoking successfully American Journal of Epidemiology.

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Carlynn Ferguson-King

Carlynn is on the BC Lung Association Communications Team.

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Posted in Lung Health, Smoking & Tobacco

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