Broken cigarette

You might think of smoking as a personal activity. But your smoking does not just affect you--it affects your family too. Secondhand smoke is harmful to the health of your loved ones, especially when you smoke in enclosed spaces, like your home or car.

In addition to jeopardizing your family's wellbeing by smoking, your family suffers in another way too: They must face the fact that you are harming your own health. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) reports that smoking is the most preventable cause of death in America. The perfect gift that you can give yourself and your family this holiday season is to give up smoking for good.

Why Be Tobacco-Free?

You may already be aware of the many risks associated with smoking. Not only do approximately 440,000 people die every year in the United States from a smoking-related illness, but NIH notes that close to 9 million Americans today suffer from one or more serious health problems caused by their smoking habit.

But if protecting your own health isn't enough to make you quit, how about this fact: According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), when non-smokers breathe in someone else's secondhand smoke, their bodies take in toxic chemicals, including nicotine. Worse yet, the more secondhand smoke that non-smokers inhale, the greater the risk that they will face smoking-related health problems.

Need more reasons? The NIH offers some sobering statistics:

  • Exposure to your secondhand smoke can cause others in your household--children and adults alike--to be put at higher risk for premature disease and death.
  • Secondhand smoke contains more than 50 cancer-causing chemicals, putting your loved ones who have never smoked at risk for lung cancer.
  • Even brief exposure to your smoke puts your family members at greater risk for heart disease because it interferes with heart and blood function.
  • Children have special risks when they are exposed to cigarette smoke: It can trigger asthma flares and can even lead to sudden infant death syndrome.

How to Give the Gift of Quitting

The holidays present a perfect opportunity for you to give your family a gift they will never forget: Your commitment to quit smoking. To prepare to give your gift, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) recommends taking the following steps, which you can remember from the word START:

  • Set a date that you plan to quit.
  • Tell your loved ones about your plans to quit.
  • Anticipate challenges that you may face so that you can be prepared to overcome them.
  • Remove tobacco products of any kind from your house, as well as from your car and office.
  • Talk to your healthcare provider about how you can get help to quit.

With perseverance and personal effort, you can give up smoking for good. Taking these five important steps can set you up for success.

HealthAhead Hint: 'Tis the Season to Quit

The holidays are about sharing special times with your loved ones. When it comes to showing your love for your family, there's no greater gift than the gift of health. The scientific evidence is clear: Smoking is harmful for your body, and harmful to the non-smokers around you. By committing to quitting smoking this holiday season, you'll be taking important steps to improve health and longevity for yourself and everyone in your household.