Have a chronic health condition? It’s even more important to quit smoking.

A man breaks a cigarette into two pieces.

The Federal Trade Commission recently reported that cigarette sales went up for the first time in two decades.1 Although the report didn’t mention why, the increase most likely can be attributed to stress and isolation from the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the strong addictive properties of nicotine.

Smoking can cause chronic health conditions and make existing ones worse

Smoking is the leading cause of preventable disease, disability, and death in the U.S.2 Compared to nonsmokers, people who smoke are: 3

  • More than twice as likely to develop heart disease.
  • Four times more likely to have a stroke.
  • 25 times more likely to develop lung cancer.
  • 30% to 40% more likely to develop type 2 diabetes.

If you already have one of these chronic health conditions, smoking raises your risk of developing serious complications. For example: 4

  • Smoking can make feelings of depression and anxiety worse, and smokers with depression or anxiety may be more likely to think about or attempt suicide.
  • Smoking increases the risk of diabetes-related health issues such as kidney disease, nerve damage, circulatory problems, and sores on legs or feet that will not heal, which may lead to amputation.

Smoking also interacts with many medications, including hormonal birth control, inhalers with corticosteroids, and beta-blockers. Smokers may need higher doses of certain medications to make them effective.

Medications to help you quit smoking

The FDA has approved several medications to help you quit smoking, which can double your chance of quitting successfully.5 These include nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) products like over-the-counter patches, gum, and lozenges, or prescription inhalers or nasal spray.

Even if you relapse, you shouldn’t stop using NRT products. They increase your chances of staying smoke-free for good.6

There are also two FDA-approved oral prescription medications to help you quit smoking. The first is bupropion, an antidepressant medication thought to reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms. The second is varenicline (generic for Chantix®). You generally start taking these medications a week or two before your quit day and continue taking them for about 12 weeks.

If you’re trying to quit and are interested in one of these medications, reach out to your pharmacist. They can help you figure out which one is right for you. You may also need to adjust the dose of any other medications you’re taking. Our pharmacists can reach out to your doctor on your behalf if a prescription change is needed.

Free resources to help you quit smoking

Your chances of successfully quitting smoking increase exponentially if you combine a smoking-cessation aid with counseling. This can come in the form of a community support group or in-person or virtual counseling with a professional trained in treating nicotine addiction.

There are also many free resources available to help you quit:

  • Get free, confidential quit-smoking coaching by calling 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669).
  • Receive free daily text messages to support you in quitting smoking by texting QUIT to 47848 or by signing up at SmokefreeTXT.
  • Download the free quitSTART App to get tailored quit-smoking tips, inspiration, and challenges.
  • Check out other free online resources available through the CDC and Smokefree.gov.

Additionally, your health plan may offer specific programs or resources to help you quit smoking. Many employers also offer an incentive for enrolling in a smoking-cessation program. Reach out to your HR representative or benefits administrator to find out what options are available to you.

Express Scripts® Pharmacy is here to help you quit

If your health benefits include Express Scripts® Pharmacy, you can have your quit-smoking medications delivered right to your door with free standard shipping. This way you’ll be one step closer to saying goodbye to smoking for good.

Whether you’ve tried to quit before or this is your first time, our pharmacists are available 24/7 to answer all your medication questions and help you on your journey to quit smoking. We also have pharmacists specially trained to support patients with certain medical conditions, such as diabetes, asthma, and heart disease.

Learn more about our approach to pharmacy.

1 Federal Trade Commission: FTC Report Finds Annual Cigarette Sales Increased for the First Time in 20 Years (October 26, 2021): ftc.gov/news-events/news/press-releases/2021/10/ftc-report-finds-annual-cigarette-sales-increased-first-time-20-years.
2 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Fast Facts and Fact Sheets, Smoking and Cigarettes (accessed October 27, 2022): cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/fast_facts/index.htm.
3 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Health Effects of Cigarette Smoking (accessed October 27, 2022): cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/health_effects/effects_cig_smoking/index.htm.
4 SmokefreeVET: Smoking and the Management of Chronic Health Conditions (accessed November 15, 2022): veterans.smokefree.gov/reasons-quit/smoking-chronic-health-conditions.
5 U.S. Food & Drug Administration: Want to Quit Smoking? FDA-Approved and FDA-Cleared Cessation Products Can Help (July 21, 2022): fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/want-quit-smoking-fda-approved-and-fda-cleared-cessation-products-can-help.
6 Smokefree.gov: Tips for Slips (accessed November 17, 2022): smokefree.gov/stay-smokefree-good/stick-with-it/tips-for-slips.

Posted date: December 06, 2022

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