Quit Tobacco Use Before Surgery (The James)

Quit Tobacco Use Before Surgery

Using tobacco before surgery can increase the risk of problems after your surgery. Here is information about why it is important to stop using tobacco (cigarettes, cigars, pipes and smokeless tobacco) before your surgery.


Why should I quit using tobacco before surgery?

  • There are many different chemicals in tobacco smoke. When you smoke, the chemicals go into your body. Two of these chemicals are nicotine and carbon monoxide.
  • Your blood vessels carry oxygen and nutrients to all parts of your body. When you use tobacco, the nicotine will cause your blood vessels to tighten and narrow. When this happens, there is less oxygen going to your body’s cells, tissues and organs.
  • The carbon monoxide inhaled when you smoke lowers the oxygen level in your body. This can cause your blood pressure to go up and make your heart work harder.
  • Your body needs oxygen to help fight infection and heal. Surgical wounds can take longer to heal when oxygen levels in the body are low.
  • Smoking can put you at risk for the following after surgery: 
    • Pneumonia or lung problems
    • Heart problems
    • Stroke
    • Blood clots
    • Wound infection and healing
  • It is important to stop using tobacco products at least 4 to 6 weeks before your surgery.
  • Do not use tobacco products after your surgery. This will help your wounds to heal quicker and lower the chance of infection.
  • Stay away from secondhand smoke. Clothing and wound dressings can absorb smoke from cigarettes, cigars or pipes and may cause problems with wound healing.


Tips to help you quit tobacco

  • Set a quit date. This is the day that you officially stop using tobacco.
  • Get rid of all ash trays, lighters, spit cups and tobacco products in your home, vehicle and work place.
  • Tell others you are quitting. Other people can be a good support.
  • Try the “4 D’s”:
    • Delay. See if you can wait 5 minutes before lighting up. Even a few minutes can help a craving to pass.
    • Deep breathe. Count to 5 for each breath in and each breath out. Repeat 10 times.
    • Drink fluids. Drink liquids throughout the day to help clear nicotine from your body. Try to drink 8 (8-ounce) glasses each day.
    • Do other activities to keep busy. Take a walk, read a book, play a game or talk to a friend. Try to keep your hands and your mind busy.

Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist about medicines or other ways that can help you stop smoking.



© April 15, 2016.  The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute.

This handout is for informational purposes only. Talk with your doctor or health care team if you have any questions about your care.

For more health information, call the Patient and Family Resource Center at 614-366-0602 or visit cancer.osu.edu/PFRC