Quitting Smoking Isn’t Easy. But It’s Worth It
The best time to quit smoking is before you ever start. But even if you’ve been smoking for decades, quitting now can bring you numerous health benefits both right away and in the years to come.
Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death. For every person who dies because of smoking, at least 30 people live with a serious smoking-related illness — a number that has now reached more than 16 million in the United States.
Using tobacco provides absolutely no health benefits. It leads to disease and disability and harms nearly every organ in the body. It can cause cancer, heart disease, stroke, lung disease, diabetes, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis.
Smoking also increases your risk for tuberculosis, certain eye diseases, and problems with your immune system, including rheumatoid arthritis. And it’s not only dangerous for you, as secondhand smoke can be harmful for the health of your friends and family.
The Benefits of Smoking Cessation
There are numerous reasons to quit smoking.
For starters, quitting can improve your self-confidence and help you lead a better lifestyle.
Your teeth and fingernails will stop yellowing, and you will be able to stop your skin from wrinkling prematurely. Your food will taste better, your sense of smell will return to normal, and your clothes, hair, and breath will smell better. And you’ll be able to perform ordinary activities — like going for walks, climbing stairs, or doing light housework — without experiencing shortness of breath.
Quitting can also save you money. Cigarettes and other tobacco products are expensive. So are the cleaning and repair costs associated with your clothes, furniture, home, and car smelling like tobacco. Even more expensive are the costs associated with respiratory problems, like doctor visits, medicines, and days when you’re too sick to work.
Most importantly, however, quitting smoking is crucial to your overall health. According to the US Surgeon General, smoking cessation “represents the single most important step that people who smoke can take to enhance the length and quality of their lives.” And that enhancing of your life can start minutes after you put out your last cigarette:
- Twenty minutes after quitting, your heart rate and blood pressure drop to healthier levels.
- A few days after quitting, the carbon monoxide level in your blood drops to normal. • Two to 3 weeks after you quit, your circulation and lung function improve.
- In the first 12 months after you quit, your coughing and shortness of breath will decrease. Your lungs will recover their normal ability to handle mucus and clean themselves, and will be at reduced risk for infection.
- One to two years after quitting, your risk of heart attack will drop significantly.
- Five to 10 years after quitting, you’ll see a 50 percent reduction in the risk of developing cancer of the mouth, throat, and voice box (larynx). Your risk for stroke will also decrease.
- Ten years after quitting, your risk of developing lung cancer drops to about half that of people who are still smoking (after 10 to 15 years). Your risk of developing cancer of the bladder, esophagus, and kidney also decreases.
- Fifteen years after quitting, your risk for coronary heart disease is close to that of a non-smoker.
How to Quit
Quitting smoking isn’t easy, but it’s worth it.
The first step in quitting is wanting to quit. And once you want to quit, the next step is finding your best path to success. Luckily, there’s a lot of help available.
The National Cancer Institute’s SmokeFree.gov website offers countless tips for quitting, including separate portals for veterans, women, teens, and smokers over 60 years of age. The site features links to apps that can help you quit, as well as access to build your own personalized quit plan.
In addition to its telephone helpline — 800-LUNGUSA (800-586-4872) — the American Lung Association offers a “Freedom From Smoking” support program, which can be accessed online at freedomfromsmoking.org. You can ask your employer, health insurance company, or local hospital to find another support group that might fit your needs, or call the American Cancer Society at 1-800-227-2345 to get help finding a phone counseling program in your area.
You can ask your healthcare provider about Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT), which can help lessen the physical dependence of the body upon nicotine through the use of gum, patches, sprays, inhalers, or lozenges that withhold the harmful chemicals in tobacco. NRT helps your body cope with less intense physical withdrawal symptoms and intense cravings, allowing you to focus more on the psychological aspects of quitting.
You can also ask your doctor if you would be a good candidate for prescription drugs like Varenicline (Chantix) or Bupropion (Zyban), which can help people quit smoking by interfering with the receptors in the brain responsible for nicotine cravings and withdrawals.
Still need help determining which smoking cessation plan might be right for you? The Lung Docs can help. Call 423-710-3864 today to schedule an appointment.
Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), American Cancer Society, National Cancer Institute
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