Smoking is a very common cause of death that is actually preventable. According to the American National Cancer Institute, about half of the people who do not quit smoking will die of smoking-related problems.
The bad news is that smoking begins to cause damage the moment you start, and it is highly addictive. Studies show that tobacco is as addictive as cocaine, alcohol or heroin, and the nicotine in it creates tolerance in the body and psychological dependence. This makes it even more difficult to quit.
Difficult though, not impossible!
Benefits of quitting smoking
Smoking is bad for your health, and cuts down your life span. Let’s take a look at how quitting the habit will improve the quality of your health and life:
- Better breathing – Upon quitting, your lung capacity will increase by 10 per cent in the next nine months. While the effect of smoking on your lungs may not be visible in your 20s or 30s, it will diminish as you age.
- Less stress – Nicotine addiction creates stress from ‘withdrawal’ sessions between cigarettes. The satisfied feeling when you quench the craving is only temporary and will return again. Stress levels go down when you quit smoking and the levels of increased oxygen in body ensure better concentration and mental wellbeing.
- More energy – Your blood circulation improves in the weeks that follow acquittal of smoking, which means that you will be able to perform physical activities like walking and climbing stairs much easier.
- Improved fertility – Quitting smoking makes sperms more potent and the lining of the womb better, increasing the chances of conceiving, reducing the likelihood of a miscarriage, and also improving the chances of having a healthy baby.
- Healthier loved ones – You not only protect your health by stopping smoking, you also protect your loved ones. Passive smoking or second-hand smoke increases the risk of chest ailments in those around you, while also increasing their risk to lung cancer, heart disease and stroke.
- Longer life – Half of all long-term smokers die of illnesses like lung cancer, heart disease and bronchitis. The sooner you kick the habit, better are your chances of a happier, disease-free life ahead. It is seen that people who quit before the age of 30 add 10 years to their life, and those who quit by the age of 60 add three years to their life.
Here’s a timeline to show how your body improves after you quit smoking (Source: American Cancer Society):
- 20 minutes after quitting: Heart rate and blood pressure drops
- 12 hours after quitting: Carbon monoxide levels in blood drop to normal
- Two weeks to three months after quitting: Improved lung function and circulation
- Within nine months after quitting: Coughing and shortness of breath decreases, reduced risk of infection
- One year after quitting: Risk of coronary heart disease is reduced to half that of a continuing smoker
- Five years after quitting: 50 per cent reduced risk of cancer in the mouth, throat, oesophagus and bladder; risk of cervical cancer same as that of a non-smoker; stroke risk reduced to that of a non-smoker of 2-5 years
- 10 years after quitting: Risk of lung cancer half that of a continuing smoker; reduced risk of pancreatic and larynx cancer
- 15 years after quitting: Risk of coronary heart disease same as that of a non-smoker
Stop smoking now and see immediate benefits!
You will notice certain positive changes right away that will improve your life. These include:
- Food will taste better
- Your sense of smell will improve
- Your teeth and nails will not turn yellow
- You will be able to carry out daily activities better
- You will begin to look better, with a halt on premature wrinkling of skin, tooth loss and gum disease
Get started on saying goodbye to tobacco
Sure, quitting is not easy. You could experience certain short-term effects like irritability, weight gain and anxiety. It might also be tempting to give in to the withdrawal symptoms. However, you can motivate yourself by knowing how you would be giving back yourself years of life that you would otherwise lose by continuing to smoke.
There are two aspects of the smoking habit you will need to overcome – the physical addiction and the mental addiction.
Losing the physical addiction to nicotine
A common method used to relieve the physical dependence that nicotine in cigarettes has created in your body is the nicotine replacement therapy (NRT). Nicotine dependence causes withdrawal symptoms when you try to quit. NRT counters this craving for nicotine by giving you nicotine in other forms – in patches, gums, sprays, inhalers or lozenges – but not in form of harmful chemicals in tobacco. This allows you to work on the other emotional aspects of quitting.
Treating the mental addiction to nicotine
It can be difficult to break the emotional and social connect with smoking, and dealing with withdrawal symptoms at the same time does not make it easier. Various medicines, counselling sessions, and therapies can help a smoker overcome this phase. The support of family and friends and also co-workers is crucial in the process. Involving them and letting them know that you plan to quit smoking can actually help you get the emotional support needed at that time.
If you are looking for a long-term plan of staying off smoking, there are four critical factors that may affect your chances of success:
- Making an affirmation to quit and set a quit day
- Making a plan
- Dealing with withdrawal
- Staying smoke-free
“Can quitting really help a lifelong smoker?” Cancer.org, https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancercauses/tobaccocancer/questionsaboutsmokingtobaccoandhealth/questions-about-smoking-tobacco-and-health-quit-benefits
“Guide to Quitting Smoking,” Cancer.org, American Cancer Society, https://www.cancer.org/healthy/stayawayfromtobacco/guidetoquittingsmoking/index
“Women who give up smoking extend lives by 10 years,” CNN.com, Alexandra Sifferlin, TIME.com, https://edition.cnn.com/2012/10/29/health/time-women-smoking/
“10 health benefits of stopping smoking,” NHS.uk, https://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/smoking/Pages/Betterlives.aspx
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