Smoking kills more than 440,000 people a year, making it more lethal than AIDS, automobile accidents, homicides, suicides, drug overdoses and fires combined. Think twice before you smoke that cigarette.
Smoking may be even more dangerous now than 30 years ago, most likely because the lower tar and nicotine levels in most cigarette brands cause people to inhale more deeply. Even cutting back smoking by more than half does not cut the risk of poor health for heavy smokers, only quitting helps.
Think about your own health
- Cancer – Nearly everyone knows that smoking can cause lung cancer, but few people realize it is also a risk factor for many other kinds of cancer as well, including cancer of the mouth, voice box (larynx), throat (pharynx), esophagus, bladder, kidney, pancreas, liver, cervix, stomach, colon and rectum and some leukemia’s.
- Lung disease – It is associated with a higher risk for nearly all major lung disease, including pneumonia, bronchitis, flu, and emphysema. It is also linked with night time chest tightness, breathlessness after exertion and exacerbation or worsening of asthma.
- Heart and vascular problems – The risk of getting a heart attack is up to twice than nonsmokers, because it lowers your HDL levels, causes stiffness and inflexibility of blood vessels and increases risk of blood clots.
- Appearance – premature wrinkling of the skin, stained teeth, yellow fingernails, bad breath, bad smelling of clothes and hair.
- Dying young – It reduces life expectancy by 15 to 25 years. One in three smokers dies early because of their smoking.
- Others – Smoking has been linked to almost every organ in the body and scientifically proven to have a role as a factor to cause Alzheimer, osteoporosis, sexual dysfunction, infertility, peptic ulcers, thyroid dysfunction, cataract, hearing loss, baldness and premature gray hair and many others.
Think about the health of your loved ones
Smoking not only harms your health but the health of those around you. Exposure to secondhand smoke (also called environmental tobacco smoke or passive smoking) includes exhaled smoke as well as smoke from burning cigarettes.
Smoking by mothers is linked to a higher risk of their babies developing asthma in childhood, especially if the mother smokes while pregnant. It is also associated with sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and low-birth weight infants. Babies and children raised in a household where there is smoking have more ear infections, colds, bronchitis and other respiratory problems than children from nonsmoking families. Secondhand smoke can also cause eye irritation, headaches, nausea, and dizziness.
In general, passive smokers have about the same risk of active smokers.
When Smokers Quit – What Are the Benefits Over Time?
- 20 minutes after quitting: Your blood pressure drops to a level close to that before the last cigarette. The temperature of your hands and feet increases to normal
- 8 hours after quitting: The carbon monoxide level in your blood drops to normal.
- 24 hours after quitting: Your chance of a heart attack decreases.
- 2 weeks to 3 months after quitting: Your circulation improves and your lung function increases up to 30%.
- 1 to 9 months after quitting: Coughing, sinus congestion, fatigue and shortness of breath decrease; cilia (tiny hair like structures that move mucus out of the lungs) regain normal function in the lungs, increasing the ability to handle mucus, clean the lungs and reduce infection.
- 1 year after quitting: The excess risk of coronary heart disease is half that of a smoker’s.
- 5 years after quitting: Your stroke risk is reduced to that of a nonsmoker 5-15 years after quitting.
- 10 years after quitting: The lung cancer death rate is about half that of a continuing smoker’s. The risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, bladder, kidney, and pancreas decrease.
- 15 years after quitting: The risk of coronary heart disease is that of a nonsmoker’s.
How to quit?
Several sources can give guidance to quit smoking, but the most important thing is your own decision and will power to stop smoking. Always keep in mind the health problem it causes, the benefits of quitting and believe that you can quit and have a better life without it.
- Pick a good time to quit. Don’t try to quit when you’re under a lot of stress or around holiday times.
- Be aware that smokers have different experiences when they quit. They may feel sleepy or very excited, lightheaded, nervous or irritable, or they might crave tobacco or sweets or have headaches.
- Be sure to get some exercise every day. For example, walking is a great way to reduce the stress of quitting. Exercise is a big boost toward feeling better, improving spirits and keeping trim.
- Get plenty of sleep, eat a balanced diet and drink lots of water.
- Ask family, friends and co-workers to help. Having someone to take a walk with or just listen can give a needed boost.
If you seem to face problems in your self-help stop smoking program, seek professional advice and don’t hesitate to see your doctor.
What will happen when I stop smoking?
How you feel when you stop depends on how much you smoked, how addicted your body is to nicotine and how well you prepare to stop smoking. You may crave a cigarette or feel hungrier than usual. You may feel edgy and have trouble concentrating. You also may cough more at first and you may have headaches.
These things happen because your body is used to nicotine. They are called nicotine withdrawal symptoms. The symptoms are strongest during the first few days after you stop smoking, but most go away within a few weeks.
If you feel you can’t cope with these withdrawal symptoms, ask your doctor for nicotine replacement products or medication.
Many smokers do gain some weight when they quit. Even without special attempts at diet and exercise, however, the gain is usually less than 10 pounds. Women tend to gain slightly more weight than men. There is evidence that smokers will gain weight after they quit even if they do not eat more.
You are more likely to be successful with quitting smoking if you deal with the smoking first and then later take steps to reduce your weight. While you are quitting, try to focus on ways to help you stay healthy, rather than on your weight. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables and limit the fat. Be sure to drink plenty of water, get enough sleep and regular physical activity.
What if I smoke again?
Don’t feel like a failure. Think about why you smoked and what you can do to keep from smoking again. Set a new stop date. Many ex-smokers did not succeed at first, but they kept trying.
The first few days after stopping will probably be the hardest. Just remember that even one puff on a cigarette can cause a relapse, so don’t risk it.
More than 45.7 million smokers have quit. Many of them tried several times before they were able to quit. They made it and quit for good. You can, too.