Smoking is the single largest preventable cause of illness worldwide, causing an estimated 1 in 5 preventable deaths worldwide. While the number of people smoking in the U.S. has decreased dramatically in recent decades, some communities have higher rates of smoking than others and consequently have disproportionately higher smoking-related cancers and other diseases. These communities include persons at lower socioeconomic levels, members of various ethnic communities, those in the military, and others.
It’s never too late to benefit from quitting smoking. No matter how long you’ve smoked, you will notice health improvements right away and will experience long-term benefits. but quitting smoking is hard. Not only is the smoker’s body addicted, but there is also a mental and social addiction that must be overcome.
In order to successfully overcome these powerful factors, it’s important to create a good plan and have the support to see it through. The Great American Smokeout on November 17, sponsored by the American Cancer Society, is a great day to put your plan into action and begin your new life without tobacco.
benefits of quitting smoking or tobacco use
According to the American Cancer Society, within minutes of quitting you begin to see health benefits, which continue to accumulate over time:
- Within 20 minutes after quitting your heart rate and blood pressure drop
- After a few days, carbon monoxide levels in your blood drop to normal
- Within two weeks to three months after quitting, your circulation improves and your lung function increases
- Within one to 12 months, depending on how much you smoked, coughing and shortness of breath decrease because the tiny cilia in your lungs that have the job of moving mucus out begin to regain their normal function and do their job of clearing your lungs
- Within one to two years of quitting, your risk of heart attack drops dramatically
- After five to ten years, your risk of mouth, throat, and larynx cancer is cut in half
- After 10-15 years, your risk of lung cancer is half that of someone who never quit, risks of other cancers decrease, and your risk of coronary disease is close to that of a non-smoker
Quitting also slows premature wrinkling of your skin and gum disease that can cause the loss of your teeth. Other benefits: your food tastes better, your sense of smell improves, teeth and nails are no longer yellow, and your clothes and breath smell better.
besides the physical benefits, quitting smoking saves a significant amount of money that could be put to some other use.
Trying to quit
The benefits listed above are very powerful reasons to quit smoking. You may have other personal reasons, such as not wanting to smoke around your children. Whatever your reason, you will look back a year from now, feeling so much healthier, and be glad you committed to quitting.
When you’re ready to quit, you should prepare ahead of time in order to increase your chances of success.
First, pick a date. The Great American Smokeout is a great day to start or pick your own. It may be a day significant to you – for instance, the date of your wedding anniversary would be meaningful if you’re doing it for your family. Or if a loved one died of lung cancer from smoking, you could pick that day as added motivation, and to honor your loved one who died.
Once you have a day, prepare by decreasing smoking as the day approaches. begin changing habits. For instance, if you started your day with coffee and a smoke, skip the smoke. Or if coffee triggers your desire for a smoke, switch to something that won’t taste good with a cigarette, like orange juice or a smoothie.
Tell your friends and family that you’re planning on quitting and that you need their help. If your family or friends smoke, ask them not to smoke around you. Ask them to help hold you accountable and help distract you when a craving comes along.
Remove all cigarettes, lighters, ashtrays, and any other tobacco-related items from your house, car, office area, etc. Stock up on oral substitutes, such as sugarless gum, carrot sticks, toothpicks, etc.
Talk to your doctor about your desire and see if he or she recommends any prescription help or nicotine replacements if you have been a heavy smoker.
Make a plan for how you will succeed. No one has to go it alone. Here at bCHIP, we have programs that provide support and information. We have a 5-week program to set you on the right path and no matter what turns your journey takes, we can help you stay on that path.
When the day comes, make a really big deal of it! Reward yourself with something that makes you happy to celebrate your decision.
Helping loved-ones quit
If you have any loved ones whom you want to quit smoking, share with them this information and some of the other resources we have here at bCHIP or at the American Cancer Society website.
Remember, your loved ones will only be successful if they want to change. but you could remind them of the day, let them know how important they are to you, and then provide a bit of literature about our programs to help them stop smoking.
Don’t start fighting with them. being adversarial, condescending, or shaming them in any way will not help your cause. If they choose to quit, be the helpful support that you would want if you were trying to overcome a bad habit. Don’t offer advice, nag, or tease. build up their confidence and celebrate each day and each week that they stick to the plan.
And remember, whether it is you or a loved one trying to quit, if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again! Many people need to try to quit more than once in order to succeed. Whatever caused you to give in, consider it a learning opportunity, make a plan to avoid that trigger next time, and start again. The benefits are well worth the effort.