Tobacco smoke is extremely hazardous to your health. The earlier you quit smoking, the greater the health benefits. Here are 10 compelling reasons why you should quit smoking cigarettes or using any tobacco products, what happens to your body when you stop, and how to overcome obstacles to successfully kick the habit.
#1. Smoking Causes Serious Health Issues
The number one reason to stop smoking is that it is incredibly detrimental to your health. Tobacco smoke contains over 7,000 toxic chemicals, with hundreds being carcinogenic. Three particularly dangerous substances in cigarette smoke are tar, carbon monoxide, and nicotine.
Tar contains many cancer-causing agents and sticks to the lungs. Carbon monoxide binds to red blood cells, reducing oxygen delivery to tissues. Nicotine is highly addictive, gives a temporary ‘high’, but has many negative effects.
When inhaled, nicotine reaches the brain rapidly. It activates reward pathways, leading to cravings. Withdrawal causes irritability, anxiety, and headaches. All forms of nicotine like cigarettes, chewing tobacco, and vaping carry health risks.
#2. Smoking Raises Disease Risks
Smoking dramatically increases the likelihood of various illnesses. Lung issues like chronic bronchitis, emphysema, pneumonia, and lung cancer are more common in smokers. It also raises the risk of heart attack, stroke, and blood clots. Smokers are prone to developing wrinkles, osteoporosis, cataracts, stomach ulcers and more.
#3. Smoking Effects Appearance
Cigarettes can prematurely age your skin causing wrinkles and give you yellow stained teeth and nails. Your clothes and hair will smell of stale smoke. You are also more likely to have bad breath if you smoke.
#4. Secondhand Smoke Endangers Others
Secondhand smoke exposure increases risks of lung cancer, heart attack, stroke, ear infections, asthma and other problems in nonsmokers. Infants are more likely to die from sudden infant death syndrome when exposed to tobacco smoke.
While secondhand smoke is not as harmful as smoking itself, it still poses risks. Blowing smoke away from others or using air cleaners doesn’t fully eliminate exposure. Residual smoke chemicals also settle into surfaces and carpets.
#5. Smoking is Expensive
Quitting can save you significant money, especially if you smoke a pack a day. In New York, smoking a pack daily can cost over $3,600 a year. Even in the cheapest states, an annual smoking habit easily costs over $1,000.
#6. Stopping Smoking Improves Fertility
Female smokers have more trouble conceiving and are prone to underweight babies and pregnancy complications like stillbirths. Male smokers are more likely to have erectile dysfunction. Quitting boosts fertility in both men and women.
#7. Smoking Ages Your Skin and Turns it Yellow
Tobacco smoke contains chemicals that break down collagen and elastin in your skin, causing sagging, wrinkles and uneven pigmentation. It also restricts blood vessels reducing flow and oxygen to your skin making it appear dull and discolored.
#8. You’ll Breathe Easier When You Quit
When you stop smoking, your lung function improves making breathing easier. Cilia in the airways recover and clear out mucus and congestion better. Your lungs aren’t having to work as hard to exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide.
#9. Food Will Taste Better Without Cigarettes
Smoking dulls your taste buds. When you quit, your sense of taste returns and you’ll likely enjoy food more. Cigarettes also reduce your appetite. When you stop, you may eat more initially. Be prepared for some weight gain.
#10. The Sooner You Quit, the Greater the Benefits
It’s never too late to quit, but stopping sooner maximizes health gains. After 1 day, oxygen delivery improves. In 1 week, lung function increases. After 1 year, heart disease risks drop. In 15 years, risk is similar to a nonsmoker.
What Happens When You Quit Smoking?
Within 12 hours of your last cigarette, the carbon monoxide level in your blood drops and oxygen delivery improves. In 3 days, breathing is easier and lung function increases. After 9 months, coughing and shortness of breath decrease. In 1 year, heart disease risk is cut in half. Within 5 years, risk of stroke falls to the same as a nonsmoker. After 10 years, lung cancer death risk is reduced by 50%.
How to Overcome Obstacles to Quitting Smoking
Quitting smoking leads to improved health, but it can be challenging to overcome nicotine addiction. Here are some tips to stop smoking for good:
- Ask your doctor about nicotine replacement therapy like gum, lozenges or patches to curb withdrawal symptoms.
- Try an FDA-approved smoking cessation medication like Chantix or bupropion.
- Identify your triggers and develop alternate coping strategies when you get an urge to smoke.
- Start an exercise routine to minimize weight gain and get a mental boost from endorphins.
- Avoid environments that make you want to smoke like bars or hanging with smoker friends.
- Consider vaping as a transitional step, but the long-term safety is unknown. Focus on quitting all nicotine.
- Join a support group to get encouragement, share struggles, and lean on others kicking the habit.
- Celebrate smoke-free milestones and focus on all the great reasons you decided to quit in the first place.
Quitting smoking and tobacco use can significantly improve your length and quality of life. It reduces disease risks, saves money, enhances lung function, boosts fertility, improves appearance and makes breathing easier. While overcoming addiction is challenging, the health benefits make it more than worthwhile. By understanding what to expect and getting support, you can successfully quit smoking for good.