Benefits of Quitting Smoking Image

“Smoking is one of the leading causes of statistics.”
– Fletcher Knebel

Fletcher was right. Most smokers have at least one well-meaning soul lurking in the shadows (a suitable distance from that naughty secondhand smoke) who has in hand all the available National Cancer Institute statistics on lung cancer, emphysema, and the evils of tobacco. Pull out a lighter and he or she’s all over you, informing you of the latest study proving that smoking leads to a whole bunch of things you already know.

It didn’t work. You know all about lung cancer, nicotine, and additives. You also know about weight gain, irritability, cravings, and all those other lovely side effects of quitting. Funny how they rarely get mentioned in the statistics, huh?

Things You May or May Not Know

Someone probably told you what happens when you quit smoking, but did you know that the benefits begin almost immediately?

Time Since Quitting Health Changes that Take Place
20 minutes Blood pressure and pulse rate return to normal.
8 hours Nicotine and carbon monoxide levels in the blood are cut in half. Oxygen levels in the blood return to normal.
24 hours Carbon monoxide is completely eliminated from the body. Lungs start to clear out the mucus and other debris of smoking.
48 hours

Nicotine is completely eliminated from the body. Your sense of taste and smell greatly improve.

72 hours Breathing becomes easier. Energy levels increase. Bronchial tubes relax.
2-12 weeks Circulation improves.
3-9 months Lung function improves up to ten percent. Breathing problems (i.e. coughing and wheezing) are reduced.
1 year Risk of heart attack falls by half.
10 years Risk of lung cancer falls by half.
15 years Risk of heart attack falls to the same level as someone who never smoked before.

The Difficulties of Quitting Smoking

Sure you’d like to quit, but so would a majority of other smokers. It’s not as easy as it may seem, otherwise everyone would be quitting. Nicotine is addictive, and like any other drug, once it sinks its claws into you, getting them out is going to be an uphill battle.

Withdrawal Symptom Duration Percent of Quitters Affected
Aggression/Irritability Less than 4 weeks 50%
Craving More than 2 weeks 70%
Depression Less than 4 weeks 60%
Increased Appetite More than 10 weeks 70%
Light-Headedness Less than 48 hours 10%
Poor Concentration Less than 2 weeks 60%
Restlessness Less than 4 weeks 60%

Smokers seem to be in a lose-lose situation. If they continue to smoke, they’re at higher risk for a number of lung and heart diseases. If they try to quit, they experience a series of withdrawal symptoms (which are extremely unpleasant) such as weight gain, poor concentration, depression, irritability, and nicotine cravings. And it’s not that many smokers don’t try to quit. The problem is that quitting is so difficult. Statistics show that only about 2.5 percent of smokers successfully quit each year.

If you truly want to stop smoking, you’ll have to deal with the withdrawal symptoms. You must believe that not smoking outweighs all the difficulties you will encounter, or you’re not in the right frame of mind to stop. This is a tough decision, and if you’re having trouble deciding, a few options can help.

What Are My Options for Quitting?

There’s no foolproof way to stop smoking, but you knew that already. You’ll probably have to experiment with several different techniques before you stumble across one that works for you.

Nicotine patches: The patch has a fairly decent track record – about twenty percent of people who use it have quit and remained smoke-free after six months. It has the convenience of being over-the-counter, but it’s wise to consult a doctor before you start anyway, especially if you’re pregnant. Possible side effects include skin rashes, nausea, headaches and stomach problems, and children should not come into contact with the patch at all. Most importantly, don’t smoke while using the patch! Doing so can rocket your body’s nicotine level up to toxic levels, which sort of defeats the purpose if you’re quitting for health reasons!

Nicotine gum: Like patches, nicotine gum is available over-the-counter. Some people prefer it to the patch because chewing gum provides the oral stimulation that also comes from smoking. The goal is to have quit by the end of six months, but some ex-smokers chew it for longer periods. The taste may turn off some people.

Medication: Certain antidepressants curb nicotine cravings. Obviously, choosing to explore this route requires the involvement and consent of your doctor, who can explain the advantages and disadvantages of using medication to combat smoking.

Hypnosis: One of the biggest advantages of hypnosis is its non-medicinal approach – it can be combined with patches or medication without fear of unwanted physical side effects. It may prove to be what you need to quit, or it may give you enough of a push to let the more physical methods work.

Cold Turkey: Ah, the macho way to quit! Just say no! Unfortunately, only about three percent of smokers who use this method succeed. Your chances of success rise if you have a good support group, however. Using a scheduled reduction plan, where you slowly reduce cigarette consumption, has also proven itself more effective than just quitting “cold turkey.”

After You Quit Smoking

If it’s not one thing, it’s another. With smoking, you’ve either got the health problems of smoking or the withdrawal symptoms of quitting. If you’ve decided to quit smoking, good for you! Here’s what you can look forward to.

  • Weight gain: Smoking is an oral fixation. People who quit usually find something else to do with their restless mouth, such as eating. This can lead to weight gain (and water retention), but don’t worry. The average weight gain is about 6 to 8 pounds, but don’t let that weigh you down. A few trips to the gym and you’ll be back to your smoking weight!
  • Cravings: Nicotine is a drug. You’re going to crave it for a long time (years). Try and find something to fight your cravings…like caffeine! Just kidding, try something like sugar-free gum, instead.
  • Other withdrawal symptoms: The first week is most likely the worst. When the nicotine is completely eliminated from your system (about 2 to 3 days after your last cigarette), you’re going to find out what “a kick in the head” feels like.
  • Will you ever feel better? Let’s just say you won’t feel worse…that is unless you find breathing through a tracheostoma a step up.