Smokeout Your Competition – Quit Smoking Today

It’s been said time and time again: Smoking is bad for your health. This phrase is repeated over and over, often beginning in middle school health classes, then through physician recommendations at annual check-ups, and through multiple public service announcements. So, why is something that’s common knowledge still so prevalent?

Around 15 percent of adults in the United States smoke, with the rate in some groups over 20 percent[1].  And each year, one out of five Americans dies from a smoking-related cause. Smoking causes at least 14 types of cancer and contributes to other chronic diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes. Almost 30 percent of cancer deaths are attributed to smoking.[2] Cigarette smoke contains around 70 toxic chemicals, and secondhand smoke can cause lung cancer in non-smokers. This isn’t just limited to cigarettes – cigars, tobacco chew and pipes all increase the risk of cancer.

These staggering statistics should be enough to motivate people to stop smoking. Unfortunately, they often don’t, as there are many other factors beyond health and statistics that encourage the addiction.

So, why don’t smokers quit? Well, for one thing, it’s hard.  As many smokers who’ve tried to quit know. But, it’s also far from impossible.  Currently in the United States, there are now more former smokers than current smokers. 

So, if you smoke, know that you can stop.  Know that you can do this. 

There are many national and local organizations that provide free information and quitting help. Check if your employer has these resources as well; many are provided for free. The website smokefree.gov offers a variety of tips and tricks to help you quit and remain smoke-free. It also links you with apps, texting services and local experts to build your quit plan. Even if you’re not quite ready to quit, it has great information to help you think through things.  You can also call 1-800-QUIT-NOW for some similar services. Also know that many people consider quitting once they understand the harmful effects of secondhand smoke. In addition, those with a smoke-free workplace and home are more likely to quit.

Two important steps you can take when trying to quit is to see a healthcare provider for help and make your home smoke-free.  These strategies can increase the chances of successfully quitting.

And once you stop, you don’t need to wait long to reap the rewards. Your health begins to improve almost immediately[3]. After just 20 minutes, your heart rate and blood pressure will decrease. In as little as two months, lung function improves.  As quickly as one year after quitting the risk of heart disease is cut in half, and after ten years your risk of five types of cancer drops by half compared to if you continued smoking[4]. You may also notice your senses returning, such as tasting food more fully or smelling more vividly. Quitting also helps your skin texture and fingers and teeth return from a yellow color – which means you’ll look younger.

While you’re on the journey of quitting smoking, consider other healthy options to reduce your cancer risk. Exercise is a great way to distract yourself while you’re quitting. Join your local YMCA branch, walk with a friend after work or visit your local park to take in the scenery. Not only will exercise itself reduce your cancer risk, but quitting smoking on top of it will greatly impact your health in a positive way. So, choose your quit day and help reduce your cancer risk.   

Life is too short to spend it smoking. Make a plan to quit today.

Written by: Dr. Joaquin Barnoya is an associate professor of surgery at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. His research and publications focus on tobacco control, with particular emphasis on secondhand smoke effects, tobacco advertising and smoke-free workplaces. Dr. Barnoya lives in his native Guatemala, where he serves as part-time director of research at the Cardiovascular Unit of Guatemala, and practices preventive medicine.

Photo credit: garden smoke by Shannon Holman (Flickr CC License, CC by 2.0).

 

[1] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2017). Burden of Tobacco Use in the U.S. https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/campaign/tips/resources/data/cigarette-smoking-in-united-states.html.

[3] American Cancer Society (2017). Benefits of Quitting Smoking Over Time. https://www.cancer.org/healthy/stay-away-from-tobacco/benefits-of-quitting-smoking-over-time.html.

[4]  World Health Organization (2017). Fact Sheet about Health Benefits of Smoking Cessation. http://www.who.int/tobacco/quitting/benefits/en/

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