We all know that smoking is dangerous and a key cause of death everywhere in the world. In fact, smoking is the no. 1 cause of preventable death in the United States — ranking higher than obesity, substance abuse, infectious disease, firearms, and traffic accidents. A study by BMC Medicine asserts that in Australia, up to two-thirds of deaths in smokers are due to their smoking. Every 6 seconds, one person dies from a tobacco-related disease — that’s 10 people every minute.
Yet some people choose to smoke. In the US and UK, about one in five people smoke. (On a side note, I was pretty surprised to see how prevalent smoking was while I was in France, Germany, London, and New York; everywhere I went, there would be people smoking and cigarette smoke in the air.) While the reasons differ from person to person, for some, it may be because the benefits of quitting (and the dangers of continuing smoking) seem so distant. After all, if you’ve been smoking for X months or years, what difference does it make to continue another day? Also, who cares about the dangers (lung cancer or whatever) that come with smoking–these aren’t relevant concerns till 20, 30, 40 years later, which are so far off in the future! (At least, that’s what some think.)
Well, there is a difference. In fact, the difference starts as soon as within 20 minutes of you putting down the cigarette. Here is a timeline of some immediate and long-term effects of quitting smoking NOW:
My husband used to be a heavy smoker in his 20s, smoking 12–15 cigarettes a day for 6 years. He quit smoking 2 years ago, and some of the benefits he has experienced are (starting from most immediate)
- Food tasting better (previously smoking numbed his senses),
- Air smelling better, cleaner, and crisper,
- No smoker’s breath,
- Throat no longer feeling dry and sore,
- Saving $120 USD/month (previously spent on cigarettes) which can then be put to better use,
- Without any training, shaving one full minute off his 2.4 km fitness run in the army, and getting a silver award for the fitness test for the first time in 10 years!
- More hair growth
- Becoming more productive and sociable as he no longer needs to pause what he’s doing to get his cigarette fix
- Improved self-control and focus as he has learned to overcome chemical/psychological urges of smoking
(He was going to cite more but I asked him to stop as the list was getting too long. LOL! 😆 )
While the quitting process wasn’t easy — he experienced acute coughing and wheezing for 3 weeks as his lungs purged out the toxins built up from the years of smoking — the results have made it worthwhile. Of course, knowing that he is now healthier and has dramatically improved his chances of living to an older age is probably the biggest reward of it all. We can’t prevent death nor know when it’s gonna hit us, but the least we can do is manage the factors within our control (not smoking, diet, exercise, sleeping hours, etc.) and leave the rest to the universe.
Whether you’ve been smoking for a few months, a few years or many years, know that it is in your power to quit. Ultimately, quitting smoking or any staunch habit like emotional eating, drinking, or junk food eating boils down to (1) having a strong and clear WHY to quit, (2) understanding your triggers and decoupling them from the negative habit itself, and (3) having a clear plan to stay off. I dive into habit triggers here: How a Relapse Begins: The Key To Removing Bad Habits.
If quitting forever sounds intimidating to you, how about a 21-day trial plan? Not smoking for 21 days — that sounds more doable, doesn’t it? Perhaps by the end of the 21 days, you may have experienced enough benefits and mustered enough resistance to quit for good. Read: Develop a Good Habit in 21 Days
I’ve gathered some quit-smoking resources:
- smokefree.gov — A website that provides free information and assistance to help you quit smoking and stay tobacco-free.
- Tips From Former Smokers — This CDC campaign Web site lets you view the ads, learn more about the people featured and their health conditions, and access quit-smoking resources.
- Harms of Smoking and Benefits of Quitting — A fact sheet from the National Cancer Institute that summarizes the harmful effects of smoking and short- and long-term benefits of quitting.
- The Easy Way To Stop Smoking (by Allen Carr) — Allen Carr, the writer, used to smoke 100 cigarettes a day until he quit and wrote this book to help others quit smoking. It has since become one of the biggest selling self-help titles with 13 million copies sold worldwide and is the #1 bestseller in Smoking Recovery.
- What Happens When You Quit Smoking — Healthline has another quit smoking timeline which goes into further details.
And here’s why procrastination doesn’t help and how to beat it:
- “I’ll do this tomorrow.” 5 Procrastination Lies We Tell Ourselves, Debunked
- How to Overcome Procrastination (series)
- Anti-Procrastination Program, my one-stop program to overcome procrastination permanently
If you’re a smoker wanting to quit, know that you’re not alone in this journey. Use the resources above to help you.
Image: Cigarette smoke