Quitting Smoking: The Great American Smokeout®
Every year on the third Thursday in November, the American Cancer Society encourages smokers to quit through the Great American Smokeout®.
We know quitting isn’t easy, but it’s beneficial to your health by helping you lead a healthier life and reducing your risk for cancer and other serious health conditions. According to the American Cancer Society, 34 million Americans smoke cigarettes and smoking is the most preventable cause of death and illness in the world. About one in five deaths are caused by smoking. Ogechi Anyaoku, MD, an internal medicine physician, with Adventist Medical Group discusses the ways in which you can quit smoking and stay quit.
What Are the Benefits of Quitting Smoking?
Dr. Anyaoku: No matter how long you’ve smoked, it’s never too late to quit. It has health benefits no matter how long and how much you’ve smoked. It immediately improves your health. Some of the benefits include:
- Twenty minutes after you quit – your heart rate and blood pressure drop.
- A few days after you quit – carbon monoxide levels in your blood drop to normal.
- Two weeks to three months after you quit – lung function increases, and circulation improves.
- One to 12 months after you quit – coughing and shortness of breath decrease and the cilia, tiny hair-like structures that move mucus out of the lungs begin to regain normal function.
- One to two years after you quit – heart attack risk decreases significantly.
- Five to 10 years after you quit – the added risk for mouth, throat and larynx cancers are cut in half and stroke risk decreases.
- Ten years after you quit – the added risk of lung cancer is about half of someone who is still smoking, and risk of bladder, esophagus and kidney cancers decrease.
- Fifteen years after you quit – coronary heart disease risk is close to that of a non-smoker.
Not only are the health benefits of quitting long-term, but some short-term benefits can encourage you to quit smoking.
- Save money
- Stronger sense of taste
- Sense of smell returns to normal
- Breath, hair and clothes smell better
- Teeth and fingernails are no longer yellow
- Less out of breath during everyday activities
- Don’t have to leave a building to take a smoke break outside
How Do I Quit Smoking?
Dr. Anyaoku: Once you’ve decided you want to quit, it’s time to make a plan. Select a quit day that is within a month of when you first decided to quit. Picking a day that is farther out gives you more time to change your mind. Once you’ve selected the date you’re going to quit, stick to it and let friends and family know your plan so they can help support you. There are a few methods to help you quit including:
- Quitting cold turkey
- Gradual withdrawal by cutting back how much and how often you smoke
- Nicotine Replacement Therapy which includes patches, gum, nasal spray, inhalers and lozenges
How Do I Stay Smoke Free After Quitting?
Dr. Anyaoku: Experiencing cravings and withdraw from nicotine and tobacco is common after quitting. There are ways to help you cope with these feelings, so you can stay smoke free such as:
- Change habits that were associated with smoking
- Chew on gum, hard candy or raw vegetable sticks
- Be active to help reduce your stress
- Breathing exercises
- Delay the temptation by ten minutes until it disappears
- Ask friends and family for support
- Reward yourself for not smoking
Quitting smoking can be a difficult task, but it’s well worth it for your health. Even if you slip up, get yourself back on track because the benefits overtime will be beneficial to not only you, but your loved ones. Talk with your doctor if you’re ready to quit, but not sure where to start. They can assist you in making the best decision for you.