Few habits are as addictive or harmful as smoking tobacco. As a result, it should come as no surprise that quitting smoking is one of the most common New Year’s resolutions.
While lung cancer, emphysema and chronic bronchitis are most often linked to smoking, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warn that smoking has the potential to harm nearly every organ of the body. Smoking can cause many diseases and reduce the overall health of anyone who smokes regularly.
Cigarettes contain approximately 600 ingredients. In addition to nicotine, tobacco smoke may contain acetone, ammonia, arsenic, lead, tar, formaldehyde and benzene. Many of these ingredients are found elsewhere in solvents, cleaners and adhesives. Carbon monoxide that is produced in cigarette smoke (which is the same harmful gas that is produced from heating equipment and car exhaust systems) can be deadly and reduce the capacity of cells to carry oxygen. Many of the ingredients in tobacco products are carcinogenic, meaning they have the potential to cause cancer.
The American Lung Association says that smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States, causing more than 438,000 deaths per year. The ingredients in cigarettes can cause DNA mutation, oxidative stress, which contributes to the aging process, chronic inflammation, and a reduction in antioxidants, which help fight various illnesses. Tar and other metals in their tobacco smoke can stick to the walls of the lungs and reduce their function.
Quitting smoking immediately lowers your risk for smoking-related diseases and can add years to your life. The American Cancer Society says that heart rate and blood pressure drop within 20 minutes of quitting. After 12 hours, the carbon monoxide level in your blood returns to normal. Circulation and lung function can improve in a matter of weeks. The CDC says your risk for heart attack drops sharply just one year after quitting smoking. Within two to five years of quitting, risk for stroke falls to roughly the same rate as a nonsmoker’s.
Another immediate benefit of quitting is that, once you quit, you are no longer putting others at risk for illness from exposure to secondhand smoke. In addition, the interior of your home and car will smell better, and your hair and clothes will no longer carry the hallmark aroma of cigarette smoke.
The ACS notes that studies have indicated that roughly 25 percent of smokers who use medicines can stay smoke-free for more than six months. Counseling and the emotional support of friends and family can improve success rates as well. There’s also early evidence that combining certain medicines may work better than using a single drug. It may take a few attempts and different strategies to find a smoking cessation program that works for you.
Consult with your doctor about quitting smoking and discuss each option with your physician before giving it a try.