Nearly half of all cigarette smokers die as a direct or indirect consequence of the habit.
So, the benefits of giving it up is a no-brainer and most of us know that, yet we also know how notoriously difficult it is to quit smoking. Little wonder, since as far back as the late 1980s, the US Surgeon General warned that nicotine was as addictive as heroin.
Addicts, not idiots
Smokers know theirs is a bad habit – they’re addicts, not idiots. But very few smokers ever really want to give up – they simply enjoy their cigarettes too much. Most who eventually give up, do so because they are forced to by health practitioners or under pressure from loved ones concerned about their health.
Aside from the obvious health concerns attached to smoking – the increased risk of various cancers, heart and lung disease, stroke and the like, your pocket will benefit from quitting, too.
What happens when you quit?
Almost immediately after smoking your last cigarette, your heart rate and blood pressure will return to that of a non-smoker and within a day or two, the carbon monoxide levels in your blood return to normal. Within seven to 14 days, your craving for nicotine and other toxins and chemicals contained in cigarettes will reduce. Over the months that follow, you will cough less and breathe more easily.
Within a year of giving up, your risk of coronary disease will be half of what it would have been if you’d continued smoking and after five years, the likelihood of cancers of the mouth, throat, esophagus and bladder will also be halved. After 10 years, your likelihood of dying from lung cancer will be half that of a smoker and after 15 years, your risk of suffering coronary disease will be that of a non-smoker.
Quite aside from the obvious health benefits, quitting smoking brings some unexpected pleasures and advantages. Your taste buds and sense of smell will spring to life very soon after giving up. And your appearance will improve, with a healthier-looking skin tone, while your dentist will be delighted by the improvement in the health of your teeth and gums.
The benefits of giving up smoking far outweigh every bit of discomfort you may experience in the hours, days and weeks as you recover from the negative effects of nicotine withdrawal. But do yourself that kindness and quit. It is never too late.
By LINDA CILLIERS