In the United States alone, nearly 34.3 million adults smoke cigarettes, and 16 million Americans have a disease caused by smoking, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). While these numbers have been on the decline, there are many people who are still smoking and would like to quit, yet cannot quite shake their nicotine addiction.
Fortunately, there are numerous guides, tools and materials individuals who wish to quit smoking can seek out. These resources—which include websites, books, apps, factsheets and more—can motivate and encourage people to stop their smoking habit once and for all.
What Are the Health Benefits of Quitting Smoking?
Quitting smoking has numerous benefits: individuals can smell better (including their clothes and areas where they may smoke), have better breath and save money. Individuals will also start gaining health benefits within minutes to years of their quitting smoking.
Above all, when people stop smoking they become healthier and experience many related health benefits. Again according to the CDC, a former smoker’s body starts becoming healthier within just 20 minutes of quitting. The organization provides a timeline of health benefits gained from quitting as follows:
- In 20 minutes, the heart rate drops.
- In 12 hours, carbon monoxide levels in the blood return to normal.
- Within two weeks to three months, the risk for a heart attack decreases, and the lung function improves.
- Within one to nine months, incidences of coughing and shortness of breath lessen.
- Within one year, the added risk of coronary heart disease is half the risk of a current smoker’s.
- Within two to five years, the risk of stroke has returned to the risk of a nonsmoker’s.
- Within five years, the risk of mouth, throat, esophageal and bladder cancers decreases by 50%.
- Within 10 years, the risk of dying of lung cancer is about half of the rate for a current smoker. The risk of kidney and pancreatic cancers also lessens.
- Within 15 years, the risk of coronary heart disease has returned to that of a nonsmoker’s.
Additionally, the risk for getting illnesses such as ulcers; peripheral artery disease; and lung, laryngeal and cervical cancers can be reduced. If an expectant mother quits smoking before she becomes pregnant or during her first trimester, the risk of giving birth to a baby with a low birth weight also becomes normal.
Avoiding Weight Gain
When they quit cigarettes and other tobacco products, individuals significantly improve their health and potentially lengthen their lifespan. Yet, many people are worried about weight gain following quitting smoking, but the added health benefits far outweigh any weight put on in the short term. There are a few key reasons people may gain weight once they quit smoking, which include giving up nicotine that has previously sped up their metabolism, no longer having a suppressed appetite from cigarettes and craving higher calorie foods to replace their former smoking habit.
Luckily, there are strategies individuals who are worried about this potential weight can gain use to avoid putting on the pounds, including the following:
- Taking up, continuing or increasing physical activity and exercise to stave off cravings for unhealthy foods and nicotine products.
- Buying and keeping healthy foods in the house and avoiding buying junk and unhealthy foods.
- Eating enough to avoid ravenous hunger that can lead to choosing unhealthy options or binge eating.
- Getting into a pattern of healthy eating by creating and following a healthy eating plan.
- Chewing sugar-free gum to give the mouth something to do to replace the oral habit of smoking and nicotine product use. Sugar-free gum is the best option for optimal dental health.
- Avoiding alcohol, sodas, juice and other high-calorie drinks.
- Getting enough sleep to avoid possible weight gain.
Knowing the many health benefits that come from giving up cigarettes and tobacco products can be an important first step on the road to stopping smoking.
What Are the Best Ways to Quit Smoking?
As quitting smoking is one of the best things current users of nicotine products can do for their health, seeking out resources and strategies for motivation and encouragement can be helpful.
As access to the Internet and smartphones is increasingly available and low-cost to individuals around the world, seeking out support online can be a good option for many people. The CDC notes there are many United States government websites and resources available to help people fully become former smokers.
Tips to Quit Smoking
There are many strategies that users can try and then decide what works best for them to help quit smoking. According to a Harvard University blog post, there are also several tips people can implement to curb their tobacco habit, including the following:
- Pick a date to quit. Individuals can select a set date, mark it in their calendars and tell people they are planning to quit on that date. Having a date in mind and sharing it with others can increase individuals’ accountability and help keep them on track to fully stop smoking.
- Quit “cold turkey.” Some people let up on their smoking and decrease their cigarette and tobacco product use before quitting for good. While this can help wean cigarette users off the product, going “cold turkey,” or quitting all at once, may be more effective. From a study with two groups, users in one group reduced their smoking throughout two weeks, while the other group fully quit on an assigned date. The two groups both received counseling, nicotine patches and other short-term nicotine-replacement methods. The study found the group that quit “cold turkey” was more successful than the group that reduced its cigarette use over two weeks. In the “cold turkey” group, 49% of users had quit vs. 39% of users in the two-week reduction group at a four-week follow up. At a six-month follow up, 22% of users in the “cold turkey” group had still quit vs. 15% of users in the two-week reduction group.
- Seek out additional support. Motivation and encouragement can help individuals adhere to their set goals, and quitting smoking is no different. Support can include one-on-one chats, calls to telephone hotlines, and using mobile phone apps. Additionally, many stop smoking counseling programs are provided at no cost and some even offer free nicotine patches.
- Use treatments. Using nicotine replacements, varenicline, or bupropion treatments can help individuals fully become former smokers and users of tobacco and other nicotine products. These medications can help by curbing cravings, reducing side effects from withdrawal and helping with other symptoms. As the benefits of varenicline and bupropion will need time to take effect, it may be best for individuals to start the medicines several weeks or a week before a set quit date. It is advised to talk to a doctor about the best option for using any treatment, especially to discuss if the medicines may interact with other medications the interested person may be taking.
Stop Smoking Today
Smoking causes nearly one in five deaths. Additionally, smoking can cause lung cancer, cardiovascular diseases, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and many other diseases and illnesses. Within 20 seconds of stopping, former smokers are already on the track back to better health. Within months and years, lung function improves and former smokers cut their risk of many smoking-related illnesses, sometimes cutting their risk to that of someone who has never smoked.
While many people may be worried about gaining weight once they break out of their smoking habit, the benefits they will gain for their physical and mental health are certainly worth any risk of minor weight gain. For those who are conscious of this side effect of quitting, they can take many steps to cut down on the risk, including engaging in physical activity and exercise, making healthy meal plans, purchasing healthy foods, and partaking in healthy eating patterns. Avoiding unhealthy foods and beverages with sugar and empty calories is also key to keeping that post-smoking weight off.
To help individuals quit smoking, the United States government and its agencies have created a wealth of websites, booklets, apps and other free resources that can give people the information, motivation and support they need to quit smoking for good.
Strategies such as setting a quit date, quitting “cold turkey” vs. gradually cutting back on cigarettes, seeking out support, and using treatments can also be helpful for people who are looking to quit cigarettes, tobacco and any other nicotine products. Seeking out guidance and support from former smokers and friends and family can also be key for smokers to stay motivated and feel part of a community in their quitting smoking journey.
For anyone who smokes either regularly or occasionally, fully quitting smoking is certainly one of the best things they can do for their health. Not to mention, they will have added money in the bank, fresher smelling breath, cleaner smelling clothes, and a potential sense of fulfillment from their accomplishment of giving up something they knew they wanted to stop.