The benefits of quitting smoking are enormous and numerous. As Quit Smoking Support says, you will start to enjoy these benefits just 20 minutes after you finished your last cigarette! These improvements also continue for the rest of your life. Furthermore, the advantages of quitting extend beyond the physical and health issues connected to smoking which are real significant on their own.
Quitting also offers financial, emotional, practical, and social benefits that shouldn’t be underestimated but are often—strangely—overlooked. Several of these benefits can also be enjoyed by the smoker’s family and friends as benefit both directly and indirectly from a smoker kicking the habit.
Quitting smoking is a win-win-win-win situation for the smoker and those around him or her… and here’s why.
Health benefits: recovery timetable
Websites such as Why Quit and Healthline give fascinating information about which aspect of your health or part of your body changes, recovers, or repairs at various intervals after quitting. It makes for pretty amazing reading and really encourages one to quit and stay that way!
- After 20 minutes: your blood pressure and pulse rate drop to normal levels and your hands and feet warm up as your circulation begins to improve
- After 8 hours: the oxygen levels in your blood increase and carbon monoxide decreases to the point where both reach normal levels
- After 24 hours: your lungs begin to repair themselves and you are already less likely to suffer a heart attack than you had been 2 days earlier
- After 48 hours: your sense of taste and smell start to improve as nerve endings begin to regrow. At this point all the nicotine has been removed from your body
- After 1 week to a month: the blood circulation to your gums and teeth has returned to normal. In addition, all the physical addition symptoms are a thing of the past
- After 1 month to 9 months: a number of very significant developments take place during this extended period:
- Lung function improves by up to an impressive 30% making walking and exercising easier.
- Breathing and circulation are both improved and as a result your overall energy levels have increased.
- There is a reduction in coughing and shortness of breath because the cilia in the lungs have repaired themselves and can now keep the lungs clear of mucus and other debris.
- As a result of healthier cilia, the lungs are far better able to resist infection and remove foreign matter from the lungs.
- There is also an overall improvement in circulation.
- Insulin resistance has normalized.
- Sinus congestion should be no longer to present or should be much improved.
- General fatigue should lessen.
- Skin tone and color improves.
- After 1 year: your risk of having a heart attack has dropped by an impressive 50%.
- After 5 years: at this milestone there is an almost 50% decrease in the risk of death due to lung, throat, esophagus, and mouth cancer. The risk of stroke and subarachnoid hemorrhage is also dramatically reduced. For female ex-smokers the risk of developing diabetes also decreases.
- After 10 years: the lung cancer death rate becomes the same as that for non smokers as precancerous cells are replaced in the lungs after being cigarette free for a decade.
- After 13 years: the chance of tooth loss (as a result of smoking-related damage, infection, and inflammation) is now the same as it is for a person who has been exposed to second-hand smoked but has never smoked themselves.
- After 15 years: at this stage the risk of coronary heart disease is the same as it is for nonsmokers.
- After 20 years and longer: overall life expectancy becomes the same as for a nonsmoker.
These are all extraordinary benefits but there are other health and wellness gains, too, all of which improve quality of life. The UK’s National Health Service lists a further number of important developments:
- The immune system also improves. This means it is far better able to fight of infections ranging from everyday ones such as colds and flu to more serious bacteria and viruses.
- Approximately 50% of long-term smokers die early from smoking-related diseases such as cancer and heart disease. However, men who quit by the age of 30 extend their life expectancy by 10 years. Quitting at age 60 adds three years to our life.
- In addition to extending our life expectancy, quitting smoking significantly improves the chances of enjoying a happier, healthier and more mobile old age.
- The increase in oxygen in the body and to the brain means one feels less tired and is less prone to getting headaches.
- A further benefit of increased blood flow is improved sex. Women often become more sensitive, and therefore more easily sexually aroused, and also have better quality orgasms. Men, on the other hand, often achieve better erections and can maintain them for longer. They too experience more satisfying climaxes.
- Smoking also impacts on fertility. The lining of the womb is adversely affected by smoking and sperm loses its motility in smokers. Nonsmokers get pregnant far more easily as the womb lining is more receptive and sperm are more potent. Not only is conceiving easier, the chances of miscarriage are greatly reduced by quitting smoking. In addition, babies of nonsmokers are far more likely to be born healthy.
- Smoking dulls the taste buds and affects the nerve endings in the nose which blunts the ability to smell things. Your sense of taste and smell improve when you no longer smoke which means that food smells and tastes better.
- The other organ that smoking affects badly is the skin which dries, ages, sags and wrinkles much faster in smokers than in nonsmokers. When we quit, our skin begins to get more oxygen and nutrients and this can improve the color and appearance of the skin. Although it can’t be a complete reversal of the damage that long-term smoking has done, the improvement in skin appearance and health can be dramatic and is usually visible within the first couple of months after quitting.
- No matter how often smokers brush their teeth or use breath freshener or mouth wash, their teeth remain stained and yellowed from the smoke, nicotine, and other chemicals in cigarettes. Smoker’s breath is also usually stale and ashtray-like. Quitting smoking means whiter teeth, a healthier tongue, and better breath. This can have a beneficial effect on one’s social and love-life.
- Long-term smokers also suffer from gum problems. Why Quit indicates that as many as 64% of smokers in the US suffer from some kind of gum inflammation (gingivitis) or infection (periodontitis). Gingivitis is a leading cause of bad breath. Periodontitis causes inflammation and bleeding and may even result in premature tooth loss. Quitting smoking should lead to far healthier gums.
In addition, gum and dental problems can cause systemic and serious health problems as they affect the immune system and can introduce bacteria into the blood stream. They can even lead to stroke and heart attack. Quitting smoking and promoting gum health helps to avoid these dangers and risks.
- Those unsightly nicotine stains on smoker’s lips and fingers gradually fade once you are no longer smoking. As hair grows, the yellowish patch created by rising smoke also becomes a thing of the past.
- As previously mentioned, smoking decreases and restricts the circulation of blood which negatively affects the entire body. Another organ that is compromised and put at risk by poor circulation is the eye. Smokers have an increased risk of cataracts and a serious condition called macular degeneration which is caused by poor blood flow to the retina. Macular degeneration can lead to blindness. After quitting smoking eyesight can improve, especially if an eye condition has not become advanced.
- Even hair health has links to smoking. Smokers are more prone to hair loss because the hair follicles are deprived of growth-inducing minerals, vitamins, and oxygen. Quitting smoking restores this supply which leads to healthier, stronger hair and less likelihood of hair loss in both men and women.
If the health benefits haven’t convinced you to quit then consider your wallet and monthly and annual budget. Cigarettes aren’t cheap to put it mildly and they get more expensive all the time.
It’s estimated that the average US smoker (in other words, one with a 20 cigarette a day habit) spends in the region of $2,000 a year on cigarettes. It may be slightly less or even more depending on the brand. That’s a great deal of money that could be used for other things for you and your loved ones that don’t go up in smoke!
In addition, as a nonsmoker you will probably also enjoy better insurance and medical cover rates. That’s also good for the bank balance.
Many smokers believe that cigarettes make them happy, give them a ‘buzz’, or relax them. The chemicals in cigarettes, particularly nicotine, actually have the opposite effect.
After you quit your mood will improve. Once the initial period of withdrawal (which is often characterized by irritability and even depression) is over there is a definite upturn in mood. On top of this physiological change someone who has succeeded in quitting has every reason to feel a sense of accomplishment and feel good about their achievement!
In addition, according to the NHS, “The withdrawal from nicotine between cigarettes can heighten feelings of stress. As the stress of withdrawal feels the same as other stresses, it’s easy to confuse normal stress with nicotine withdrawal. So, it can seem like smoking is reducing other stresses [but] this is not the case. In fact, scientific studies show people’s stress levels are lower after they stop smoking”. The stress of quitting is short-lived and the stress reduction that follows is well worth it!
Furthermore, many of the emotional and physical changes (feeling happier and more energetic and looking and smelling better) make those who quit smoking feel more self-confident and relaxed in social settings.
Family and social
Your family and friends will also benefit greatly from you being a nonsmoker. There are a few primary areas in which this is the case.
Firstly, if you no longer smoke those around you will be a lot healthier. Breathing in secondhand smoke also increases the chances of developing heart disease, various types of cancers, or having a stroke. For children in particular secondhand smoke causes all sorts of health issues in both the short and the long term.
Children who are around smokers are far more likely to develop chronic problems such as asthma. They are also prone to recurring ear problems and chest infections including serious ones like bronchitis and pneumonia. Those who grow up or live surrounded by smoke are three times more likely to develop lung cancer later in life than the children of nonsmokers. That’s a terrible legacy to leave your children. By quitting smoking you protect those you love and those who love you.
Secondly, your family and friends will have a healthier, more energetic and happier you for a lot longer if you quit smoking. You want to be able to play sport or with your children or grandchildren without struggling to breathe or tiring after a short time, right?
Finally, you and your family will have hundreds of Dollars more each year to use for expenses or even a family holiday now that the money is not needed to buy cigarettes… or pay medical bills when you get yet another chest or other infection!
On a purely practical note, as a nonsmoker you don’t have to hassle with the mess of spilled ash, cleaning out dirty ash trays, or having holes burnt into things. No more of the inconvenience, and dependence that smoking brings. No more looking for an area where smoking is allowed or standing alone or in the rain or wind to have a quick smoke, no cravings that distract you at work or at play. And your hair, clothes, curtains, and furniture won’t smell of smoke anymore.
A Few Final Words
The benefits of quitting smoking are legion. Whether you focus on the countless health benefits and life-saving for you and those around you that continue for decades after you quit, the considerable financial savings, or the marked improvement in your overall quality of life, it’s impossible to make a reasonable argument against quitting! Can you?