Smoking is considered to be one of the leading causes of preventable death. There are a vast amount of medical reviewed studies on smoking and its health effects. In a report published by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare in 2015, smoking was linked to more than one in eight deaths among Australians1. However, it’s never too late to stop smoking. By quitting smoking today, you can reap the health benefits and reduce your risk of developing cancer and other diseases.
Thankfully new smokers are on the decline2. However, existing smokers can often have difficulty quitting. One of the main reasons people smoke is to cope with stress. Most of the time, this perceived stress is nothing more than nicotine’s withdrawal symptoms, a powerfully addictive substance found in cigarettes. It’s possible to lead a smoke-free life and find healthy ways of coping.
What Happens When You Quit Smoking?
While most people commonly associate cigarette smoking with an increased risk of lung diseases, the effects of smoking can be much more far-reaching. Once the chemicals from the cigarette enter the bloodstream, they circulate throughout the whole body. Below we look at the main effects of smoking and how quitting can reduce your risk of numerous health complications.
Smoking has a significant effect on your lung health. In just two to three weeks after you stop smoking, lung function begins to improve. With the lungs functioning normally, oxygen levels will increase, and shortness of breath from normal activities will diminish. In one to 12 months, the cilia in the lungs begin working again and clearing out phlegm and other debris3.
You’ll be surprised at all the new energy you may experience. It’s well-known smokers also tend to have an impaired sense of smell and taste. Once you’ve quit, your senses of smell and taste can begin to return to normal. Food will start to taste better, and you’ll naturally find more enjoyment in your life.
Smoking can have a considerable effect on your cardiovascular health. The risk of heart disease and blood clots is significantly higher compared to the general population. Smoking increases your heart rate and blood pressure, which is a risk factor for numerous other problems.
The immune system is also impaired in smokers. This is one reason why smokers are more susceptible to colds, flu, and even cancers. When smokers get sick, they have a more challenging time fighting off the infection and tend to have a longer duration of symptoms.
You don’t have to suffer from the consequences of smoking. In just a short 20 minutes after your last cigarette, blood pressure and heart rate already start to go back to normal3. According to Healthline media, eight hours later, the carbon monoxide level begins to go down and are filtered out4. Carbon monoxide competes with oxygen in your blood. As a result, your oxygen levels will also start to go up again as carbon monoxide is removed.
15 years after you have quit, your risk of heart attack and stroke will be equivalent to a non-smoker5. This means your risk will have returned to a baseline level. You can see how even in a short period of time, there are already ample improvements to your health. As more time goes on, you’ll begin to enjoy even more benefits and see how fulfilling a smoke-free life can be.
Tips for Quitting
We know that quitting smoking can be difficult. For long-time smokers especially the cravings can sometimes be overbearing. With proper support, you can significantly improve your chances of successfully quitting.
Talking with friends and loved ones also offers great support. Proper exercise, a healthy diet, and just going outside for some fresh air can significantly reduce your stress. Quitting can be difficult, but it’s not impossible. If you take action today, a smoke free life is within reach.
- Tobacco use linked to more than 1 in 8 deaths, but burden easing (24th October 2019) – Australian Institute of Health & Welfare (link)
- Tobacco smoking (23rd July 2020) – Australian Institute of Health & Welfare (link)
- Health Benefits of Quitting Smoking Over Time – American Cancer Society (link)
- What Happens When You Quit Smoking (23rd May 2018) – Healthline (link)
- Why Quit Smoking? – Australian Department of Health (link)