When I was in college, I was super involved with Colleges Against Cancer, joining the executive board as a sophomore and becoming Chair of Programs as a junior and senior. One of my favorite events that we planned was the Great American Smokeout (GASO) every November.
The third Thursday of November is set aside each year as the day for all smokers to make a plan to quit smoking for good.
Approximately 40 million Americans still smoke, and tobacco use is the single largest preventable cause of disease and premature death in the country.
It is extremely hard to quit smoking due to the addictive properties in tobacco. Quitting starts one day at a time, and the health benefits from quitting happen almost immediately.
How Your Body Recovers After Quitting
20 minutes: heart rate and blood pressure drops
12 hours: carbon monoxide levels in your blood drop to normal
2 weeks-3 months: circulation improves and lung function increases
1-9 months: coughing and shortness of breath decrease; cilia start to regain normal function in the lungs, leading to increased ability to handle mucus, clean the lungs, and reduce the risk of infection
1 year: excess risk of coronary heart disease is half that of someone who continues to ssmoke; heart attack risk drops dramatically
5 years: risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, and bladder are cut in half; cervical cancer risk falls to that of a non-smoker; stroke risk can fall to that of a non-smoker in 2-5 years
10 years: risk of dying from lung cancer is about half that of a person who is still smoking; risk of cancer of the larynx and pancreas decrease
15 years: risk of coronary heart disease is that of a non-smoker
Staying Strong Through Rough Spots After Quitting
- Spend time in public places that do not allow smoking, such as libraries, malls, museums, and theaters.
- Drink a lot of water, get enough sleep, and eat well. This will provide you with extra energy to handle any stress you may be feeling post-quitting.
- Don’t eat or drink anything you associate with smoking for a few months. This could include coffee, tea, or alcohol. Choose water, sports drinks, or juice instead.
- Avoid activities or people that you associate with smoking.
- Keep your hands busy with something small-like a paperclip or stress ball-if you are used to holding a cigarette in your hand
- Chew gum, mints, or a toothpick if you are used to having a cigarette in your mouth.
- Create new, healthy habits like working out or going for a walk to use up the time you would normally spend smoking
- Be prepared for temptation. This could mean placing pictures of loved ones in strategic places to remember why you quit in the first place
- There are apps available to help keep you on track. Download one and use it to help you.
- Join a support group, or call family members any time you feel the temptation coming back. It’s very important to have a strong support system on your side when you are trying to quit
- Reward yourself with small things like candy or a special outing like going to the movies anytime you hit a milestone. This helps keep you on track, gives you something to look forward to or work towards, and makes you feel good about what you’re doing!
Quitting smoking is the first step to a healthier life. By smoking, you not only put yourself in danger, but your loved ones and your pets. Find support in these people, who will truly appreciate your willingness to quit smoking.
The American Cancer Society is a great resource for anyone looking for information or support about quitting. They provide smoking cessation programs, resources, and support that will help you increase your chances of quitting and keeping it that way.
Choose health. Choose life. Choose to quit smoking.