Scientists have identified approximately 4000 chemical substances in tobacco smoke, out of which more than 50 cause various types of cancer. In fact, the World Health Organization declared that globally a person dies every 6 seconds as a result of smoking. It is estimated that one out of two smokers dies of some kind of smoking-related disease such as cancer, obstructive pulmonary disease, heart attack, brain stroke etc.
Even though the effects of smoking are cumulative, it IS possible to reverse them. If you quit smoking right now, chances to develop one of the above mentioned illnesses will be greatly reduced, and your life expectancy will rise significantly. Your body will start healing almost immediately after you have smoked the last cigarette and damage done to your body will gradually disappear during the next days, weeks, months and years.
What happens when you quit smoking?
- A short 20 minutes after having smoked the last cigarette, your arterial tension and pulse will start coming back to normal, and peripheral circulation will start to ameliorate, ensuring a richer flow of blood all the way to your hands and feet.
- At 8 hours after the last cigarette, carbon monoxide in your system will have been eliminated in 100%, and it will have been replaced by oxygen your cells need to function properly.
- At 24 hours after the last cigarette, the risk of having a heart attack starts to diminish as the pulse, the arterial tension and oxygen levels in the blood become normal again.
- At 48 hours after the last cigarette, nerve endings affected by smoking will start waking up, and the sense of smell and taste will start coming back.
- After 2-3 months, blood circulation will be greatly ameliorated and you will breathe much better. Your lungs will produce less mucus, and they will start functioning better, too. Your ability to participate in physical activities will be increasing, and breathing will become less and less difficult
- You will be able to notice a significantly fewer occurrence of coughing fits provoked by smoking between one and nine months after you have quit smoking. Sinus congestion will be reduced and tiredness and breathing difficulties will become practically nonexistent. Minuscule structures in your pulmonary cavity, about the size of hair strands, will become active again, and your lungs will be functioning almost as well as before you had started smoking.
- A year after you have smoked your last cigarette, the risk of having a heart attack will be reduced to half compared to a smoker.
- The risk of having a brain stroke will be the same as that of a non-smoker after 5-15 years.
- At 10 years after quitting, the risk of developing lung cancer will decrease significantly, similarly to the risk of developing other types of cancer such as oral, thyroid, esophagus, bladder, renal or pancreatic cancer. Even if you haven’t smoked for ten years, you will still be at a bigger risk to developing lung cancer than a person who has never smoked, but the risk will be significantly lower than if you had continued to smoke.
Why is it so difficult to quit smoking?
If smoking has so many negative effects, why do people continue smoking? The answer, in one word, is nicotine.
Nicotine is the active ingredient in tobacco, the greatest reason why one becomes addicted to smoking. It is an organic compound know as an alkaloid, and it may be found in the leaves of various plants, even though the most widely known of these plants is tobacco. Besides tobacco, nicotine can also be found in the leaves of the plant family called Solanaceae, including tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants and peppers. Even though nicotine is not a carcinogen, it is known to interfere with the ability of the body to destroy cancerous cells.
When addicted smokers try to reduce the number of cigarettes smoked or to quit smoking, they will go through a withdrawal period, a very unpleasant process during which the brain triggers a series of symptoms meant to convince the individual to provide the usual amount of nicotine to the body and thus quench the craving. The withdrawal process is much too unpleasant and difficult, and for most smokers quitting at once is not a viable option. A successful alternative may be a nicotine replacement therapy, which is known to have helped many people quit smoking definitively.
Have you succeeded when you decided to quit smoking? Please share your story with us.