Cigarette smoking kills 307,000 people in the United States each year. Lung cancer and emphysema are the best known and most miserable outcomes. However, accelerated development of atherosclerosis is numerically the most important problem resulting from smoking. This results in heart attacks and strokes, angina pectoris (heart pains), intermittent claudication (leg pains), and many other problems. Pipe and cigar smoking does not have the pulmonary (lung) consequences that cigarette smoking does, but can lead to cancer of the lips, tongue and esophagus. Nicotine in any form has the same bad effects on the small blood vessels and thus on development of atherosclerosis.
It is never too late to quit. Only two years after stopping cigarette smoking, your risk of heart attack return to average. It has actually decreased substantially the very next week! Most people have plenty of time to get major health benefits. After 10 years, your risk to for lung cancer is back to nearly normal. After nearly two years, there is a decrease in lung cancer risk by perhaps one-third. The development of emphysema is arrested for many people when they stop smoking, although this condition does not reverse.
Moreover, you will notice at once that your environment has become more friendly when you are not a smoker. A lot of the daily hassles that impair the quality of your life go away when you stop offending others by this habit.
Here are some tips for quitting: decide firmly that you really want to do it. You need to believe that you can do it. Set a date on which you will stop smoking. Announce this date to your friends. When the day comes, stop. You can expect that the physical addiction to nicotine may make you nervous and irritable for a period of about 48 hours. After that, there is no further physical addiction. There is, of course psychological craving that sometimes lasts a very long period of time. Often, however it is quite short. Reward yourself every week or so and buy something nice with what would have been cigarette money. Combine your stop-smoking program with an increase in your exercise program. The two changes fit together naturally. Exercise will take your mind off the smoking change, and it will decrease the tendency to gain weight in he early weeks after stopping smoking; this is the only negative consequence of stopping. The immediate rewards include better-tasting food, truer friends, less cough, better stamina, more money, fewer holes in your clothes, and membership in a larger world.
Many health educators are skeptical about cutting down slowly and stress that you need to stop completely. I don’t think this is always true. For some people, rationing is a good way to get their smoking down to a much lower level and then at that point it may be easier to stop entirely. For example, the simple decision not to smoke in public can help your health and decrease your hassles. To cut down, only keep in cigarette pack those cigarettes that you are going to allow yourself that day. Smoke the cigarettes half way down before extinguishing them.
There are many good stop-smoking courses being offered through the American Cancer Society, the American Lung Association, or your local hospital. Most people actually don’t need these, but if you do, they can help you be successful. Try by yourself first. Then, if you still need help, there is a lot of it around.
Nicotine chewing gum can help some people quit, and your doctor can give you a prescription and advice. Don’t plan on this as a long term solution because nicotine is the gum is just as bad for your arteries as the nicotine in cigarette.
An example of your ability to make your own choices is afforded by the challenge to stop smoking. If you are trapped by your addictions, even the lesser ones, you can’t make your own choices. Victory over smoking improves your mental health, in part because this is a difficult victory. It can open the door to success in other areas.