Quitting tobacco is hard, but it’s never too late to quit and begin reaping the health benefits of a tobacco-free lifestyle.
Whether you use cigarettes, cigars, snuff, chew, or e-cigarettes, all forms of tobacco are harmful and can be addictive. Tobacco products contain several chemicals, as well as a substance called nicotine that stimulates your nerves, increasing your blood pressure, respiration, and heart rate.
Understanding how tobacco affects your body is the first step in quitting. Using tobacco can shorten your life expectancy by at least 10 years. When you smoke, tobacco’s harmful chemicals can damage your body, putting you at higher risk for health and bodily impact such as:
- Lungs: Respiratory infections and colds
- Skin: Skin discoloration, wrinkles, and premature aging
- Nails: Yellow fingernails
- Heart: Heartbeat irregularities
- Mouth: Gum inflammation, gingivitis, infections, and oral or throat cancers
- Teeth: Brown-stained teeth, tooth decay, tooth loss, and chronic bad breath
- Reproductive System: Cervical cancer, pregnancy complications, and infertility
Tobacco not only risks your health, but also affects your looks and social life. Because tobacco restricts blood flow in the body, smoking can cause erectile dysfunction or the inability to achieve orgasm. Other negative results include tobacco smoke, which sticks to your hair, vehicle, clothing, and furniture. The residue and smell linger long after you finish smoking.
Conversely, quitting tobacco use has nearly immediate positive results. In an otherwise healthy person, after 72 smoke-free hours, your lungs begin to repair. Between two weeks and three months after your last smoke, blood flow and circulation improves and lung function increases by about 30 percent, so you’ll get winded less easily and feel less tired. One year later, your risk of heart disease will be cut in half, and 10 years after quitting, the risk of lung cancer is about half that of a person who smokes.
Although there are cases of people who successfully quit cold turkey, statistics show this is not the most reliable approach to quitting. Fortunately, there are several options to help you kick the habit, manage your withdrawal symptoms and take back your health. Medication, counseling and support groups can all aid you in your journey to quit tobacco while saving you money and lengthening your lifespan.
Patches and Medications
Tobacco cessation medication can double your chances of kicking the habit permanently. Talk to your health care professional to discuss the best treatment plan for you. Types of medication include:
- Nicotine replacement therapies
- Nicotine gums or lozenges
- Nicotine patches, inhalers or nasal sprays
- Quit-smoking pills
Counseling and Support Groups
If you want to take a non-medical route, a counselor or a quitting coach can give you advice and support while you are trying to quit. The more often you meet, the more likely your choice to quit will be a permanent one. Your quitting coach can help you set a start date, learn coping skills know the common smoking triggers, gain social support, and help you tobacco-proof your life.
Other support options for quitting include national help numbers and online chat rooms. Free phone, chat room and texting resources from UCanQuit2.org can be a useful supplement to personal counseling and coaching. Learn more by calling 1-800-QUIT-NOW (800-784-8669).
In addition, you can find information about support programs in your state.
A Word About E-Cigarettes
E-cigarettes are battery-operated devices often designed to look like regular tobacco cigarettes. Instead of tobacco, e-cigarettes are filled with liquid that contains nicotine and other chemicals. When that liquid is heated it turns into vapor that can be inhaled. But you don’t know for sure what’s in that vapor because there are no regulations on what chemicals e-cigs can contain. And there’s no evidence that they help you in any way. Here are five facts about electronic cigarettes that should make you think twice.