With the world finally waking up the perils of this deadly habit – and governments forcibly taking action against smokers by limiting the places where they can smoke – it seems we may finally be on the cusp of a change of attitude towards smoking.
Diseases are known to be caused by smoking
The risks posed by smoking cigarettes are already well-documented. As well as being inextricably linked to the chances of developing cancer, smoking has also been linked with:
- Lung diseases
- Heart disease
- Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) – as well as emphysema and chronic bronchitis
However, while smoking undoubtedly increases the risks of developing these problems, most medical experts suggest the damage caused is not irreversible. Indeed, the timeline for quitting shows a surprisingly fast route back to recovery.
Why quitting can prove so challenging
For many, quitting smoking can prove to be one of the hardest things they ever have to face in life. Nicotine has been proven to be one of the top five most addictive substances (up there with the likes of cocaine, heroin, alcohol, and methamphetamine), making smoking an extremely difficult habit to break. Moreover, most people form a type of emotional bond with smoking – often using it as a way to break stressful moments or when they’re bored.
Also, smoking’s routine nature is frequently the part that ex-smokers miss the most – for example, during times like taking a break from work, waiting on a bus, with a cup of tea or coffee, etc.
Then there’s the physical aspect of smoking to contend with too. Many ex-smokers report missing the exhaling of the smoke, while even putting a cigarette to your mouth can be a comforting habit to some.
In all cases above, these sensations can be replicated with the use of nicotine replacement therapies or vaping. While more research needs to be done on the safety of vaping, most medical experts agree that vape ‘smoke’ is significantly safer than ingesting cigarette smoke. Consider looking into starter vape kits to see if vaping might help you. However, you do it; the most important thing is to quit – and stay quit.
The significant benefits of stopping smoking – and what to expect
When you first quit, you’re unlikely to notice much in the way of health benefits for the first few days, but, in reality, your body is hard at work clearing itself of the toxins you’ve ingested. For this reason, many people quitting smoking find they cough and spit phlegm more as the lungs try to clean themselves. This might not seem a tremendous benefit, but it’s all part of the underlying healing processes that are going on when you stop. In terms of a timeline, the things you can expect are:
Within one hour: 20 minutes after you quit, your blood pressure begins to drop, and your heart rate returns to normal.
After 12 hours: 12 hours after your last cigarette, the carbon monoxide levels in your body return to normal, increasing levels of oxygen.
After one day: Even just staying quit for 24 hours, your body is already starting to improve. Your risk of heart attack will have started to drop along with decreased blood pressure – which, in turn, reduces the risk of developing heart disease and high blood pressure. As your body has higher oxygen levels, you may even notice physical activity becomes easier.
After two days: Many ex-smokers report an increased sense of both taste and smell.
After three days: Nicotine levels in the body are now depleted – which will normally lead to increased cravings, often accompanied by bad moods and general irritability.
After one month: Lung function begins to improve significantly, exercise will become easier, and you should have fewer fits of coughing/being short of breath.
After nine months: The lungs have healed considerably, and the cilia have almost completely repaired, leading to greater protection against infection.
After one year: The risks of developing coronary heart disease have halved – and will continue to drop.
After five years: arteries and blood vessels have widened sufficiently to reduce blood clots and stroke risk.
After ten years: The risk of developing lung cancer has now halved compared to a smoker – plus the risks of throat, mouth, or pancreatic cancer are also reduced.
After 15 years: the risk of developing coronary heart disease or pancreatic cancer is the same as a non-smoker.
After 20 years: you now stand the same risk of developing lung disease, cancer, and other smoking-related diseases as a person who has never smoked.