Why You Should Quit Smoking
Smoking tobacco, no matter what form, is unhealthy and extremely dangerous to health. Even in tobacco leaves themselves, there are no safe substances, from tar and acetone to carbon monoxide and nicotine. It is commonly thought that smoking only affects places where the smoke touches, meaning mouth, throat, and lungs; however, the consequences of tobacco penetrate much deeper than that, with many of the outcomes being long-term. Contrary, ceasing smoking can immediately begin to rectify the short- and long-term adverse effects of the many chemicals.
In this article, we will review the adverse effects of smoking and the benefits of ceasing.
Cigarettes contain 599 chemical compounds , and many of these chemicals can also be found in cigars and hookahs, so replacing one form of smoking with another will not help someone avoid the health risks. Further, when these ingredients burn, they combine through chemical reactions catalyzed by the heat from the flame and generate more than 7,000 chemicals, according to the American Lung Association .
In the United States, smoking causes more than 480,00 deaths annually, which is nearly one in five deaths and more than the combined total of HIV, illegal drug use, alcohol use, vehicle injuries, and firearm-related incidences . Thus, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) states, “Cigarette smoking is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States” .
One of the popular ingredients in tobacco is the mood-altering drug called nicotine. When smokes, nicotine reaches the brain in seconds and makes the smoker feel a brief moment of increased energy. However, because nicotine is highly addictive, as the effects wear off, the smoker begins to crave more.
In a 2007 study, researchers ranked the addictiveness of various chemical substances and drugs, including . According to the study, heroin ranked the highest, followed by cocaine and nicotine. Fourth and fifth place went to barbiturates, very similar to tranquilizer medication, and alcohol, respectively . Nicotine is so addictive that more than two-thirds of people who consume nicotine will become dependent on the compound during their lifetime .
Accordingly, ceasing the use of nicotine will cause withdrawal symptoms because the nervous system becomes dependent on it, and these symptoms can be psychological and physical.
Psychological symptoms include an intense craving for nicotine, irritability, frustration, low mood and mood swings, difficulty concentrating, and anxiety. Physical symptoms include headaches, sweating, restlessness, tremors, trouble sleeping, increased appetite, abdominal cramps, and constipation . Physical symptoms last for a few days, but psychological effects can continue for much longer; however, although these symptoms may be unpleasant, there are no health-related dangers to them .
Also, smoking causes a wide array of respiratory system problems, since when smoke is inhaled, it damages the lungs, and long-term, this action causes severe adverse effects. People who smoke are at an increased risk of infections and chronic, nonreversible lung conditions, such as emphysema [destruction of air sacs in the lungs], chronic bronchitis [permanent inflammation in the lungs], COPD [a group of lung diseases], and, naturally, lung cancer  .
When a smoker ceases smoking, they can experience temporary congestion in the lungs as they begin to heal, noted by increased mucus production.
Children can also suffer respiratory consequences if their parents smoke, including more frequent and severe asthma attacks, respiratory infections, ear infections, and, in younger children, sudden infant death syndrome . Moreover, studies show that older children whose parents smoke get sick more often and are at an increased risk of bronchitis and pneumonia .
Further, smoking causes a spectrum of cardiovascular system complications. Nicotine causes blood vessels to tighten, which restricts blood flow, and over time, this chronic, narrowing effect can cause peripheral artery and vascular disease  . Since the arteries and blood vessels are constricted, blood pressure rises, which can weaken and put stress on blood vessels and increase the risk of blood clots. Withal, smoking increases risk of stroke, and if someone who smokes has heart disease, smoking can further exasperate the problems.
Moreover, smoking significantly depreciates the health of the body’s integumentary system, such as hair, skin, and nails.
In a 2012 meta-analysis review, researchers investigated the causal effect of smoking on the risk of nonmelanoma skin cancer . After performing their research, the scientists concluded, “This study clearly demonstrates that smoking increases the risk of cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma,” meaning smoking increases the risk of skin cancer . Smoking also increases the risk of various nail infections because of decreased blood flow to the body’s peripheries , and a 1996 study shows smoking increases hair loss, balding, and graying .
People who smoke are also at an increased risk of experiencing problems associated with their digestive system. Studies have shown smoking aggressively increases the risk of oral cavity and throat, esophagus, larynx [voice box], stomach, pancreas, bladder, and kidney cancer , and nearly half of the deaths attributed to those cancers (48.5%) were attributed to cigarette smoking .
Likewise, smoking increases the risk of diabetes through several functions. First, an underlying property of diabetes is increased bodily inflammation , and smoking increases inflammation , and second, smoking increases insulin resistance, which is the primary factor in type-2 diabetes .
Finally, smoking can impede the functions of the body’s reproductive system in men and women because of decreased blood flow caused by nicotine. In men, smoking can increase the occurrences of erectile dysfunction . In women, smoking dramatically reduces fertility. Infertility rates in both male and female smokers are about twice the rate of infertility found in nonsmokers .
Benefits of Quitting
Within several minutes of finishing your last cigarettes, you begin to experience the benefits of quitting. In this section, we will review a timeline of the benefits a smoker will receive once they have stopped.
20 Minutes. The health benefits of quitting smoking begin twenty minutes have someone smoked their last cigarette. At this point, blood pressure and pulse will start to decrease to near-normal levels. Additionally, fibers in the lung’s bronchial tubes that previously did not move well with the expansion and contraction of the lung will start to move again, which is essential to keep bacteria out of the lungs – thus, improving the risk for infection.
8 Hours. During this time, carbon monoxide levels in the blood will return to a more reasonable level. Carbon monoxide in the blood takes up space that is used for oxygen and decreases blood oxygen levels. Therefore, as carbon monoxide levels decrease, oxygen levels increase. This will help give oxygen to tissues that were oxygen-depleted.
24 Hours. By this time, the risk of heart attack has decreased because of improved oxygen flow to the heart, arteries, and blood vessels. Further, nicotine levels in the blood will have reduced to minuscule amounts, which will more also increase blood and oxygen flow.
48 Hours. Previously damaged peripheral nerves and nerve ending begin to be repaired, which can result in increases senses that were muted as a consequence of smoking, such as taste and smell.
78 Hours. At the three-day mark, breathing becomes more comfortable because the lung’s bronchial tubes begin to relax and dilate, which increases oxygen absorption and carbon dioxide removal. Further, overall lung capacity increases, which makes breathing easier.
1 Week. At the one-week point, the former smoker has hit a significant milestone, since people who have ceased smoking for one week have a nine-times increased chance of successfully quitting.
2 Weeks. Overall movement becomes more relaxed, as the peripherals of the body and the body as a whole have been continuously supplied with adequate amounts of oxygen for an extended period. Moreover, according to the University of Michigan, lung function increases up to 30%.
1 Month. At this point, the individual will feel an overall increased sense of energy, as well as other benefits, such as decreased sinus congestion and shortness of breath from exercise. The fibers in the lungs continue to grow back, which helps reduce excess mucus buildup and increases lung immunity.
3 Months. Fertility in men and women begins to be restored, and a woman’s risk of having her child prematurely born is reduced.
6 Months. Psychologically, people can handle stressful situations without feeling the need to smoke a cigarette, and the individual will notice they are coughing up much less phlegm and mucus, since the airways are much less inflamed, having not continuously been exposed to thousands of chemicals and smoke.
1 Year. At this point, lung function has tremendously improved as they are significantly healed. The lungs will have increased capacity and function better. Breathing will be much more comfortable, and coughing spells will occur less. Moreover, the individual may realize how much money they have saved because if they smoked a pack of cigarettes a day, they would have saved about $1,000.
3 Years. The risk of a heart attack has diminished to that of a nonsmoker. Not only does smoking decrease oxygen flow in the cardiovascular system, but it also promotes fatty tissue and plaque buildup in the arteries. At this point, much of these effects begin to be reversed.
5 Years. The individual’s risk of developing lung cancer is decreased by 50%, compared to when they smoked.
10 Years. At the decade mark, the risk of developing lung cancer drops to that of a nonsmoker. Moreover, precancerous cells have been replaced with healthy cells. The increased chances of developing several smoking-related cancers also decrease, including mouth, esophagus, bladder, kidney, and pancreas cancer.
15 Years. Many risks of diseases have dropped to that of a nonsmoker. From now on, overall health continues to improve, and risks decrease.
In this article, we reviewed two topics. First, we discussed the negative consequences of smoking and how it affects various body systems and increases the risks of numerous cancers. Second, we examined the timeline of befits that someone will receive from quitting smoking. If you are considering quitting smoking, please speak with a physician on steps to do so.
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