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 toward 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 side effects 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 cigarette, blood flow and circulation improve 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 on your journey of quitting 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
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 can be a useful supplement to personal counseling and coaching. Learn more at 1-800-QUIT-NOW or ucanquit2.org.
In addition, you can find information about support programs in your state at map.naquitline.org.
Find more resources to help you kick your tobacco habit from Guard Your Health, a health education campaign by the Army National Guard, at guardyourhealth.com.