As anyone who has successfully—or unsuccessfully—tried to quit smoking can tell you, quitting smoking is hard. According to the CDC, there are two main reasons why smoking is such a hard habit to kick.
Why Is Quitting Smoking So Hard?
The first reason is that smoking changes how your brain works. Over time, your brain gets used to having nicotine around. Quitting smoking means that your brain has to go through a period of withdrawal before finding its balance. For smokers, this can mean irritability, headaches, fatigue, and all sorts of other feelings of discomfort.
The second reason is more behavioural; daily rituals and routines that involve smoking.
With such an uphill battle in front of you, is quitting smoking really worth it? Of course, it is. The Sunshine Coast Health Centre and the Georgia Strait Women’s Clinic are leaders in the world of addictions treatment. The health and wellness professionals at both of these centres understand that quitting smoking is one of the hardest things you can do, and are here to help.
Read on for five reasons you should kick the habit.
1. Quitting Today Will Improve Your Health
The health benefits of leaving smoking behind are many and varied. As we’ve all seen in anti-smoking ads, smoking takes a tremendous toll on pretty much every organ in the human body. In particular, smoking is the leading cause of many cardiovascular and pulmonary diseases. Many of which can be reversed simply by kicking the habit.
In fact, even in as little as a few days after quitting smoking, carbon monoxide levels in the blood tend to return to pre-smoking levels. Within a few weeks, circulation improves and lung function tends to improve. Within a few months, you’ll be coughing less and find yourself less out of breath in your everyday activities. Tiny hair-like structures called cilia which are found along your respiratory tract will also start to perform better. This helps to clear out mucus from your lungs and lower your risk of lung infection.
Within a year or two, your risk of a heart attack will decrease significantly. The risk of various cancers (e.g. oral, esophageal and laryngeal cancer), and your chance of having a stroke will also decrease. Within a few more years, your risk of other cancers decreases, such as bladder, colon, lung, kidney, liver, stomach and other cancers. For people who are living with cancer or who have a history of cancer, quitting smoking is one of the best ways to improve one’s prognosis. For any smoker, quitting immediately is one of the most effective ways to lower one’s risk of premature death by cancer and other diseases such as emphysema or other pulmonary diseases.
2. Quitting Smoking Will Give You Superpowers
In addition to affecting your physical health, smoking also negatively impacts many of our senses, including hearing, sight, taste and smell. If you’ve been smoking for a long time, you may not even realize how much your senses have dulled over time. By quitting smoking, you can reverse this process and bring your senses to a newfound sense of sharpness.
Just like the scene from Spiderman (2002) where Tobey Maguire discovers his new spider-powers, leaving the pack behind can sharpen your sense of hearing, improve your night vision, support your overall vision, and return your sense of taste and smell.
What’s more, leaving smoking behind will also help to support your ability to heal—just like Wolverine… (kind of). The science behind this is that quitting smoking improves blood flow to wounds, allowing for better healing by ensuring your wounds receive what they need to come to a full recovery. Similarly, increased availability of oxygen in your blood will promote stronger and healthier muscles… you’ll be feeling like Hugh Jackman in no time!
Moreover, your immune system will also improve, as it will no longer be weighed down by the toxins and carcinogens found in cigarette smoke. Your white blood cell count will return to normal, and even your bones will strengthen, ultimately reducing your risk of fractures now and over your lifespan.
3. Smoke-Free is Sexy
Smoking has an effect on how we look and feel. The smell of cigarette smoke lingers on our clothes and stays in our mouths. Even if you find the smell of cigarettes sexy, keep in mind that smoking leads to tooth discoloration, inflammation of the salivary glands, an increased buildup of plaque and tartar on the teeth, and all sorts of increased risks of cancers and diseases of the mouth… hairy tongue, anyone?
Leaving smoking behind will help to keep your mouth healthy, as well as keep your skin young.
What’s more, smoking is strongly linked to erectile dysfunction, with men who smoke being twice as likely to develop ED as non-smokers. For women, smoking has also been associated with a higher risk of infertility, difficult menstrual cycles, early menopause, and increased challenges during menopause.
4. Benefit Others By Leaving the Pack Behind
Continuing along the topic of reproductive health, we know that smoking is bad for developing babies. Smoking during pregnancy is associated with low birth weight, birth defects, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). But it doesn’t have to be just the person who is pregnant that is doing the smoking. Second-hand smoke kills. It contains more than 7,000 chemicals, hundreds of which are toxic and many of which are known to cause cancer. There is no risk-free level of exposure to this substance.
By kicking the habit, smokers can reduce the health burden that they place on others, as well as the financial burden that their preventable smoking-related diseases place on healthcare systems and society.
If you’re looking to protect your friends, coworkers and family from the effects of second-hand smoke, chewing gum after your smoke is not the way to go. The single most effective way to reduce your exposure to others of secondhand smoke and all of the negative health effects associated with it is obvious: leave the pack behind.
5. Rewire Your Brain
As we’ve mentioned in the introduction to this article, quitting smoking is one of the most challenging things you can do. In order to succeed, you will have to pretty much rewire your brain.
Luckily, there are many therapies and supports that are available to help in this process. Within a month of quitting, the number of nicotine receptors in your brain will return to normal, and your physiological withdrawal will be pretty much complete. Behavioural (i.e. psychological) addiction can take longer to overcome, especially in people who have been smoking for decades.
The silver lining in this, of course, is that overcoming your addiction to cigarettes can be the start of addressing and overcoming other addictive behaviours and patterns in your life. What do we mean? Give us a call to find out.
National Non-Smoking Week 2022
Many people choose to quit—or attempt to quit—as a new year’s resolution. However, a number of studies show that only a small percentage of people who make it their New Year’s Resolution to stop smoking manage to do so. In fact, almost a third of people who make the resolution get back to smoking in that first week.
If you can make it past the first two weeks of the year, you’ll find yourself in good company! Every year, starting on the third Sunday of January, the Canadian Council for Tobacco Control hosts National Non-Smoking Week! For 2022, National Non-Smoking Week runs from Sunday, January 16th to Saturday, January 22nd.
Want to quit smoking today? We’re here to help.
Ionatan Waisgluss is a writer, educator and web developer living in the qathet region of British Columbia. He is the founder of SquareByte.ca