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How to quit smoking

Sarah Kelsey is a lifestyle writer, editor and spokesperson based in Toronto. She was the editor of AOL/The Huffington Post Canada’s StyleList, Style and Living sites. Today, she's a freelancer writing for some of North America’s top pub...

Quitting: Challenges, strategies and benefits

Cigarette smoking accounts for at least 30 percent of all cancer deaths in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society. But there's hope, as more and more people are butting out. Isn't it time you thought about quitting, too? Quit now and start celebrating your life smoke free!


Why quitting's so hard

Blame nicotine. The highly addictive drug is found naturally in all tobacco products. The more you smoke, the more you crave it (emotionally and physically). And those cravings can be intense. On top of it all, Cutting back on cigarettes often leads to serious symptoms of nicotine withdrawal, including:

 

  • Dizziness or headaches
  • Depression
  • Feelings of frustration, impatience or anger
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Increased appetite

How to quit smoking

Nowadays, many resources are available to help you quit smoking. Here are some methods that may work for you:

  • Telephone-based therapy. The American Cancer Society's Quitline program puts smokers in touch with trained counselors who help smokers create a plan to quit.
  • Stop-smoking programs. Some communities have Nicotine Anonymous groups, while others have programs dedicated to helping people quit. Talk to your doctor about what's available in your area.
  • Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT). NRT is meant to reduce your withdrawal symptoms by slowly weaning you off the drug. This is done by replacing cigarettes (which are high in nicotine) with medically approved gums, patches and inhalers (which are low in nicotine). Over time, you use the replacements less and less until you no longer need them at all.
  • Alternative therapies. From hypnosis to acupuncture, some smokers have used alternative therapies to help them quit (even though there's no strong medical evidence that they work).

Benefits of going smoke-free

From decreasing your cancer risk to slashing your risk of heart attack or stroke, quitting smoking is one of the most important things you can do to protect your health.

 

Immediate benefits include:

 

  • Better smelling breath, clothes and hair
  • Whiter teeth
  • Healthier-looking nails
  • Normalized sense of smell (which in turn means food tastes better!)
  • Increased lung capacity

According to the Surgeon General, quitting offers these profound benefits over time:

  • 20 minutes after quitting: Your heart rate and blood pressure drop
  • 12 hours after quitting: The carbon monoxide levels in your blood drop to normal
  • 2 weeks to 3 months after quitting: Your circulation improves and lung function increases
  • 1 to 9 months after quitting: Coughing and shortness of breath decreases, along with your risk of lung infection
  • 1 year after quitting: The risk of developing coronary heart disease drops by 50 percent
  • 5 years after quitting: Stroke risk drops
  • 10 years after quitting: Cancer risk plummets
  • 15 years after smoking: Your body returns to its healthy pre-smoking state
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