If you’re a smoker, quitting smoking is one of the best decisions you can make for your health and well-being. The benefits of stopping smoking begin almost immediately and accumulate over time. While the timeline for these benefits may vary from person to person, giving up cigarettes can significantly impact your short-term and long-term health.
It’s time to explore the health benefits of smoking cessation and how long it takes to experience them. By understanding the positive changes that occur when you stop smoking, you can better appreciate the impact quitting can have on not only your life but those closest to you.
To begin, what are the health risks of smoking?
Smoking is a major health risk and can lead to a range of serious conditions, including:
Cardiovascular disease: Smoking can increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, and peripheral artery disease.
Cancer: Smoking is a major cause of several types of cancer, including lung cancer, throat cancer, mouth cancer, bladder cancer, kidney cancer, and pancreatic cancer.
Respiratory diseases: Smoking can cause chronic bronchitis, emphysema, and asthma.
Reproductive and perinatal health: Smoking during pregnancy can lead to complications such as low birth weight, preterm delivery, and stillbirth.
Dental and oral health: Smoking can cause yellowing of the teeth, bad breath, and a higher risk of gum disease and oral cancer.
Eye health: Smoking can increase the risk of age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, and optic nerve damage.
Immune system: Smoking can weaken the immune system, making it more difficult for the body to fight off infections and diseases.
Reasons why it’s important to consider quitting smoking
Depending on individual life circumstances, there are many reasons why it is important to stop smoking. These include:
Improved Health: Giving up cigarettes can improve health in numerous ways, from reducing the risk of serious illnesses such as lung cancer and heart disease to improving respiratory and cardiovascular function.
Increased Longevity: Smokers are at a much higher risk of premature death than non-smokers. When you stop smoking, you give yourself a chance at an increased lifespan.
Better Quality of Life: Quitting smoking can improve your physical and mental well-being, giving you more energy, better sleep and reduced stress and anxiety.
Reduced Health Care Costs: Over time, the costs associated with smoking-related illnesses can add up. Quitting smoking can help you save money on medical bills and reduce overall healthcare expenses.
Improved Appearance: Smoking can cause teeth yellowing, premature skin aging, and other cosmetic concerns. Quitting smoking can help improve your appearance and boost your self-confidence.
Protection of Loved Ones: Secondhand cigarette smoke can be harmful to those around you, increasing their risk of serious health problems. Quitting smoking protects those you care about from the harmful effects of tobacco smoke.
We hear a lot about the health risks of smoking – but what actually happens when you quit?
When you quit smoking, your body begins to repair itself almost immediately. Some of the benefits of quitting smoking are outlined in the quit smoking timeline below.
Within 20 minutes of quitting, your blood pressure, pulse rate, and the temperature of your hands and feet return to normal.
After 12 hours, the carbon monoxide level in your blood drops to normal.
Within 2 to 3 days, your sense of taste and smell improves.
Within a month, your lung function improves, making breathing easier.
After 1 year, your risk of heart disease is reduced by half compared to a smoker.
Within 5 to 15 years, your risk of stroke decreases to that of a non-smoker.
After 10 years, your risk of lung cancer drops to half that of a smoker.
What’s the best way to quit smoking?
The best way to stop smoking depends on individual needs and circumstances. However, some strategies include:
Quitting smoking ‘cold turkey’
Quitting “cold turkey” means quitting suddenly and without any replacement, such as nicotine gum, patches, or prescription medications. This approach involves giving up immediately and relying on willpower and determination to overcome nicotine withdrawal symptoms and cravings.
While quitting cold turkey can be challenging, some people find it the most effective way to quit smoking because it allows them to break their nicotine dependence quickly and permanently. However, it can also be difficult and may require additional support, such as counselling, support groups, or other quitting aids, to be successful.
It is important to note that quitting smoking is a process, and everyone’s experience is unique. Some people may find that quitting cold turkey works best for them, while others may need to try different methods or a combination of methods before finding what works for them. Consulting with a healthcare professional is recommended to help determine the best quit plan for you.
Quit smoking with nicotine replacement therapy (NRT):
Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) is a method used to help people quit smoking by reducing withdrawal symptoms and cravings. NRT provides a lower dose of nicotine than cigarettes, allowing individuals to wean off nicotine and gradually reduce their dependence.
NRT comes in various forms, including:
Nicotine gum: a chewing gum that releases nicotine into the bloodstream through the lining of the mouth
Nicotine patch: a transdermal patch that releases nicotine into the bloodstream through the skin
Nicotine lozenge: a tablet that releases nicotine into the bloodstream through the lining of the mouth
Nicotine inhaler: a device that delivers a vaporised form of nicotine that is inhaled into the lungs
NRT can be effective in helping to quit smoking; however, it is not a magic cure and requires commitment and effort to be successful. NRT can be used alone or with other quitting aids, such as counselling or medication.
Quit smoking with pharmacotherapy
Pharmacotherapy is a method of quitting smoking that involves taking prescription medications to help reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms. These medications work by altering the levels of nicotine and other chemicals in the brain, making it easier to give up and stay smoke-free.
There are two standard pharmacotherapy options for quitting smoking. One type of prescription medication works as an antidepressant that can help reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms associated with quitting smoking. Another type of medication specifically targets nicotine receptors in the brain to decrease cravings, withdrawal symptoms, and the pleasure derived from smoking.
Pharmacotherapy is most effective when used in combination with behavioural support, such as counselling or support groups, and can increase the chances of success in quitting smoking. It is important to use these medications as directed and to consult with a healthcare professional to determine if pharmacotherapy is appropriate and to monitor for any potential side effects.
Quit smoking with counselling or support groups
Counselling or support groups are behavioural therapies that can be used to help quit smoking. These approaches focus on providing the knowledge, skills, and support needed to quit smoking and maintain a smoke-free lifestyle.
Counselling can be provided one-on-one with a healthcare professional or in a group setting. It can involve various techniques, such as motivational interviewing, cognitive-behavioural therapy, or stress management, to help overcome challenges and address the psychological and emotional aspects of quitting smoking.
Support groups provide a community of members who are all trying to quit smoking and can be a source of encouragement and accountability. Group members can share their experiences and offer each other support, advice, and motivation.
Counselling and support groups can be effective in helping to quit smoking, especially when combined with other quitting aids, such as nicotine replacement therapy or pharmacotherapy. They can also provide the tools and skills to avoid relapse and maintain long-term abstinence from smoking.
Quit smoking with a combination approach
Combination therapy involves using multiple methods simultaneously to increase the chances of success to quit. This can include a combination of medication, nicotine replacement therapy (NRT), counselling or support groups, and other aids.
For example, using a nicotine patch for continuous delivery of nicotine, combined with counselling sessions to address the psychological and emotional aspects of quitting smoking and a support group for additional accountability and motivation.
The combination of different methods can address the various challenges associated with quitting smoking, such as cravings, withdrawal symptoms, and psychological dependence. This can increase the chances of success in quitting smoking and maintaining long-term abstinence.
Different methods may be more or less effective for different people. It is important to work with a healthcare professional to determine the best combination of quitting aids for the individual. Additionally, it is important to use these methods as directed and monitor for potential side effects.
Where to go for quit smoking resources and support
In Australia, several resources and support options are available for individuals looking to quit smoking. Some of these include:
A free and confidential telephone counselling service is available 24/7 for individuals looking to quit smoking. Callers can receive support, advice, and information on quitting smoking.
A free app that provides quitting support, information, and tracking tools to help individuals quit smoking.
Your GP or Pharmacist
Healthcare professionals can provide advice and support on quitting smoking and prescribe nicotine replacement therapy or other quitting aids if appropriate.
Local Community Health Centres
Many community health centres in Australia offer smoking cessation programs and support groups.
These resources and support options can provide individuals with the knowledge, skills, and support they need to quit smoking and maintain a smoke-free lifestyle. It is important to work with a healthcare professional to determine the best approach to quitting smoking for the individual.
We’re here to help!
Did you know you can access quit smoking treatments online from the comfort of your home? Save yourself the pharmacy trip and start the convo with our Australian-based medical team today.
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