Some smokers may feel there is no benefit to quitting smoking since damage to the bodies has already been done. Many believe such damage can not be reversed.
This is mainly true for smokers who are 50 years or older and feel they have avoided smoking-related illnesses for so long.
However, much of the effects of smoking can be reversed.
- Starting almost from the moment a smoker smokes the last cigarette, the body starts to repair itself.
- Within 20 minutes of smoking a last cigarette, heart rate begins to lower.
- Twelve hours after quitting, the level of carbon monoxide in the blood drops to normal.
- Two to three months after quitting, the lungs begin to work better and risk of heart attack begins to decrease.
- Former smokers notice less coughing and shortness of breath around one to nine months after quitting. The little hair-like structures in the lungs (cilia) start to work again, cleaning out mucus from the lungs and lowering the risk of infection.
- One year after quitting, a former smoker’s risk of coronary heart disease is half of a current smoker’s. The risk of coronary heart disease will continue to go down the longer a person remains smoke-free. Coronary heart disease is when the small blood vessels become more narrow, making it harder for oxygen and blood to get to the heart.
- Five to fifteen years after quitting, stroke risk is lowered to the same level of a nonsmoker.
- Ten years after quitting smoking, the risk of dying from lung cancer is 30 to 50 percent that of a current smoker’s. Risk of developing cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, bladder, cervix and pancreas also lowers.
- Fifteen years after quitting, the risk of developing coronary heart disease is equal to a nonsmoker’s.
- Smokers who quit before age 50 have one-half the risk of dying in the next 15 years compared to people who continue to smoke.
This data was taken from the 1988, 1990 and 2004 editions of the Surgeon General’s Report on the Health Consequences of Smoking.
There are many tools available to help someone quit smoking. These include:
- Nicotine gum
- Nasal sprays or inhalers
- Cigarette filters
- Going cold-turkey
- Prescription medications such as Zyban or Chantix
- Tapering use
Studies have shown that smokers who use a mix of these methods greatly increase their chances of staying smoke-free.
Ask your doctor about which method may be right for you. Each of these methods is most successful when used with a support group or smoking cessation program. Most smoking cessation programs focus on stress management, weight control, and how to cope with cravings.
For more information about clinical trials or finding a clinical trial for you, contact the Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center/Cancer Information Service.
Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center
Cancer Information Service
Find a Clinical Trial