The life expectancy for smokers is at least 10 years shorter than for non-smokers.1
Smoking and Your Overall Health
By now, everyone knows the risks of smoking. Smoking is deadly. Tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death in the United States--it is the cause of about one in five deaths annually.1
If you currently smoke, quitting is the greatest single step you can take to improve your health. The dangers of smoking simply cannot be overstated; smoking damages almost every major organ in your body, and can cause cancer anywhere in the body. The positive effects of quitting smoking are almost immediate: your blood pressure drops, your oxygen levels go up, your risk of heart attack drops within 3 months, your circulation improves, and your sense of smell and taste return.
It is never too late to stop smoking.
Smoking and Stroke2
Smoking is a major cause of cardiovascular disease and stroke, and research shows that smoking doubles your risk of having a stroke. Stroke is the leading cause of disability in the U.S., and recovering from a stroke can take a significant toll on you and your family.
In addition to thickening and narrowing your blood vessels and arteries, smoking has these effects on the body, all of which are risk factors for stroke:
- Raises triglycerides (a fat in your blood)
- Lowers your HDL ("good" cholesterol)
- Makes blood sticky and more likely to clot
- Increases the buildup of plaque
- Damages cells that line the blood vessels
Secondhand smoke can also cause heart disease, leading to heart attack or stroke. Breathing secondhand smoke (including smoke breathed out by a smoker) causes 34,000 early deaths from heart disease every year among non-smokers. Even small amounts of exposure to secondhand smoke can have an immediate effect on the lining of your blood vessels and cause your blood to be stickier.
Risks to Others from Secondhand Smoke
When you smoke, it is not just your health that is at risk, but also the health of those around you. Children and older people are especially sensitive to secondhand smoke exposure. Among the 7000 chemicals in cigarettes, 250 are known to be harmful, and 69 of those are known to cause cancer4. There is absolutely no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke.
Most smokers need help to quit smoking—nicotine is very addictive, and people who quit will often experience physical withdrawal symptoms along with psychological withdrawal. Other than very strong cravings for cigarettes, withdrawal can include sadness, trouble sleeping, irritability, and increased hunger3.
Tips To Stop Smoking
The number one tip given to smokers who want to quit is to make sure they understand that quitting smoking is a process—it is not a single event. You must have a plan, which includes picking a quit day—the day you will have your last cigarette.
- Tell your friends and family about your quit date—you will need their support
- Seek a doctor's help—there are methods available to help people quit smoking, including nicotine patches and medication that eases withdrawal symptoms as well as stops nicotine from attaching to receptors in your brain
- Join a smoking support group
- Have gum or sugarless candy handy
- Don't let people smoke around you, and remove all tobacco products from your home
- Understand and prepare for your triggers, which are daily activities that remind you of smoking, and may be especially hard for you to resist lighting a cigarette.
- Remind yourself why you are working so hard to quit smoking, and the health benefits you will enjoy
Other resources to quit smoking:
- The American Cancer Society
- Several smartphone apps are available to help you quit smoking, and some are free. They provide support, tips, and coaching to keep you motivated. Some also have tools to distract you during cravings as well as show you how much money you are saving.
- Smokefree.gov has tools and expert advice on quitting smoking, as well as how to plan for your quit day. The site also provides specialized information for women, teens, veterans, and other distinct groups who may need special support. https://smokefree.gov/
1U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Health Consequences of Smoking—50 Years of Progress. A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2014
4National Cancer Institute, https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/tobacco/cessation-fact-sheet