Advantages of Quiting Smoking

The Advantages of Quitting Smoking

According to the National Institute on Aging (NIA, 1999), more than a million people break the smoking habit each year. Quitting smoking results in:

  • A lower risk of cancer, heart attack, and lung disease;
  • Better blood circulation;
  • Healthier family members, particularly children and grandchildren;
  • No odor of smoke in your clothes and hair;
  • A more sensitive sense of smell

What Smoking Does

Cigarette smoke damages lungs and airways. Air passages swell and, over time, become filled with mucus. This can cause a cough that won’t go away. Sometimes this leads to a lung disease called chronic bronchitis. If seniors keep smoking, normal breathing may become harder and harder as emphysema develops. In emphysema, airways become blocked as the tissue of the lungs undergoes changes that make getting enough oxygen difficult.

Smoking shorten life. According to NIA, it brings an early death to more than 400,000 people in the United States each year. And lifelong smokers have a one in two chance of dying from a smoking-related disease. Smoking doesn’t just cut a few months off the end of life; it reduces the life of the average smoker by 12 years.

Smoking makes millions of Americans sick by causing:

  • Heart disease. If you have high blood pressure or high cholesterol (a fatty substance in the blood) and also smoke, you increase your chance of having a heart attack.
  • Cancer. Smoking causes cancer o the lungs, mouth, larynx (voice box), and esophagus. It plays a role in cancer of the pancreas, kidney, bladder, and maybe the cervix in women. The chance of getting cancer grows as you smoke more cigarettes, smoke more years, or inhale deeply.
  • Respiratory problems. If you smoke, you are more likely than a nonsmoker to get the flu (influenza), pneumonia, or other infections (such as colds) that can interfere with your breathing. Flu and pneumonia are very dangerous for older people.
  • Osteoporosis. If you are an older woman who smokes, your chance of developing osteoporosis is greater. Women who are past menopause tend to lose bone strength and sometimes develop this bone-weakening disorder. Bones weakened by osteoporosis fracture more easily. Also, women smokers sometimes begin menopause sooner than the average women does.

Good News About Quitting

As soon as person stops smoking, the heart and circulatory system (the arteries and veins that blood flows through) start getting better. The chance of heart attack, stroke, and other circulatory diseases begins to drop. The flow of blood to hands and feet gets stronger. Breathing may be more difficult in the first few weeks, but should become easier a few months after the last cigarette. Quitting smoking can’t undo permanent lung damage, but it may help slow further damage to the lungs. The chance of getting cancer from smoking also begins to shrink. According to NIA, within 10 to 15 years after quitting, the risk of cancer and heart disease is almost as low as that of a nonsmoker.

Nicotine Is A Drug

Cigarette smoke contains thousands of chemicals. Some are known to cause cancer. Another, nicotine, is a very addictive drug. When a person first smokes, nicotine feels good and encourages more smoking. Soon, a smoker’s body starts to need more nicotine in order to feel good, which leads to smoking even more to keep getting that pleasurable feeling.

The first few weeks after quitting are the hardest. Some people who give up smoking have withdrawal symptoms, becoming grumpy, hungry, or tired. Withdrawal may cause headaches, depression, or problems sleeping or concentrating. Some people, though, have no withdrawal symptoms at all.

People often are worried about gaining weight if they stop smoking. But many people who stop smoking gain little or no weight. Those who do gain usually add less than 10 pounds. But, even with a few extra pounds, quitters will be healthier than if they continued smoking.

Breaking the Habit

Smoking is a strong addiction for both body and mind. That is why it is so hard to stop. But, people do succeed. NIA reported from 1965 to 1999 more than 30 million Americans quit smoking. Advice for quitters includes:

  • Reading self-help literature;
  • Taking a quit-smoking class;
  • Using individual or group counseling;
  • Joining a support group;
  • Getting a friend to quit at the same time;
  • Taking medicine to help with nicotine withdrawal;
  • Using nicotine replacement therapy.

Each person is different. Sometimes combining several methods is the answer. Many people can stop on their own. Others need help from doctors, clinics, or organized groups. The first step is to make a firm decision to quit, followed by choosing a date to stop smoking and picking one or more methods for quitting. Before stopping, a quitter should try changing smoking habits. For example, someone who smokes a cigarette after each meal should first begin to wait a while after eating. Some people smoke while reading the newspaper and will benefit from trying to replace the smoking behavior while reading with another less harmful habit, like chewing gum. When a person finally decides to completely stop smoking, replacement habits make the addiction easier to break.

People who quit may need special help to cope with htier desire for nicotine. Nicotine replacement therapy can help control withdrawal symptoms, but it’s not for everyone. Quitters should check with their doctors first. Doctors often recommend one of these four forms:

  • Nicotine chewing gum, available without a doctor’s prescription
  • The nicotine patch, also available over the counter
  • Nicotine nasal spray, which requires a doctor’s prescription
  • Prescription nicotine inhalers

All of these treatments provide nicotine to the body without the harmful substances found in tobacco smoke. They reduce withdrawal symptoms, making it easier for a quitter to learn to fight the physical habit and mental addiction of smoking. Also, this dose of nicotine is less than that from a cigarette and is tapered off during the treatment period. Quitters who use a replacement medication need to know that is dangerous to smoke while on nicotine replacement therapy.

There is another drug to help handle nicotine cravings. Known as bupropion hydrochloride, it does not contain nicotine and must be prescribed by a doctor. The most common side effects are dry mouth and problems getting to sleep.

Cigars, Chewing Tobacco, And Snuff Are Not Safer

Some people think smokeless tobacco (chewing tobacco and snuff), pipes, and cigars are safer than cigarettes. They are not. Using smokeless tobacco can cause cancer of the mouth, a precancerous lesion known as oral leukoplakia, nicotine addiction, and possibly cancer of the larynx and esophagus, as well as tooth and heart problems. Pipe and cigar smokers may develop cancer of the mouth, lip, larynx, pharynx, and esophagus. Those who inhale have the same chance of lung cancer as cigarette smokers have.

Being Around Someone Who Smokes

Passive smoking happens when a nonsmoker breathes smoke from someone else’s cigarette, pipe, or cigar. It is also called secondhand smoke. We now know that such secondhand smoke is unsafe. People who don’t smoke but live or work with smokers are more likely to develop lung cancer than other non-smokers. In fact, each year an estimated 3,000 people who don’t smoke die of lung cancer because of secondhand smoke. It has also been linked to heart disease in nonsmokers.

Passive smoking is very dangerous for someone with asthma, other lung conditions, or heart disease. It may cause bronchitis, pneumonia, an asthma attack, or inner ear infections in babies and young children. It may be associated with SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome). These problems are just some good reasons for a parent or grandparent to think about quitting smoking. Everyone should try not to smoke around young children or infants.

The information above is reprinted from Working with Seniors: Health, Financial and Social Issues with permission from Society of Certified Senior Advisors® . Copyright © 2009. All rights reserved.