It’s that time of year again: Tomorrow (11/21) is the Great American Smokeout. For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, the Smokeout, which falls on the third Thursday in November every year, encourages smokers to quit. Maybe you’ll manage to quit for only that one day, but hopefully the change will be permanent.
People often like specific days dedicated to improving their health. For example, we make New Year’s resolutions to lose weight or quit smoking. We may start a diet or quit smoking on our birthday. The Smokeout adds yet another day to the calendar that a smoker can use as a springboard to quit.
What if you aren’t ready to quit?
If you’re planning to quit – then by all means, quit tomorrow. Plan ahead, and recruit friends and loved ones to help you stay smoke-free. If you aren’t yet ready to quit, then let me make a suggestion. Quit for just one day. Don’t smoke a single cigarette tomorrow. You may be thinking, “What’s the point? Not smoking for one day probably won’t have much of an impact on my health, so why bother?” The point is that if you see that you can otherwise enjoy life without reaching for a cigarette, then maybe you’ll consider quitting long-term. In order to make this “Smokeout experiment” more successful, try to have an enjoyable day. Treat yourself to a nice meal at a fancy restaurant. Buy yourself a nice outfit. Hang out with friends or family. Anything except having a cigarette.
Hopefully, you’ll come to realize that you don’t really need that cigarette. Even if quitting completely is not on the table right now, maybe it will convince you that down the line, when you do choose to quit, you’ll be able to do it and still have fun and pleasure in life.
What do you experience after quitting?
The American Cancer Society has more information about the Great American Smokeout, along with some interesting tidbits about how the body recovers from the harmful effects of smoking.
Within 20 minutes of quitting, your heart rate and blood pressure drop. Within 12 hours, the levels of carbon monoxide in your blood normalize. Within 2-12 weeks, your circulation and lung function improve. Within 1-9 months, many of the chronic respiratory symptoms such as coughing, shortness of breath, and frequent infections improve. With a year, your risk of a heart attack is half of what it would have been had you continued to smoke. Within 5 years your risk of oral, esophageal and bladder cancer drops by half. The risk of cervical cancer returns to that of a nonsmoker. By 2-5 years, the risk of a stroke is down to the level of a non-smoker. By 10 years, the risk of lung cancer drops by half the risk of a current smoker, and the risk of pancreatic and voice box cancer is reduced as well. By 15 years after quitting, your risk of heart disease is back down to that of a non-smoker. Of course, all of these numbers are averages, and both the duration as well as the amount of cigarettes smoked makes a difference; nevertheless, it gives you a decent idea of what to expect.
(Image links to source: Wikimedia Commons.)