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Quitting smoking represents the single most important step smokers can take to enhance the length and quality of life. It may not be easy, but you can do it. To have the best chance of quitting and remaining an ex-smoker, you need to understand what you're up against, the health benefits from quitting and support you can expect from Ochsner Health.

Reasons to Quit

No matter how old you are or how long you've smoked, quitting can help you live longer and be healthier. There are many reasons why people choose to quit, and health concerns usually top the list. Smoking harms nearly every organ of the body. In the United States, smoking is responsible for nearly 1 in 5 deaths and about 8.6 million people suffer from smoking-related lung and heart diseases.

But your health isn't the only reason to quit. Secondhand smoke causes thousands of deaths in non-smokers each year. The Surgeon General warns if a mother smokes, there is a higher chance her baby will develop asthma in childhood, especially if she smoked while she was pregnant. Babies and children raised in a household where there is smoking have more ear infections, colds, bronchitis and breathing problems than children in non-smoking families.

Why Quit Now

The American Cancer Society reports people who stop smoking before age 50 cut their risk of dying in the next 15 years in half compared with those who keep smoking. Ex-smokers enjoy a higher quality of life and aren't limited in activities. They have fewer illnesses like colds and flu, lower rates of bronchitis and pneumonia and better, healthier attitudes than people who still smoke.

Many smokers fail to see the immediate impact of quitting. Dr. Len Lichtenfeld, deputy chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society details the benefits over time:

  • 20 minutes after quitting: Your heart rate and blood pressure drop.
  • 12 hours after quitting: The carbon monoxide level in your blood drops to normal.
  • 2-12 weeks after quitting: Your circulation improves and your lung function increases.
  • 1-9 months after quitting: Coughing and shortness of breath decrease.
  • 1 year after quitting: The excess risk of coronary heart disease is half that of a smoker.
  • 5 years after quitting: Risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus and bladder are cut in half. Cervical cancer risk falls to that of a non-smoker. Stroke risk can fall to that of a non-smoker after 2-5 years.
  • 10 years after quitting: The risk of dying from lung cancer is about half that of a person who is still smoking. The risk of cancer of the larynx and pancreas decreases.
  • 15 years after quitting: The risk of coronary heart disease is that of a non-smoker's.