Benefits of Quitting Smoking

More reasons to quit: sweeter breath, smoother skin, more money

No one has to tell you about the health risks of smoking. After all, you've been hearing about them for years from loved ones, friends and strangers, from the media, and even in that warning box on the back of each pack of cigarettes. You know that quitting now is the single best thing you can do for your lungs, for your heart—for your life.

For many, fear of illness, even death, is a primary motivation for quitting. And that's fine. The key is to find the reasons to quit that mean the most to you. Maybe your motivator is to look better, to feel better, to have more jingle in your pocket. Consider the many ways that kicking the habit can kick-start your life. You'll soon have:

  • Sweeter breath. Your teeth will be whiter; your breath, fresher. And you'll be less likely to develop gum disease, tooth decay or tooth loss.
  • Smoother skin. Going smoke-free is one of the best ways to ward off wrinkles.
  • Nicer nails. Who's yellow? Make those stained fingers and nails a mere bad memory.
  • A sharper sense of taste. Remember when you could really smell and taste your favorite foods? You'll be able to, again.
  • Fresher scents. Your hair, clothes, house and car will smell better.
  • More time. Who doesn't need more time? All those minutes once spent on cigarette breaks really do add up. Smokers spend 8 percent of their working hours on smoking rituals, the American Cancer Society estimates. Now you can spend that time getting things done more efficiently, or enjoying yourself.
  • A fatter wallet. Think of the thousands of dollars you'll save—$1,600 a year on cigarettes alone for the average smoker, according to the American Cancer Society, plus more from decreased medical bills, insurance premiums and other costs.
  • A better feeling about yourself. You'll know that you're no longer exposing those around you to secondhand smoke, and if you have kids, you can feel really good that you're setting a positive example.

How women (and babies) benefit

Need more reasons to quit? Women also reduce their risk for cervical cancer, osteoporosis, menstrual irregularities and early menopause. Thinking of having a baby? Consider:

  • Quitting smoking reduces your risk of infertility, and promotes a healthy pregnancy, with a lower risk of miscarriage, premature delivery, infant death and low birth weight.
  • Your newborn's lung function will be better, too. And the benefits will continue: Children of nonsmokers also have a lower risk of sudden infant death syndrome, asthma, allergies, ear infections, colds and serious respiratory infections.

Feel better, be healthier

Even the health benefits of quitting smoking go beyond the big picture. Yes, it's true that the American Cancer Society links smoking to several cancers, including 87 percent of lung cancers. But if these scary facts aren't your best motivator, focus on the more immediate benefits: breathing easier, coughing less and having more stamina. As you find it easier to breathe, you can also breathe easy knowing that you're reducing your risk of asthma, emphysema, pneumonia and other lung diseases as well.

Your eyes will benefit, too. Many people are unaware that smoking contributes to eye diseases such as cataracts, macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy.

But wait, there's more! Smoking worsens diabetic complications such as nerve damage, and it may contribute to developing diabetes. Smoking is also linked to heartburn, ulcers, liver damage, Crohn's disease, kidney damage, dementia, depression, anxiety and many other disorders. Trying to prevent such conditions is yet another reason to give up cigarettes.

And your heart will thank you. Quitting smoking is one of the best ways to reduce your risk of arterial disease, heart attack and stroke. It's also one of the best ways to add years to your life.

Reviewed by:Timothy Yarboro, MD

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