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The benefits of quitting smoking

The benefits of quitting smoking

If you’re a smoker then one of the best things you can do for your health is to quit smoking. The benefits are far reaching. Some of them can be experienced instantly, while others are long-term benefits that can improve the quality of your life, and even its longevity.

Here we’ll go into detail about the potential benefits you might enjoy once you become an ex-smoker.

Daniel Atkinson
Medically reviewed by
Daniel Atkinson, GP Clinical lead
Table of contents
Medically reviewed by
Dr Daniel Atkinson
GP Clinical lead
on August 02, 2022.
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Daniel
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Short term benefits of stopping smoking

We all know that stopping smoking reduces your risk of developing cancer and increases your life-expectancy, but what benefits might you expect to notice within the first few days, weeks and months of cutting out the cigs? Well, here are some big ones that we’ll talk about in more detail in this page:

  • Protecting others from passive smoking
  • Improved fitness
  • Higher sex drive
  • Improved mental health
  • Ability to smell and taste is enhanced
  • More money

Did you know that your body begins to recover within just minutes of stopping smoking? That’s right. People who quit smoking can start noticing the benefits within hours of their last cigarette and realizing these benefits can help with motivation to stay smoke-free.

Passive smoking: protecting others

Quitting smoking isn’t only good for your health, it can also benefit the health of the people around you, including your loved ones.

Secondhand smoke is a combination of both smoke from the end of a burning cigarette and the smoke that is exhaled by the smoker. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the US, secondhand smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals, of which hundreds are toxic and about 70 can cause cancer. Protecting others from passive smoking is one of the most obvious short-term benefits of quitting smoking.

The CDC continues to state that there is no way of avoiding the risks associated with secondhand smoke exposure and that even in adults who have never smoked, secondhand smoke has immediate harmful effects on the heart and blood vessels.

And it isn’t just adults that are at risk. Pregnant adults who are exposed to secondhand smoke are more likely to have newborns with lower birth weight, a higher risk of health complications and a higher risk of experiencing Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

Meanwhile children exposed to secondhand smoke can also suffer from a variety of health problems, ranging from ear infections to coughs and wheezes. Quitting smoking can ensure that you aren’t putting your friends and family at unnecessary risk.

Improved fitness

Whether you want to get into sport or you simply want to be able to enjoy your day to day activities more easily, and without getting out of breath, you’ll quickly find that giving up smoking will be a huge help. This is because smoking significantly affects your cardiovascular health, narrowing your arteries and making it harder for blood to be pumped around your body efficiently. Smoking also affects your respiratory health, causing swelling of the airways and excess mucus in lung passages.

Fortunately, your cardiovascular and respiratory health will start to improve the minute you stop smoking. Within a month of quitting, your lung function should start to improve, and your risk of a heart attack is significantly reduced. This could make a huge difference to your overall health and fitness, particularly as you get older and lung capacity naturally diminishes. Exercise is a great distraction from nicotine cravings too.

Better sex

How’s your sex life been lately? Many people are surprised to learn that there is growing evidence that smoking can have a negative effect on various areas of their sex lives, and we aren’t just talking about the lingering smell of smoke on your body and breath, which can be a turn off to non-smoking partners. The chemicals in cigarette smoke contain many toxins, many of which have been shown to affect a variety of important functions, including those related to sexual activities.

Experts suggest that quitting smoking can prevent problems such as:

  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Loss of libido
  • Issues with dryness/vaginal lubrication
  • Reduced stamina
  • Premature ejaculation

If that wasn’t enough, quitting smoking can also have a positive impact on fertility. This is because smoking is thought to decrease seminal volume, sperm count and sperm motility, while in women, it hinders ovarian function and accelerates the rate at which women lose their eggs. If a family is on your agenda, giving up smoking can increase your success in having children.

Improved mental health

It’s not uncommon for people who smoke to feel irritable, stressed and unhappy when they go for periods of time without a cigarette, but the relationship between smoking and mental health is much more complex. This is because nicotine triggers the release of a chemical called dopamine. Dopamine is a ‘feel-good’ chemical that helps to ease stress and anxiety and has other positive effects on the brain. Unfortunately, this false stimulation of dopamine encourages the brain to switch off its own dopamine production, making it harder to regenerate these same feelings without a hit of nicotine.

Some of the mental health benefits of quitting smoking can include:

  • Reduced anxiety
  • Lower stress levels
  • Reduced risk of mood swings and depression
  • Improved quality of life

In addition, by quitting smoking it may be possible for the dosage of some medicines used to treat mental health problems to be reduced.

Lower cost of living

How much money do you spend on smoking every week or month? It’s not only the health cost of smoking that is a big motivator in quitting cigarettes once and for all. Smoking is one of the most expensive daily habits in the world.

The average pack of 20 cigarettes in Canada now costs an eye-watering $13.86 – money that literally goes up in flames every time you smoke. With cigarette and tobacco prices constantly changing, it’s likely to cost you even more if you continue to smoke. Depending on how many cigarettes you inhale every day, you could save a small fortune by quitting.

That could be a deposit for a mortgage, several family holidays, a new car… the possibilities are endless, and you can start saving money straight away.

Long term benefits of giving up smoking

Not all of the benefits of stopping smoking are going to be evident immediately. Many of the changes that happen after quitting relate to the way that the body heals and repairs itself, and some of these processes take time. Nevertheless, there are many different long-term rewards of giving up smoking, from reduced risk of serious health problems to the likelihood of living longer.

Increased life expectancy

It’s never too late to quit smoking, but the sooner you do, the longer you could live. Although we all know that smoking is bad for our health, many smokers don’t realize that their habit could be quite literally cutting their life short.

The life expectancy of smokers is at least ten years shorter than for non-smokers. However, by quitting smoking by the age of 30, you could add as many as ten years to your life, while giving up at 60 will see you add another three years to your life expectancy.

Reduced risk of severe health conditions

It’s no surprise that smoking has been closely linked to the development of many severe health conditions, from heart disease to poor immune function. The toxic chemicals it releases can affect all our body systems, preventing them from working as effectively as they should and causing a wide range of problems.

Some of the severe health conditions smokers are at increased risk of developing include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Lung cancer
  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
  • Chronic bronchitis
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Asthma
  • Diabetes
  • Periodontal disease
  • Other cancers including colon, liver, stomach and pancreatic

Many of these diseases have the potential to be life-limiting or life-threatening. In fact, 50% of all long-term smokers die prematurely as a result of smoking-related diseases, like heart disease, lung cancer and chronic bronchitis. However, it’s not too late to quit. According to the CDC in the US, quitting smoking before the age of 40 reduces the risk of dying from smoking-related disease by about 90%.

Better sense of taste and smell

Eating and drinking are two of life's great pleasures, but people who smoke nearly always find that their habit dramatically affects their sense of smell and taste. This is thought to be the result of the nicotine dulling the senses, making it harder to appreciate the smell and taste of things around us. In fact, many people who quit go on to say that the pleasure of eating and drinking and enjoying the scents of things like perfume and flowers is massively enhanced after giving up smoking.

Better skin and less aging

Smoking is a key cause of premature aging. The main reason for this is that smoking deprives the skin of the oxygen and nutrients that it needs to be healthy. This can contribute towards the thinning of skin, dryness and the formation of lines and wrinkles caused by the destruction of collagen and elastin, which usually keep skin looking smooth, supple and more youthful.

Since collagen and elastin production naturally deteriorates with age, smoking only enhances the aging process, causing lines, wrinkles and folds to develop much earlier than they perhaps would have. Quitting can help you to avoid premature signs of aging.

Smoking can also affect the appearance of your hair, with the chemicals from cigarette smoke damaging the cellular structure of hair and preventing sufficient oxygen and nutrients from reaching the hair follicles. This can result in dry, brittle and lackluster hair, with some people also believing that smoking can contribute towards premature hair loss.

What’s the best way to quit?

If you were wondering ‘will HRT help me lose weight?’, the answer is no. Studies show that people who use HRT are less likely to put on weight than those who don’t, but it shouldn’t be used as a weight loss solution.

HRT works by trying to keep your hormones at a pre-menopausal level. As a result, you might not gain as much weight as someone who isn’t on a HRT plan because you will have the hormones that support your usual metabolism in your system. The only way to aid weight loss on HRT is to adjust your diet and exercise regime. Eating the right balance of food and exercising regularly can benefit you in many other ways too.

Now you know the many benefits of quitting smoking, you are probably wondering what the best way is to kick the habit. Fortunately, there are lots of different options. The main way in which people stop smoking is using nicotine replacement therapy.

Nicotine replacement therapy provides patients with a low dose of nicotine, but without the tar, carbon monoxide and other harmful chemicals usually found in tobacco smoke. Since patients still receive a small amount of nicotine, this method helps to reduce cravings gradually. Nicotine replacement therapy is available in several forms including:

  • Skin patches
  • Chewing gum
  • Inhalators
  • Tablets, lozenges and oral strips
  • Nasal and mouth sprays

There are also several stop smoking medications that may be recommended where nicotine replacement therapy isn’t effective or a suitable choice. Popular stop smoking medications include the brand names Champix and Zyban, and are available on prescription via our team of experts.

While stopping smoking will absolutely benefit your health and wellbeing, quitting is both a physical and emotional challenge. Whether this is your first time trying to quit or you’ve tried before, we’re here to give you the support that you need to see it through.

Do you feel like it’s time to give up your smoking habit? At Treated we can help you start your quit smoking journey and support you through to completion. We’ve got several stop smoking medication options and our experts can help you find the best one for you.

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How we source info:

When we present you with stats, data, opinion or a consensus, we’ll tell you where this came from. And we’ll only present data as clinically reliable if it’s come from a reputable source, such as a state or government-funded health body, a peer-reviewed medical journal, or a recognized analytics or data body. Read more in our editorial policy.

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