When Meryl Haggard or Willie Nelson tell you that “the reasons for quittin’ are getting bigger each day,” you assume they are talking about alcohol. But the line is every bit as appropriate for smokers as it is for alcoholics.
You’ve undoubtedly seen the statistics: 400,000 Americans die each year from smoking-related illnesses. That’s one smoker every 80 seconds. With each minute that passes, your odds are getting smaller…and your reasons for quitting, bigger.
Smoking cessation programs and products are available to help. But to help you make that step, you might want to make a list of reasons for wanting to quit.
You’ll live longer. Smoking has been identified as the single greatest preventable reason for early death. Smoking, if you continue, will shave 13.2 years off your life, if you’re a man, and 14.5 years if you’re a woman.
“The smoke that you inhale, from your own cigarette or that of a smoker nearby, contains more than 4,800 chemicals, 69 of which are known to cause cancer,” according to Punit Kumar, MD, an internal medicine physician with the Fond du Lac Regional Clinics in Markesan and Waupun. “Smoking accounts for about 90 percent of lung cancer deaths. It also plays a major role in pancreatic cancer.”
You’ll be protecting your family, friends and co-workers. Children of parents who smoke are more vulnerable to asthma, colds and ear infections. They also have a higher than usual rate of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
“Second-hand smoke in the environment is responsible for 3,400 lung cancer and 46,000 heart disease deaths in American adult non-smokers every year,” according to Dr. Kumar. “That’s the reason smoking is now not allowed in an increasing number of working environments and public places.”
You’ll look and feel better. Smoking impairs the flow of blood and oxygen to the skin and causes a breakdown of collagen and elastin, the fibers that give skin its elasticity.
“Within 10 years of your first cigarette – or sooner – your skin will start to show the signs of premature aging – wrinkles, sags, a lifeless tone and yellow pallor,” Dr. Kumar says. “This may be most apparent on the face but will also appear elsewhere on the body such as the inside of your arms.”
If you’ve been smoking awhile, your skin may never recover, but you can slow progression of the damage. And you’ll appreciate other cosmetic changes: no more stained teeth, ash tray breath or stinky clothes or hair.
You’ll be saving yourself and others a lot of money. You may not notice the pack-by-pack drain on your budget, but if you’re a pack-a-day smoker, you’re spending at least $1,500 to $2,000 a year.
“But that only skims the surface of your smoking-related costs,” Dr. Kumar says. “Your healthcare costs are substantially increased, and you’re paying more for your life and homeowners, as well as your health insurance. Your laundry and dry cleaning costs will come down when you quit, and you’ll spend less money cleaning and painting the inside of your home.”
Even if you continue to smoke until age 60, studies show, you’ll extend your life by quitting. If you quit by age 50, you’ll reduce your chance of dying prematurely from a smoking-related disease by 50 percent. Quit by age 30, and your reduced risk will be 90 percent.
Dr. Kumar sees patients at the Fond du Lac Regional Clinic in Markesan and Waupun. To learn more, call him at (920) 324-8460.