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Published on November 15, 2022

broken cigarette on wood

Your Lungs Will Thank You: Joining the Great American Smokeout May Help You Quit (For Good)

On the third Thursday of November, thousands of Americans will join forces as they take part in the Great American Smokeout.

Since the national Smokeout began in 1977, many people have been able to quit, getting better health as a return.

You can do it, too. While nicotine is often considered among the most addictive drugs, quitting is possible, and there are a wide range of tools that can help – just ask your family doctor.

Trusted sites including the American Cancer Society, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and South Dakota QuitLine (866-SD-QUITS) also offer helpful resources.

“We all are aware of the fact that smoking has been associated with acute and chronic lung disease, cardiac disease, vascular disease and cancers and especially lung cancer,” said Anthony Hericks, DO, Avera Medical Group pulmonologist. “Yet some people still may not realize that the earlier you quit, the better off you will be.”

Reasons to Quit Tobacco

Quitting is important because:

  • Your blood pressure may improve within a few days and the scarring to arteries and the heart will decrease.
  • Your risk of cardiovascular (heart attack) and vascular (stroke) disease will return to that of someone who never smoked within approximately 10 years of quitting.
  • Your lung function and symptoms of lung disease may improve within a few months.
  • Your risk of cancer (especially the risk of lung cancer) will return to that of someone who never smoked within approximately 15 years of quitting.

    “When you quit, your overall health may dramatically improve over time,” Hericks said. “In the short term, you may initially notice that your cough may worsen, but that's because your lungs are ‘waking up.’”

    Hericks said it’s never too late to quit, as the earlier you quit the less symptoms and risk you will have in the future.

    Second-Hand Smoke Can Also Be Harmful

    While the damage to your tissues decreases after quitting, another key consideration that Hericks mentions is all around you: those you love.

    Kids who see smoking at home are more likely to develop an interest in the bad habit. Hericks said exposure to nicotine can result in a change in their developing brains.

    “In addition to seeing parents and mentors model smoking, the chemical exposure could make it more likely to want to try smoking. That could result in addiction,” he said.

    When you quit, you may also have more time – as well as more energy – for family, he said.

    What Smoking Does to Your Health

    Physically, the smoke from tobacco makes worse a grim laundry list of ailments, including vascular disease and heart conditions; it's known to be the No. 1 cause of lung cancer and cancer-related deaths. It also can increase the risk of other cancers such as breast and bladder cancers. It contributes to cancer-related deaths that surpass both breast and colon cancers combined.

    Researchers including the U.S. Surgeon General realize smoking “… is the leading preventable cause of diseases and deaths in the United States.”

    Each attempt at this important lifestyle change is a good attempt.

    “Even if you’ve tried quitting before, try again. It’s worth it,” Hericks said. Possible smoking cessation aids include gum, patches or lozenges – check with your physician about what’s safe for you. However, vaping is not a safe option for anyone.

    Get Help to Quit

    Try some of these resources if you’re ready to quit but need help.

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