Three new reasons to quit before 2011

Candice Chung
Friday, December 17, 2010
US President Barack Obama has recently gone nine months without touching a cigarette — putting an end to his 30-year smoking habit. Impressed? Here are three new reasons to quit before the New Year. Go on — yes, you can!

1. Protect your loved ones
A little second-hand smoke never hurt anyone, right? Well, not quite. A new US study has shown that even passive smoking can be fatal for someone with a pre-existing heart condition.

The latest surgeon's general report found that toxins in tobacco smoke can start to cause cellular damage immediately — whether you are inhaling it directly or breathing in someone else's fumes.

"It's true that 'every cigarette does you damage'," says Professor Ian Olver, CEO of Cancer Council Australia , "For example, the cilia (little hairs) that clear the lungs of debris tend to get paralysed pretty early on. And [as the study finds], vasculature (blood vessels), which is more reactive to things like nicotine, would tend to react immediately as well."

What's more, scientists have found that chemicals in tobacco smoke can act as a thickener once they enter the bloodstream, causing deadly clots to form for those with already narrowed arteries. This means even the occasional cigarette can trigger a heart attack — not to mention putting friends and family at risk each time you light up around them.

VIEW GALLERY: How did these celebs quit?

2. It'll make you happier
It's official — quitting puts you in a better mood. Researchers from Brown University found that smokers who managed to abstain during a clinical trial showed lower signs of depression, compared to their counterparts.

The study tracked the emotional state of 236 male and female "heavy social drinkers" who attempted to give up smoking over a period of 26 weeks. Surprisingly, participants who quit entirely had the lowest levels of depressive symptoms throughout the study, while those who stopped and resumed smoking again were happiest during periods of abstinence.

"Nicotine addiction causes a deficiency in serotonin (a feel-good hormone) that reduces stress," says Kellee Waters , psychologist and fitness coach at Fit Minds and Bodies. Waters believes smokers who quit will experience a surge in serotonin levels, which, combined with a sense of personal achievement, would provide a feeling of increased happiness.

3. Your wallet will thank you
Many smokers have been feeling the pinch since the Government's 25 percent tax hike earlier this year. While some have turned to battery-powered "e-cigarettes" as a cheaper alternative, health groups are questioning their safety and have recently called for a full investigation into their possible health risks.

The good news is, for potential 'quitters' who are having a hard time managing their cravings, the government has just announced that nicotine patches will be funded under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) from February next year . This will give concession card holders a chance to kick their habit affordably — potentially helping an extra 70,000 Australians to quit.

For those who are keen to try giving up 'cold turkey' this holiday season, Professor Olver believes persistence is the key. "Don't be put off if you tried and failed. Just try again — sometimes people get stressed and reach for a cigarette, but that doesn't unravel the whole process."

And if you are a packet-a-day smoker, this could mean a saving of over $6000 by this time next year. It's not a bad Christmas present to yourself, really.

Have your say below: will you quit in 2011?

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