Thinking about quitting smoking? Here is how your body will thank you.
After one month
Your first month without cigarettes might be the hardest, but your health will immediately start to improve. "For any smoker, the best thing they can do for their health is quit smoking," says Fiona Sharkie, executive director of Quit Victoria.
Within one day of quitting, your body's levels of carbon monoxide will have dropped so you can breathe more easily. After five days, the last traces of nicotine will have left your body.
Then it's a matter of breaking the smoking association with things like drinks with friends or stress at work. "It's recognising those triggers and saying, 'When I feel that trigger, I'm going to do something differently'," Sharkie explains.
By the end of the first month, your immune system and senses of taste and smell will have improved.
After three months
By the time you've been cigarette-free for three months, you'll be coughing and wheezing less and blood will flow more easily to your toes and fingers. Cuts and bruises will also heal more easily.
"Even people with advanced disease from smoking will have better treatment outcomes if they quit," Sharkie points out. "Never think that it's too late."
After one year
You can celebrate one year without cigarettes knowing your risk of coronary disease is halved, compared to continuing smokers, and that your blood pressure has returned to normal.
Even if you've tried to quit and failed, Sharkie says it's worth trying again. "More than half of smokers have tried to quit more than once," she says. "Every time you fail, you learn something from what you did. It's the old adage if at first you don't succeed, try again… because you will quit."
Getting to the 12-month milestone can be a daunting prospect, so Sharkie suggests taking it one step at a time. "People who smoke sometimes can't think beyond a day without a cigarette," she says. "It's small steps and one of the things Quitline [counsellors] say is, 'Why don't you just try until lunchtime?' It's amazing how empowered people can feel that they managed to beat that."
After 10 years
By the time you've been a non-smoker for a decade, your risk of lung cancer is half that of a continuing smoker.
After 15 years
Once you've clocked 15 years smoke-free, your risk of coronary disease and stroke is similar to that of a non-smoker. And, chances are, you'll say quitting wasn't as hard as you thought it would be. "We have researched smokers and asked them how difficult they think it will be to quit and two thirds will say it will be very difficult to quit," Sharkie says. "And then we asked quitters how difficult was it to quit and the majority say, 'Not that hard'. So you anticipate it is going to be much worse."
For more information about the health improvements of quitting go to www.quitnow.gov.au or www.quit.org.au