Screen Shot 2013-11-21 at 10.31.00 AMToday is the Great American Smokeout. A national day for quitting for all ages. Of course quitting smoking, even for a day, is an awesome step forward for health. Clearly finger-wagging and guilt-tripping really don’t help smokers quit. I remember as a child lying on the floor when around a family member who was smoking saying, “Smoke rises….I’ll stay down here.”  Fairly ineffective, I’m certain. Anecdotally, the family member is still a smoker. Nicotine is really addictive.

Cigarette smoking remains the number one cause of preventable death and premature birth in this country. And the risk of cigarette-related health problems start with the very first cigarette. That being said, recently I was talking with a colleague about her exposure to second-hand smoke as a child. She was joking that it was either all the diet soda she was drinking or her exposures to her parents’ smoking in the car that would kill her.

I got to tell her the great news. Health benefits for smokers who quit start almost immediately. Don’t underestimate the joy children exposed to second-hand smoke get when the air clears…

Benefits Of Quitting:

Health benefits to a smoker and their family start immediately. Not just the cosmetic benefits (smoking is kind of ugly) and olfactory ones (smoking stinks). Within 20 minutes of quitting heart rate and blood pressure drop. In the first day after quitting a smoker’s carbon monoxide level in blood returns to normal and within weeks to months their lung function improves. For smokers it only takes a few months for coughing and shortness of breath to improve as well. There is great reward if smokers can get support to decrease their craving and addiction to nicotine to succeed in quitting. Other astounding benefits from American Cancer Society:

  • 1 Year After Quitting: the risk of heart disease is ½ that of someone who keeps on smoking.
  • 5 Years After Quitting: risks of cancer of mouth, throat, esophagus, and bladder are ½ of what they were while smoking. For smokers of any age, stroke risk can fall to that of a non-smoker after only 2-5 years!
  • 10 Years Out: the risk of dying from lung cancer is ½ that of someone still smoking.
  • 15 Years Out: the risk of heart disease for smokers who have quit is that of a non-smoker’s ! Seriously rewarding especially as heart disease remains the number one killer for both men and women in America.

If you or someone you know if thinking of quitting, I suggest framing the opportunity positively. Even posting one of the above factoids on your Facebook page today may help encourage a smoker to seek support. Secondhand smoke can also be a huge motivator:

Secondhand Smoke & Children

  • Smoking while pregnant increases the risk of SIDS for babies. Infants who live in homes with smokers also have higher rates of SIDS.
  • Children exposed to secondhand smoke are at a disadvantage. Studies show that older children whose parents smoke get sick more often when they are young. Children’s lungs grow less than children who do not breathe secondhand smoke and they suffer more from bronchitis and pneumonia.
  • Wheezing and coughing are more common in children who breathe secondhand smoke.
  • Like other fumes, secondhand smoke can trigger an asthma attack in a child. Children with asthma who are around secondhand smoke have more frequent and more severe asthma attacks. A severe asthma attack can put a child’s life in danger necessitating an ER visit or hospital stay.
  • Not just the lungs! Children whose parents smoke around them get more ear infections. They also have fluid in their ears more often and have more operations to put in ear tubes for drainage.

 Tips For Smokers With Children from The CDC:

  • Babies lungs are more fragile and developing: do not allow anyone to smoke near your child, especially your infant.
  • In The Car: Do not smoke or allow others to smoke in your home or car. Opening a window does not protect your children from smoke.
  • At school: Use a smoke-free day care center.
  • Inside: Do not take your child to restaurants or other indoor public places that allow smoking. This is easier and easier as states adopt indoor smoking laws.
  • Out & About: Teach children to stay away from secondhand smoke. 

Support and “quit resources” for those interested in quitting. 7 things to do other than smoke.