We see it every night on TV, in newspapers, on billboards – the graphic pictures of someone coughing up blood, the whistling airways as a young person is diagnosed with lung cancer, the blackened lips, teeth and tongue from mouth cancer….
The images are so graphic, many smokers no doubt flick over the channel, close the newspaper or simply have another cigarette thinking, ‘it won’t happen to me’. Such is the power of the nicotine drug over us until the reasons not to smoke outnumber the reasons to smoke, or we get sick and can’t shake a cough, or our kids beg us to ‘give up’….
It’s at this crossroads that we start to think seriously about staying off the smokes and, if we’ve got any sense, we’ll build on that intention until we make a decision to become a non-smoker.
Once we have our last cigarette we instantly become a non-smoker and it feels good. Not just mentally, to know that you’re not a slave to nicotine and to know that somewhere between two weeks and three months your lung function will increase by up to 30%, but physically as well.
Very definite physical improvement begins almost immediately after we butt out – actually 20 minutes after we become a non-smoker when our blood pressure and heart rate go back to normal. Other positive physical benefits, according to the Australian Government’s Quit Now website, are that after 24 hours carbon monoxide levels have dropped dramatically and, after five days, your sense of taste and smell are improving.
At around six weeks your risk of wound infection after surgery is reduced and at around three months the cilia in your lungs, which are responsible for protecting them from germs, begin to recover and your overall lung function improves.
At one year the risk of coronary heart disease is half that of someone who smokes and at five years the risks of cancer of the mouth, throat and oesophagus is halved. At 10 years the risk of lung cancer is half that of a continuing smoker and continues to decline.
The really good news is that, generally speaking, nicotine will leave the body within 3-4 days and the first 24-48 hours of giving up smoking is generally the worst. It gets infinitely better after that.
During those first few days it’s common to feel on edge and more short-tempered than usual. In those days and weeks you might notice that you:
- Cough more as your lungs get rid of the mucus and tar cigarette smoking has caused
- Have difficulty concentrating or are restless
- Have trouble sleeping
- Feel hungrier than usual
- Crave tobacco
- Feel irritable or anxious.
All these symptoms and feelings are normal as your body rids itself of its nicotine dependency, however they will gradually decline in intensity and the worst is usually over after a couple of weeks.
Since smoking very obviously takes its toll physically, there’s plenty of good news in giving up as your body begins to return to normal. If you’re currently about to, or have quit smoking, stick with it and stay positive. Once you butt out, tell yourself often you are now a non-smoker. And remember there are plenty of free services out there to help you stop smoking. You can start by giving the Quitline a call on 131 848 or 137 848.