Get Healthy Carson City: Quit (smoking) to be fit

This column appears in the Nevada Appeal Wednesday health pages. It addresses topics related to the health of our community.

Tobacco is the single greatest preventable cause of disease and premature death. Each year, more than 480,000 Americans die from tobacco-related diseases. Yet, 40 million Americans still smoke. The most important thing a smoker can do to improve his or her health is to quit using cigarettes and other forms of tobacco. As we continue to educate the public about the risks associated with tobacco use, we nationally recognize Nov. 15, 2018, as the American Cancer Society’s Great American Smokeout, a day to make the United States smoke free.

We want to encourage tobacco users to use the Great American Smokeout as an opportunity to start a path of healthy living that’s tobacco free by setting Nov. 15, 2018, as your quit date. We don’t want this to be a single day of quitting cold turkey, but rather the beginning to a year round tobacco-free life.

What happens when you quit smoking? In 20 minutes, your blood pressure drops and the temperature of your hands and feet return to normal. After eight hours of quitting, the carbon monoxide level in your blood drops to normal levels; 24 hours later, your chance of a heart attack decreases. In two to three months after quitting, your circulation improves and your lung functions increase by 30 percent. One to nine months after quitting the coughing, sinus congestion, fatigue and shortness of breath decreases. One year after quitting the risk of heart disease is half that of a smoker’s. Five years later, your risk of stroke is reduced to that of a nonsmoker. After 10 years, the lung cancer rate is about half of a smoker’s. The risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, bladder, kidney and pancreas decreases. Finally, after 15 years, the risk of heart disease is that of a nonsmoker’s.

We know quitting is hard as smoking is one of the strongest and most deadly addictions you can have. Quitting is a process that starts with a plan. Quitting also takes time and a lot of support. The use of counseling and medications during the quitting process has shown to have the highest success rates. If you’re looking to quit, talk with your health care provider about medications that might be helpful. This could be over-the-counter nicotine replacement medications or a prescription for medications shown to be effective. Additionally, get the counseling and support you need by calling or going online to the Nevada Tobacco Quitline, 1-800-QUITNOW or Carson Tahoe Health also provides a great resource in their Freedom from Smoking classes. You can find out more at or email at Support from friends and family can make all the difference to someone trying to quit. If you know someone who uses tobacco, encourage them to quit and support them in every step of the way.

Here are some other tips from the American Cancer Society when you’re in the process of quitting:

Spend your free time in places where smoking isn’t allowed;

Take extra care of yourself, drink water, eat well, get enough sleep;

Try to avoid alcohol, coffee, or other drinks that link you to smoking;

If you miss the feeling of holding a cigarette, hold something else like a pencil, paper clip, coin, etc.;

If you miss having something in your mouth, try toothpicks, cinnamon sticks, sugarless gum, sugarless candy or celery;

Avoid temptation by staying away from activities, people or places you link with smoking;

Make a list of important reasons you have decided to quit;

Take deep breaths and relax, picture your lungs filling with clean air;

Remember your goal and the urge to smoke will lessen over time;

Think about how awesome it is you’re quitting and getting healthy. Be patient with yourself. You got this.

For information on quitting smoking, check out our website at or visit us at You also can get more information from the American Cancer Society, American Lung Association and the CDC.


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