Dr. Nina’s What You Need to Know: About The Numbers Behind Quitting Smoking


The Numbers Behind Quitting Smoking

There are no “ifs, ands, or butts” about it: Smoking is bad. And it’s impossible to put a price tag on the suffering that heart disease, stroke, and cancer can cause to a smoker, their family, and society in general. So it helps to have some objective means to support our decision and maintain our commitment to quit. Like Charles Dickens says “In this life we want nothing but facts, sir, nothing but facts.”

Dr. Nina’s What You Need to Know: About The Numbers Behind Quitting Smoking

What is the cost to our health? For each cigarette a person smokes, it can reduce their lifespan by 11 minutes. After one year of smoking, a pack per day smoker can lose 55 days (almost 2 months). And although time is free, it is also priceless.

What is the cost to our bank account? Imagine having an extra $3,120.75 in your pocket for the holidays. At a cost of $8.55 a pack, this is the annual cost that a one pack per day smoker in New Jersey spends. Over a decade, that cost climbs to $31,207.50. And over 30 years, if you compounded the interest even at just 3%, you would have over $156,000! Talk about our wallets going up in smoke.

What are some indirect costs of smoking? They range from home fresheners ($10/month) to higher dental, health, and life insurance costs. If that’s not enough to get you or someone you love feeling the pinch, how about the fact that a smoker’s car sells for approximately 9% less than a non-smoker’s car? Additionally, homebuyers are also less likely to purchase a house that smells like an ashtray. It may require thousands of dollars for the seller to replace carpets, paint the walls, or deodorize the house to get buyers interested.

How long before I see the benefits of quitting smoking? Not long! And the benefits continue to roll in.
20 minutes: heart rate starts decreasing.
2 hours: heart rate and blood pressure return to near normal levels. Peripheral circulation may also improve with fingertips and toes starting to feel warm. But “smoker beware,” this is around the same time that you may start experiencing intense cravings.
48 hours: our ability to smell and taste start resurfacing. Imagine smelling someone you love or enjoying the aroma of a cup of coffee.
72 hours: nicotine is completely out of our body. But, “smoker beware,” withdrawal symptoms peak and there is a high rate of relapse.
2-3 weeks: you will start breathing easier when performing physical activity. Both lung function and circulation will have improved.
1-9 months: cilia (tiny, hair-like organelles that push mucus out) start functioning properly again. They help move germs out of our body and decrease infections.
12 months: your risk for heart disease decreases by 50 percent.
10 years: your risk of dying from lung cancer drops by 50 percent. Additionally, the risk for developing cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, bladder, kidney, and pancreas also decreases.

What are some tips to getting there?

Don’t wing it. Once you make the decision to quit, create a plan. Know why you are you doing it (money, health, loved ones, all of the above); what resources are at your disposal (there is no need to reinvent the wheel); how you are going to do it (gradually, cold turkey, nicotine patch); and how you will deal with intense cravings. Afterall, as GI Joe says “Knowing is half the battle.”
Commit. Write out your plan and sign it, like a contract. Consider having witnesses so you further cement that commitment. By including your family, friends, and co-workers they can provide support and encouragement.
Get through the cravings. The average, “intense” craving lasts 3 minutes. But 180 seconds can feel like an eternity. Some tips to distract yourself include deep breathing, focusing on a loved one or happy thought, taking a walk, keeping your hands busy (squeeze a ball, play with a paperclip, send an email, call a friend), using an oral substitute (mint, hard candy, celery stick, gum, carrot, sunflower seeds), and drinking water (may decrease the urge).
Spoil yourself. With the $3,120.75 a year that you are saving, splurge a little. Consider getting that cell phone upgrade, taking a trip, buying a new wardrobe, or creating a retirement fund.
Do not give up. If you fail (I hope not), try, try, try again. Literally and figuratively, your life is at stake. Go back to the drawing board and get to the bottom of things. By doing so, you will place yourself in a better position to quit the next time around.

By looking at the facts and crunching the numbers we become better equipped to quit smoking. There should be no “ifs, and, or butts” about that.

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Photograph by K. Cecchini

Notice: This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither Dr. Nina Radcliff or Kimberly Cecchini take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.
Before engaging in any complementary medical technique, including the use of natural or herbal remedies, you should be aware that many of these techniques have not been evaluated in scientific studies. Use of these remedies in connection with over the counter or prescription medications can cause severe adverse reactions. Often, only limited information is available about their safety and effectiveness.