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Even just 20 minutes after stopping, you may start to notice benefits, such as your blood pressure and pulse rates normalising. People who choose to quit continue to experience the benefits over time – even after just 48 hours, the nicotine is no longer in your body and your sense of taste should improve. In terms of your health, your circulation will improve after quitting, as will your lung function. Within a period of 5 years, your risk of having a heart attack will fall to around half of that of a current smoker. Smoking is the largest cause of preventable deaths in England – estimated to be around 80,000 a year. After the smoking ban, 1 in 5 people in the UK still smoke, meaning it is an enormous health issue facing the country.

Quitting smoking for your health, your family and your finances

The health effects are generally well known, causing circulation problems, damage to vital organs and fertility problems. Perhaps it is lesser known that smoking also causes bones to become weaker and brittle, which is especially problematic for mature women. However, it also has an effect on our appearance, ageing our skin prematurely by between ten and twenty years. Smoking obstructs the flow of oxygen to your skin, which can lead to a dull, grey appearance, as well as a sallow complexion. Toxins that smoking introduces to your body also cause cellulite. 

Because more than 80% of secondhand smoke is invisible, it is difficult to visualise the harm you may be doing by smoking around your family and friends. Children are particularly at risk, both in terms of breathing problems in childhood and increased lung cancer risk in later life, as well as other health problems. It has been estimated that around three quarters of children worry their mum or dad will die because they smoke, indicating that a family member smoking can also be an emotional and psychological burden on those around you. This fascinating document published by ASH explores how smokers feel about regret, their health, their addiction and the relationship between tobacco companies and smokers. By entering your postcode into this webpage, you can find out where to access free local support near you. Your adviser can help you stay motivated by measuring how the levels of carbon monoxide in your body drop even within 24 hours of stopping smoking. 

Another reason to quit is the financial burden that smoking places on you. You can use the NHS Cost Calculator to estimate how much money you would save if you quit now. This is also available as an app, so you can access support and encouragement whilst on the move.

You can also access information online to help you decide which medication to help you quit may be right for you. Whilst nicotine replacement therapy cannot be seen as a magic cure and does not replace willpower, it can double the success rate compared with willpower alone. Prescription treatments for stopping are also available through our online doctor service.

Cancer and smoking

Cancer Research UK has published some facts and evidence about smoking and cancer, indicating that tobacco is the largest avoidable cause of cancer in the whole world. Whilst it does not cause only cancer, tobacco caused one death every six seconds due to cancer and other smoking-related diseases in 2004 across the whole world. Many studies have also indicated that stopping smoking can greatly reduce the risk of developing a smoking-related cancer. There is also evidence that passive smoking exposes people to cancer-causing chemicals.

Where to find support

As well as researching medication options that may help you stop smoking and using the services available to you both online and locally, it is important to make changes to your everyday life to help yourself quit. This may include increasing your exercise, drinking more water, altering your diet and reminding yourself why you are quitting. When quitting smoking it is also key to keep in mind the benefits to your health which come with quitting – whether this is a boost to your immune system and fewer colds, protecting your family from passive smoke, slowing the ageing to your skin caused by smoking or even improving your fertility.

The NHS has also published many videos of success stories by ex-smokers who have successfully quit, which may be motivating and inspiring for you if you are thinking of quitting. 

If you need to talk to someone for advice, the NHS Smoking helpline is open from 7 am to 11 pm every day – just call 0800 169 0 169. 

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