It is never too late to quit smoking

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No matter how long you have been smoking – even if you have been a chain smoker puffing up cigarettes one after the other – no matter how old you are, quitting smoking even now would do you immense good, right from the word go. People breathe more easily and cough less when they give up smoking because their lung capacity improves by up to 10% within 9 months. The effect of smoking on one’s lung capacity may not be noticeable in 20s and 30s, until one goes for a run, but lung capacity naturally diminishes with age. In later years, having maximum lung capacity can mean the difference between having an active, healthy old age and wheezing when one would go for a walk or climb the stairs. Within 2 to 12 weeks of stopping smoking, one’s blood circulation improves. This makes all physical activity, including walking and running, much easier. One’s immune system also gets a boost making it easier to fight off cold and flu and of course the prevailing pandemic. The resultant increase in oxygen level in the body can also reduce tiredness and the likelihood of headaches.

The withdrawal from nicotine between cigarettes can heighten feelings of stress. As the stress of withdrawal feels the same as other forms of stress, even normal stress is likely to be confused with nicotine withdrawal; it is quite likely that it would seem like smoking is reducing other stresses. But this is not the case. In fact, scientific studies show people’s stress levels are lower after they stop smoking. If one is prone to stress, replacing smoking with a healthier, better way of dealing with stress can give him/her some real benefits.

Stopping smoking improves the body’s blood flow and so improves sensitivity. There is scientific evidence that non-smokers are 3 times more appealing to prospective partners than smokers. Non-smokers find it easier to get pregnant. Quitting smoking improves the lining of the womb and can make men’s sperm more potent. Becoming a non-smoker also increases the possibility of conceiving through IVF and reduces the likelihood of having a miscarriage. Most importantly, it improves the chances of giving birth to a healthy baby. In children exposed to smoking atmosphere, it reduces the risk of getting chest illnesses by 50% including pneumonia, ear infections, wheezing and asthma.

Our senses of smell and taste also get a boost the moment we stop smoking. It has been noticed that food tastes and smells different as one’s mouth and nose recover from being dulled by the hundreds of toxic chemicals found in cigarettes. Stopping smoking has been found to slow facial ageing and delay the appearance of wrinkles. The skin of a non-smoker gets more nutrients, including oxygen, and stopping smoking can reverse the sallow, lined complexion smokers often have.

Giving up tobacco banishes bad breath and stops teeth becoming stained. One can for a change have the feel of a fresher breath. Ex-smokers are also less likely than smokers to get gum disease and premature loss of their teeth.

Half of all long-term smokers reportedly die early from smoking-related diseases, including heart disease, several kinds of cancer with more prominently lung cancer and chronic bronchitis. People who quit smoking by the age of 30 add 10 years to their life and those who kick the habit at 60 add 3 years to their life.

The ancillary benefits of stopping smoking are that one protects the health of one’s non-smoking friends and family, too inasmuch as breathing in secondhand smoke increases the risk of heart disease lung cancer and chronic bronchitis, as in the case of the smoker as stated earlier. The children living with smokers have 3 times the risk of getting lung cancer in later life compared with children who live with non-smokers.

Apart from these benefits, one can save a lot of money which one burns daily, hour after hour or intermittently and use it for one’s own and one’s family’s other needs. One can save one’s kith and kin from being reduced to penury that they are most likely to be reduced to should the smoker catch the most likely yet dreaded disease of cancer or other ailments.

With so many tangible benefits assured, only a fool would still stick to smoking as someone defined the cigarette as a stick with fire on the one end and a fool at the other end.

It is really sad to learn that sales of cigarettes are up significantly in the developing world; India, China and Russia being major markets. As against this, smoking rates have fallen perceptibly in the last few decades in countries such as the US and Canada. As incomes rise in India, men switch from smoking bidis to cigarettes to mark their entry to a more affluent lifestyle. Surprisingly, young women too have taken to smoking, apparently out of the false sense of appearing macho or proving themselves equal to men. They get lured to believe that smoking a cigarette signals their acceptance on equal terms at the work place.

The fashionable puffs that they seemingly enjoy in their younger years, however, cost them dearer than the men-folk as they have to undergo motherhood and directly involve the lives of their offspring even before they are conceived. They have a greater stake in quitting. Quit now, or repent at leisure.

Bhushan Lal Razdan, formerly of the Indian Revenue Service, retired as Director General of Income Tax (Investigation), Chandigarh.