Today is the Great American Smokeout, a day that encourages people to quit smoking—even if just for one day, it is a great first step to get healthier.
Most people know the risks of smoking, and probably don’t need us to give them to you. However, the reality is, you need a reason that motivates you to choose to quit smoking!
- Within twenty minutes of your last cigarette, your heart rate and blood pressure will decrease, important for cardiovascular health. That was fast! 
- Within the first year after quitting smoking, your lung function increases, and circulation improves—again, helping your cardiovascular health. Soon, you’ll be able to breathe better as chemicals trapped inside your lungs and mucus clear the lungs. Clearer lungs mean not just easier breathing but also less chance of infections.  By one year out, your heart attack risk will have dropped by half compared to someone who has not quit smoking!
- Within five to ten years of quitting, your risk of many cancers connected to smoking will drop. Within 2-5 years your stroke risk will drop to that of a non-smoker. 
- Fifteen years after your last cigarette your risk of heart disease returns to that of a non-smoker.  Your risk of type 2 diabetes decreases, too.
- Your life expectancy can increase by ten years. 
- You’ll look better. Smoking causes premature wrinkling of the skin, gum disease (and tooth loss!), and yellowing of the teeth and fingernails (not to mention the paint in your house!) 
- You’ll smell better. Beyond that you won’t smell like a smoker anymore (unless you’re still hanging out with them in closed spaces), your sense of smell (and taste!) will improve after quitting smoking. 
- You’ll have more energy. Because your body—your lungs and cardiovascular system—will be working more efficiently you’ll have more energy.
- You’ll have more money. Since you’ll have more energy, and more money from not smoking, you might as well go shopping!
On average, a pack of cigarettes in the United States costs about $5.50.  The average American smoker consumes about 19 cigarettes per day —a pack of cigarettes in the US must contain at least 20 cigarettes.  Even if you add up all those stray extra cigarettes into “packs”, you’re still buying a rounded average of 347 packs a year.
That’s $1908.50. On average, in some states it could be much higher. Time for a vacation!
- You don’t have to worry about where you are. Once you’ve saved nearly $2K for that vacation, you’ll be easily able to sit through the flight to get there, without having to worry if that federal law prohibiting tampering with the airplane bathroom smoke detectors will be applied to you.
- You’ll be able to enjoy the indoors more. I’ve never been a smoker, but I think I realized how addictive smoking is, when I started notice people having to go outside in the blowing snow at -40 degrees to smoke.
- Take back your brain! All that time your brain is craving nicotine and thinking about how to get its next hit? That time is yours. You could probably write a series of novels with all that clarity!
- Protect those around you. Decrease your baby’s risk of being born at a low birth weight or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, and your child’s risk of developing asthma. Children who live in a house with a smoker also are more prone to infections including colds, bronchitis, ear infections and lung problems. And that’s not to mention eye irritation, headaches, nausea, and dizziness that can affect all members of the household. 
- Reduce your risk of a second cancer diagnosis or second heart attack. If you quit smoking after a heart attack, or cancer diagnosis, you’ll reduce your risk of a second diagnosis. 
- Reduce the likelihood your children will start smoking.  “Monkey see, monkey do”. You want to protect your children, even from the mistakes you think you have made. Quitting shows children that you are in control, and that they can be, too.
Make a pledge for the Great American Smokeout to prioritize quitting. Your lungs and heart and wallet and friends and family and skin and tastebuds and SO MUCH MORE will thank you! Reward yourself for progress made, and check out QuitNow or another smoking cessation help website for more information. If you are struggling, speak with your doctor or pharmacist about medicines that may help.
If you are a friend or family trying to encourage someone to quit smoking, here are some Do’s and Dont’s from the American Cancer Society. This resource also provides tips for friends and family who are still smokers in helping someone quit—even if you’re not ready yet.