The positive impact of quitting smoking is something I touched on in a personal finance piece in our latest issue, but it’s worth highlighting once more in the context of research which shows that four in five people who smoke intend to quit.
According to the HSE, one in five said they would quit for 28 days after seeing the Quit campaign, 79% who smoke intend to quit, and people who follow this goal and quit smoking for 28 days are five times more likely to quit for good.
Not that it doesn’t take a substantial effort – as Martina Blake, National Lead, HSE Tobacco Free Ireland Programme said, “Most people who smoke want to quit but for many, the idea of quitting can seem impossible. We know, however, that smoking isn’t just an unhealthy habit that you need to break. There are the physical cravings for nicotine, the psychological dependence and the emotional dependence, which all need to be worked on when quitting.”
She added that “We asked people how COVID-19 had affected their smoking behaviour this year. While many reported having quit smoking, 5% told us that they had started smoking again due to COVID-19. This has been a difficult year for all of us and it is not surprising that some people have used smoking as a way of managing stress or boredom. We want to let people know that the Quit service can help you plan for quitting and ways you can cope with difficult periods in your life without smoking. If you have quit before, you know that you can do it again. Getting the right help will make all the difference.”
One in every two smokers will die from a tobacco-related disease, and every cigarette you smoke takes five-and-a-half minutes off your life. In Ireland, smoking is the leading cause of avoidable death – nearly 6,000 people die here each year from the effects of smoking and thousands of others suffer from smoking-related diseases.
But when you quit, the health benefits begin right away. After 20 minutes your circulation will improve and your blood pressure and heart rate will lower (this immediately reduces your risk of a heart attack). After 48 hours the nicotine and carbon monoxide have left your body and your sense of smell and taste will start to improve, after 72 hours your breathing will improve and your energy levels will increase, and after two to three months your lung capacity could increase by up to 30%.
One year after quitting, your chance of having a heart attack drops by half and after five years the risk of smoking-related cancers is greatly reduced. After ten years the risk of lung cancer is reduced by half and, after 15, the risk of having a heart attack is the same as a non-smoker.
The HSE’s Quit service is on-hand to provide lots of practical, personalised support to help you stop smoking for 28 days and beyond. There are many different ways to get help to quit from the Quit service, such as a free Quit Kit to help you prepare, the Freephone Quitline (1800 201 203), live chat with a Stop Smoking Advisor on Quit.ie, weekly phone support for the first six weeks from a Stop Smoking Advisor, advice on nicotine replacement therapy and stop smoking medication, and an online personalised Quit plan where you can track your progress.
“The HSE Quit Service is here to help by providing the tools and supports to make it possible,” said Ms Blake. “This practical support and resources give the best chance of making it to Day 28 and once you reach that, you are well on the way to long-term success and the benefits of a smoke-free life.”