WEDNESDAY, Nov. 19, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- Thursday is the day that smokers across the United States will be asked to butt out.
The American Cancer Society (ACS) is urging millions of smokers to take part in the 27th Great American Smokeout by going without their cigarettes for the day. Last year, more than 8.8 million smokers marked the day by smoking less or not at all.
If you plan to participate, the ACS offers some advice on how to get through this special day, or any other day, without cigarettes:
- Smoking urges are the most severe in the first two weeks after quitting. After that, those urges are more likely to occur in situations formerly associated with smoking. For example, after dinner or in the car.
- These smoking urges last a few minutes at most. Practice the 4 Ds: Deep breaths; Do something else to get your mind off the craving -- call a friend, go for a walk, chew on a carrot stick; Drink lots of water throughout the day, especially during a craving; Delay reaching for a cigarette, the urge will pass.
- Avoid situations that encourage smoking. If you can't do that, tell people you've just quit or that you're a nonsmoker.
- Change your routines. For example, if you usually had a cigarette with coffee, switch to tea or juice.
- Use the many smoking cessation aids that are available, such as over-the-counter nicotine patches and gum or prescription nicotine nasal spray. There are toll-free help lines and online support groups for people trying to quit smoking.
- Many smokers have to try several methods before they succeed in quitting. Keep trying until you find the method that works for you.
If you can resist the urge to smoke, you'll immediately begin to experience health benefits.
The longer you're smoke-free, the more healthy changes you'll notice:
- Within the first 20 minutes of quitting, your blood pressure will drop, increased circulation will warm your hands and feet, and your heart rate will go down.
- In eight hours, the carbon monoxide levels in your blood will drop to normal and the oxygen levels in your blood will climb to normal.
- In 24 hours, your risk of having a heart attack begins to drop, and in 48 hours, your ability to taste and smell improve.
- Two to three weeks after quitting, you'll have better blood circulation and your lung function will increase by as much as 30 percent.
- One to nine months after quitting, you'll notice a decrease in coughing, chronic fatigue, sinus congestion and shortness of breath. The cilia in your lungs regain normal function, reducing infection.
- A year after quitting, the excess risk of heart attack and death from heart disease is cut in half. Five to 15 years after quitting, the risk of stroke is nearly that of people who've never smoked.
If that isn't enough to convince you, here are some other benefits of quitting. Your clothes won't smell like smoke. You'll save a lot of money. There are also savings in health costs. Smokers who quit by age 50 cut their risk of death in half compared to those who continue to smoke.
Here's where you can learn more about quitting smoking.