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Health Benefits of Quitting Smoking

Updated on March 22, 2010

Undoubtedly you have heard all of the health benefits before, but it is worth reminding yourself of what you are going to gain by giving up smoking.

Health benefits of quitting smoking

Tobacco smoking remains the single leading, preventable cause of premature illness and death in the U.S., accounting for at least 440,000 deaths a year. One in two long-term smokers will die prematurely as a result of smoking - half of these in middle age, and all of these deaths are entirely preventable! Still, nearly 21% of American adults (that's more than 1 in every 5 people) continue to smoke1.

It is estimated that 1 in 4 people will die from cancer each year, and around one-third of all cancer deaths are attributable to smoking. Cigarette smoking is an important cause of cancers of the lung, larynx (voice box), pharynx (throat), bladder, kidney, pancreas, and cervix. In addition, smoking increases the risk of developing other serious health problems including heart disease and chronic lung disease. In fact, in the 2004 Report of the U.S. Surgeon General, the list of diseases caused by smoking has grown so long that it is now reported that smoking causes harm to nearly every organ of the body.

Lung cancer is the cancer most commonly associated with smoking - over 90% of all lung cancer deaths in men and 90% in women are caused by smoking. The risk of dying from lung cancer increases with the number of cigarettes smoked per day, and the number of years as a smoker. However, it's not all bad news... if people who have been smoking stop, even if they have smoked for many years, they avoid most of their subsequent risk of lung cancer. After 10 years the risk of developing many other types of cancer, including mouth, throat, bladder, cervix and pancreas, decreases. And you don't have to wait 10 years to experience the health benefits related to quitting smoking. Just three months after you smoke your last cigarette, your circulation and lung function improve, and coughing and shortness of breath decrease. As little as one year later, your risk of heart disease is half that of a smoker. Also, stopping smoking before middle age abolishes more than 90% of the risk attributable to smoking2.

Smoking cigarettes, pipes and cigars is a risk factor for all cancers associated with the mouth and throat. Over 90% of people with oral cancer use tobacco by either smoking or chewing it. The chances of developing these cancers increases with the number of cigarettes smoked or amount chewed. Those who smoke pipes or cigars experience a risk similar to that of cigarette smokers. People who smoke and drink alcohol have a much higher chance of developing oral and throat cancers than those only using alcohol or tobacco on their own1.

Some useful websites for further information are the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association and Nicotine Anonymous.


  1. American Cancer Society. visited 10 June 2008
  2. "The Health Consequences of Smoking," 2004 Report of the U.S. Surgeon General. Office on Smoking & Health. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.


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