Smoking is the kind of habit that few pick up in hopes of it becoming a lasting addiction. Whether an individual starts smoking to impress friends or as temporary form of stress relief, it always seems like an easy thing to start before it takes over in a far more lasting role.
According to the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), which classifies smoking cigarettes as a mental illness, nearly one in every four young adults who tries cigarettes at least three to four times becomes addicted that quickly. For those who smoke up to 10 cigarettes, the chance of already being addicted rises to 44 percent.
Cigarettes and smoking are far from the only addictive habit that individuals form. Everything from coffee to Diet Coke, sugar to television, can become addictive before you even know it.
While every addictive activity has at least some detrimental value, though, cigarettes are among the most dangerous of all. That’s why so much effort is thrown into helping people quit—and given the list of benefits proven from quitting, it’s not hard to see why so many are turning away from the once-popular vice.
1. Increases Your Life Expectancy
According to the NIDA, regular smoking typically decreases the life expectancy of an adult male by an average of 13 years—and for women, it’s even worse. The average woman who regularly lights up is expected to cut her life span by 14 years, making for a significant loss of life purely from cigarettes.
The damage done to your lungs when you smoke can never be fully reversed, but the good news is that your life expectancy starts to go back up the minute you toss the lighters in the trash. With the prospect of adding more than another decade on to your life, it’s hard not to see why people are tempted by the thought of finally cashing in on the nicotine cravings and quitting for good.
2. It Can Improve Pregnancy Odds
One of the most heartbreaking experiences for a hopeful couple is the inability to conceive.
While many think of cigarette risks in the form of heart and lung disease, though, a little-known side effect of smoking is infertility. According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, both men and women can suffer from fertility issues when they smoke on a regular basis.
As soon as you decide to quit smoking, you increase your odds—not just of being able to conceive, but of being able to carry out a healthy pregnancy to term. The longer you go without smoking, the lower your risk of delivering prematurely or delivering an infant with a low birth rate becomes. Given the significant links between low birth rate and increased health problems later in life, this not only benefits parents—it benefits their children, as well.
It’s always beneficial to quit smoking as soon as possible, because the infertility effects for women are irreversible in some instances. While a lower sperm count for men who smoke is something that doesn’t put an expiry date on when they can have children, smoking has been known to speed up the rate of egg loss—which cannot be reversed.
It’s important to note, of course, that all of these side effects can come from secondhand smoke, as well. So even if you want to keep smoking, your partner will benefit from you quitting no matter what.
3. Improved Sense of Taste and Smell
According to most doctors, it can take quite a while to fully regain your sense of taste or smell after smoking cigarettes regularly. The “rule of thumb” is that it can take the same number of years after you quit smoking for your sense of smell to completely return to normal—so if you’ve been a lifelong smoker, it may take quite a bit to get back to normal.
Luckily, the improvements start to happen overnight—literally. The generally reported timeline for sense of smell to start improving is within days of your last cigarette.
The irritability from nicotine withdrawal can make those first few days after quitting seem a bit bleak. Knowing that you’ll be able to smell cookies baking and a great new candle within days, though, can be a great motivator; while nicotine is heavily addictive, it can be easy to miss the senses that smoking diminishes.
4. Decreases Risk of Cancer for You and Your Family
One of the biggest killers of smokers is lung cancer, which has been directly linked with cigarettes by the CDC. It is estimated that smokers are 15 to 30 times more likely to die of lung cancer than non-smokers, meaning that you quite literally have the ability to potentially save your own life by putting the cigarettes down.
Thanks to what we know about secondhand smoking as well, the benefit isn’t just for you as the smoker. Every passing day that a parent or other relative quits smoking increases the odds for a cancer-free life in the children or other family members in a household—so even if your kids don’t smoke to begin with, you increase their odds of survival by quitting yourself.
5. Your Appearance Starts to Improve
Solely quitting smoking for vanity reasons may sound a little selfish, but there’s definitely some truth to the idea that smokers have trouble maintaining their appearance the way that non-smokers do. The toxins and chemicals in cigarettes discolor the skin on your face and fingers, your teeth become yellow and damaged, your hair starts to thin and become brittle, and your eyes can become cloudy and yellowed.
A regular smoker causes their body plenty of internal strife, but the strain they put on their physical appearance is just as much of a concern. The moment you quit smoking, your skin begins to clear up—not just because of a better face wash or product, but because the toxic materials in cigarettes can wreak havoc on your body and your outward appearance.
Like with your sense of taste and smell, it can take a while for your physical appearance to fully improve when you quit smoking. The thought of losing weight—which is just as likely as the the fear that quitting will pack on the pounds—and being able to display clear, vibrant skin and white teeth is hard to turn away from.
And knowing that your quitting can help clear up the skin of your loved ones, too? That’s a tough thing to turn away from.