What happens when you quit smoking? (Hint: Short-term agony, long-term joy)

  • Rose Kennedy
  • For the AJC
2:44 p.m Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017 Atlanta health, diet and fitness news

The effects of nicotine withdrawal, like sweating, tingling and nausea, are a quick-developing and well-publicized symptoms of what happens when a person quits smoking cigarettes. But they are only a very small part of the picture. 

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Other symptoms that occur when you quit smoking are reportedly positive, including the reversal of many of the deadly long- and short-term health risks of using tobacco. The changes start right away when you quit smoking, and continue for literally years and even decades, according to the World Health Organization's Tobacco Free Initiative.

What happens when you quit smoking

Throughout the passage of time, quitting smoking also makes good things happen for other people. Quitting reduces the excess risk of many diseases for children who are exposed to second-hand smoke, including asthma and ear infections.

And for those who wish to have children, quitting smoking really increases the odds of having a family. When men quit, they reduce their chances of impotence; and when women quit, they significantly reduce the odds of having difficulty getting pregnant, cut their chances of miscarriage and decrease the likelihood of giving birth prematurely or having a baby with low birth weight.

It's never too late

While 15 years after you quit smoking may seem like a long time before your typical risk of heart disease is restored, you are never too old to benefit from quitting.

According to the WHO, people of any age can still reap gains in life expectancy:

The WHO also points out one key "rapid benefit" for those who quit smoking. Smokers who quit after they have a heart attack reduce their odds of having a second heart attack by half.

Need more reasons to quit smoking?

If the short-term withdrawal symptoms make quitting smoking seem agonizing, consider the pitfalls and pain of the eventual health consequences. Chronic illness and life-threatening conditions are undisputed consequences of smoking tobacco. 

According to a 2014 report from the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion shared by the CDC, these are the proven risks:

Quitting time

Any time youchoose to quit, the American Lung Association offers candid advice in its "8 tips to quit smoking for good in 2017," including: