Why You Should Quit

By Village on a Diet expert, Dr. Ali Zentner

I know it feels like I talk about smoking too much.

I know all we hear is the gloom and doom associated with cigarettes. We've made it difficult for smokers to engage in nicotine abuse.

We've hidden cigarettes out of plain site in any convenience store or supermarket.

We've made smokers huddle  "out in the cold" just to have a cigarette.

To some this seems unfair.

In fact I get emails regularly from smokers criticizing me for not giving smokers "equal rights" to engage in a behaviour that will kill one in three of them. Furthermore, overwhelming evidence shows that second hand smoke kills those around them.

Should I indeed "mind my own business?"

Hell no.

But here's the thing, I thought I might, in the spirit of my ever-growing optimism, try a different approach.

Let's not look at WHY one should quit, rather, what would happen if as a community we talked about what happens WHEN you quit.

I'm all about a schedule. I love to plan. In fact, as human beings there is some really interesting evidence that shows the anticipation of joyful events offers as much enjoyment as experiencing those events themselves.

I think back to major events in my own life; milestone birthdays, my wedding, amazing holidays, family dinners. My anticipation of those events and the planning for them offered me as much joy as the actual parties or trips.

So here's what happens when you quit smoking:

  • Day 1: Within eight hours of your last cigarette, carbon monoxide levels drop in the blood and your body's oxygen levels return to normal. Think of this as your body taking its first real deep breath.
  • Day 2: Within two days of your last cigarette, blood vessels relax. Taste and smell dramatically improve and a person's risk of a heart attack drops by 10 per cent.
  • Day 3: Within 72 hours of quitting, bronchial tubes relax and lung capacity improves by 10 per cent.
  • Day 14: Between two weeks and three months of quitting, lung function improves by as much as 30 per cent. Circulation improves and blood pressure can drop to as much as 5/3 mmHG.
  • 1 Year: Within a year of being smoke free, a person risk of heart attack drops by 50 per cent.
  • 3 Years: Within three years of being smoke free, risk of cardiovascular disease in women drops to that of a nonsmoker.
  • 10 Years:  The risk of dying from lung cancer drops to half that of a smoker.
  • 15 Years: The risk of dying of a heart attack drops to that of a person who has been a lifelong nonsmoker.
Maybe this is what it's about. Looking ahead and seeing yourself as a nonsmoker and understanding what your body will do every day after you quit smoking.

I quit smoking July 1, 1997. Make no mistake. It was hell.

But I was starting my residency and decided that now that I had my medical degree, I really had to quit. It was just plain bad for me as a doctor to smoker. So driving across Canada from medical school in Hamilton to my residency in Calgary I smoked my last cigarettes.

I smoked across the prairies and the Rockies and 35 km outside of Calgary on the TransCanada highway; I threw my last pack away at a gas station and tried not to look back.

It was awful. But now almost 14 years later, I know it was the best thing I ever did.

I figure I've saved myself a good degree of lung function and turned my heart risk around. If the average smoker spends almost $45 per week on cigarettes, I've also saved myself more than $40,000. Not a bad way to spend a decade.

So, ever a fan of hope and renewal, it's time to look ahead and see what the possibilities are.

I always tell my smoking patients to 'keep quitting.'  We should never give up on a chance for better health and a better future.

As far as looking into that future, When it comes to being smoke free, it is amazing to see what a difference a day makes. 

Have you successfully quit smoking? Tell us about it below!

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Submission Policy

Note: The CBC does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comments, you acknowledge that CBC has the right to reproduce, broadcast and publicize those comments or any part thereof in any manner whatsoever. Please note that comments are moderated and published according to our submission guidelines.