Quitting Smoking Brings Quick Health Benefits

(February 17, 2012)

Did you know that quitting smoking can show health benefits in as little as a few weeks? According to a new study among college students who smoked and did not have chronic respiratory illness, coughing and other respiratory symptoms improved within weeks of quitting smoking. Seeing the benefits of stopping smoking within weeks—not years or decades— could be a lot more relevant to young smokers. Parents or healthcare providers can now tell young smokers, who may not be motivated by long-term health benefits, that they will start breathing better – and feeling better too – soon after they quit!

Researchers at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Karen Calabro, DrPH, and Alexander Prokhorov, MD, PhD analyzed data from two randomized controlled trials of behavioral interventions designed to motivate college students to quit smoking to determine whether there was a difference in respiratory symptoms, such as coughing, among those who continued to smoke compared to those who were successful in quitting.  Smoking cessation defined as continuous abstinence for 2 weeks or more.

The study examined respiratory symptoms experienced by both groups at baseline and at the end of the study and found that, students who quit smoking had less wheezing, shortness of breath and chest pain in as little as two weeks’ time compared to those students who continued to smoke.  Virtually all smokers know that smoking has serious long-term health consequences, but learning that their health will start to improve so soon after they quit may provide extra motivation to make a quit attempt. This is particularly important because the best time to quit smoking is when you are young, before lung damage is severe.

A link to a summary of the study can be found here.

Ready to quit?
Here are seven proven tips and resources from the American Lung Association that have helped thousands of people give up smoking for good:

  • Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about the various types of treatments and different over-the-counter and prescription medications that are available to help you quit smoking.
  • Look into the different options available to help smokers quit. Visit www.lung.org/stop-smoking or call 1-800-LUNG-USA (1-800-586-4872) for suggestions.
  • Take time to plan. Pick your quit date a few weeks ahead of time and mark it on the calendar. If you can, pick a day when life's extra stresses are not at their peak, such as after the holidays. Mark a day on the calendar and stick to it. As your quit day approaches, gather the medications and tools you need and map out how you are going to handle the situations that make you want to smoke.
  • Get some exercise every day. Walking is a great way to reduce the stress of quitting. Exercise is proven to not only combat weight gain but also to improve mood and energy levels.
  • Eat a balanced diet, drink lots of water and get plenty of sleep.
  • Ask family, friends and co-workers for their help and support. Having someone to take a walk with or just listen can give a needed boost.
  • You don't have to quit alone. Help is available online and in your community. Consider joining a stop-smoking program like Freedom From Smoking® (www.ffsonline.org) from the American Lung Association.