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Great progress has been made against cigarette smoking in the United States, but the long-term effects of smoking still linger. Although smoking rates have gone down regularly since the 1990s, many people of all ages still use tobacco products, and e-cigarette use has risen among teenagers since 2011. There's still plenty of work to be done in the fight against tobacco use, and every year the Great American Smokeout is held to encourage people to quit.
Cigarettes have received negative press for years. They're labeled with a United States Surgeon General warning, listing their many adverse effects on health. But despite this, there are still many smokers out there and even former smokers still feel the ill effects of tobacco:
Rates of smoking have always been worryingly high among vulnerable populations in America. Many people smoke as a form of stress relief, so it's no surprise that smoking has often been found in greater rates among those below the poverty line, those suffering from mental health issues, or people in marginalized populations, such as certain racial or ethnic groups as well as the LGBTQ population. Like any other habit, smoking can be comforting during difficult times. This is one of the reasons why quitting takes so much work.
Quitting smoking can seem trivial after years of damage from cigarettes, but no matter your age or how long you've smoked, it can help you. The longer you go without smoking, the stronger the benefits:
20 Minutes After Quitting: Your heart rate and blood pressure decrease.
12 Hours After Quitting: The carbon monoxide level in your blood returns to normal.
2 Weeks to 3 Months After Quitting: Lung function and circulation both improve.
1 to 9 Months After Quitting: A decrease in coughing and shortness of breath. The cilia in your lungs begin to function as normal, reducing the risk of infection and allowing you
1 Year After Quitting: Your heart attack risk drops, and your risk of coronary heart disease decreases to half of a current smoker's.
5 Years After Quitting: Your risks of certain cancers reduce by half, including those of the mouth, throat, esophagus, and bladder. Your cervical cancer risk becomes that of a non-smoker. Your stroke risk can reduce to that of a non-smoker.
10 Years After Quitting: Your risk of lung cancer becomes half that of a current smoker. Your risk of cancer of the larynx and pancreas decrease.
15 Years After Quitting: Your risk of coronary heart disease reduces to that of a non-smoker's.
Everyone acknowledges that quitting is difficult. But there's a crucial thing you can do to help yourself before you even smoke your last cigarette: Make a Plan! Preparing for quitting can help give you guidance, and give the process a shape and structure so it seems less daunting. Here are some tips on how to do that:
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