Happy Halloween! In the spirit of this festive day, I wanted to share a real treat for New Yorkers. The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene reported on Thursday that there are fewer New Yorkers dying from smoking. Smoking-related deaths dropped by 17% over much of the last decade. Some 8,700 residents were killed by smoking-related illnesses in 2002, compared to about 7,200 last year.
Quitters can look forward to more immediate benefits, according to the National Cancer Institute. Levels of carbon monoxide in the blood, which restricts the travel of oxygen through the body, begin to fall within hours. Circulation picks up within weeks, and in that time quitters are coughing and wheezing less, and producing less phlegm. Heart rate and blood pressure start to decline to normal levels, as well.
Over the long term, stubbing out the cigarettes cuts heart disease risk and cancer. The younger you are when you quit, the lower your chances of dying from those diseases. Stopping by age thirty reduces your risk by 90%; stopping by age fifty lowers those chances by half compared to people who continue to smoke.
The damaging effects of smoking may be more permanent for people who pick up the habit in their teens because their bodies are smaller and therefore get more exposure to the toxic chemicals in cigarettes. This fact solidifies my platform's message on the importance for kids to never start smoking. However, five to ten years out from quitting, the risks for cancer or heart disease or stroke are pretty much the same as for a nonsmoker. So, it is definitely worth it to quit smoking.