How Quitting Smoking Affects the Lungs
A smoker's lung function increases dramatically in as few as two weeks after quitting cigarettes.
Smoking is one of the leading causes of death within the United States, but even with the threat of disease and death, many individuals cannot quit smoking. According to the American Cancer Society, approximately 1 in 5 deaths within the United States can be contributed to smoking. However, when smokers finally give up smoking, the benefits to the body--particularly the lungs--are countless.
Nicotine creates an almost euphoric feeling within a smoker, which consequently causes the smoker to want more. While it produces this pleasant stimulus, it also stimulates the central nervous system, which in turn interferes with the flow of information between nerves. While nicotine is addictive and keeps individuals smoking, it is the additional chemicals found within the tobacco which do the most damage to the body. However, this addiction to nicotine is what keeps people emotionally and physically dependent on cigarettes.
Cigarettes consist of tobacco, but what most smokers don't realize is that manufacturers add different chemicals to the dried tobacco leaves to enhance the taste and flavor. It is these chemicals which can be harmful to the body. According to the American Cancer Society, there are over 4,000 different chemicals added to tobacco, and over 60 of those chemicals are carcinogenic (cancer causing).
Despite popular belief, quitting smoking has immediate effects on the body. Whether the individual has smoked for a brief period of time or for most of his life, once they quit smoking, the body benefits immediately. On average, former smokers can add almost 15 years to their lifespan and reduce the risks of different lung conditions, including cancer, bronchitis and emphysema.
It is known that in as little as two weeks after quitting smoking, a person's lung function increases dramatically. After one month, the shortness of breath and cough associated with smoking has decreased. At this point, the lungs are better suited to fight off infections, as the tiny hair-like follicles of the lungs, known as the cilia, are functioning normally and can handle mucus production.
Not only does a person increase their lifespan by nearly 15 years once they quit smoking, but after 10 years without smoking, a person's risk of a lung cancer death is cut in half. The black appearance that smoker's lungs exhibit from years of smoking has all but disappeared, allowing the lungs to function normally. While the benefits of quitting smoking are countless for smokers, the cessation of smoking can mean better health for individuals surrounding smokers. Second-hand smoke can affect the lungs of non-smokers, causing smoke-related conditions. It is the cause of thousands of deaths of non-smokers annually.