10 reasons to stop smoking today plus tips on how to do it

01 November 2022

Despite numerous government health campaigns and high taxes on tobacco products, smoking remains one of the biggest causes of death and illness in the UK today.

Here, we highlight 10 reasons why smokers should stop now for the good of their health - and offer some helpful tips for those looking to beat the addiction and give up for good.

Did you know? Smoking kills around 78,000 people every year in the UK1

1. Smoking causes cancer - and not just in your lungs

Smoking is often linked to lung cancer, and for good reason. But did you know that it also increases your risk of developing more than 50 different health conditions, including mouth, throat, bladder, bowel, and liver cancer?

In fact, PAHO figures show tobacco use is responsible for 25% of all cancer deaths globally2.

Know your numbers Smoking causes around 7 out of every 10 cases of lung cancer3

2. Smoking increases your risk of a heart attack

Smoking damages your heart and your blood circulation, increasing your risk of developing conditions such as:

  • Coronary heart disease
  • Vascular disease
  • Cerebrovascular disease

These conditions are major causes of strokes and heart attacks.

Did you know? People who quit smoking after having a heart attack reduce their chances of having another heart attack by 50%4

3. Smoking harms your loved ones

Breathing in second-hand smoke, also known as passive smoking, can lead to health problems just as smoking can.

Children exposed to passive smoke are more likely to developing a range of conditions, including asthma and meningitis, as well as chest and ear infections.

Know your numbers Over 1 million people die every year from exposure to second-hand smoke5

4. Smoking leaves you breathless - but not in a good way

Smoking damages your lungs, leading to conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which incorporates emphysema and bronchitis, pneumonia, and asthma.

Did you know? Poor lung health is the third most common cause of death in the UK6

5. Smoking causes infertility

Smoking limits the blood supply to the penis, which can cause erectile dysfunction and impotence. It also diminishes sperm count, as well as the motility and shape of a man's sperm.

Female smokers are also more likely to experience infertility, while giving up before falling pregnant slashes the likelihood of miscarriage, premature birth, and having a low-weight baby.

Know your numbers Some 120,000 UK men in their 20s and 30s are impotent due to smoking7

6. Smoking makes you look older

Smoking ages the skin by wearing away the proteins that give skin elasticity, depleting it of vitamin A and restricting blood flow.

Smokers have more wrinkles as a result and are also more likely to suffer with dry skin.

Did you know? There are around 6.9 million smokers in the UK8

7. Smoking damages your teeth and gums

The best way to reduce your risk of developing diverticulitis is to follow a high fibre diet on a permanent basis.

You can do this by increasing your intake of foods such as vegetables, fruit, nuts, and wholegrain cereals.

For those with very severe symptoms, or who find it hard to change their diet, fibre supplements are also available on prescription or over the counter in a pharmacy.

Did you know? Some 2,000 smokers die of oral cancer every year9

8. Smoking damages your eyesight and hearing

Smokers are more likely to develop age-related macular degeneration, a condition that results in irreversible vision loss.

They also have a higher risk of cataracts and hearing loss in later life.

Did you know? Smoking doubles your chances of losing your sight10

9. Smoking prevents injuries healing

Nicotine addiction narrows your arteries, making it harder for them to deliver the blood and nutrients needed to heal a wound.

Tobacco smokers also fracture their bones more easily and are at significantly higher risk than non-smokers for post-surgical complications.

Know your numbers Smoking is thought to increase your risk of a fracture by at least 2511

10. Quitting brings almost instantaneous, yet long-lasting health benefits

  • After 20 minutes, your pulse rate starts to return to normal.
  • After 8 hours, your oxygen levels are recovering, and the level of carbon monoxide in your blood is halved.
  • After 48 hours, carbon monoxide has been flushed out of your system. Your lungs are clearing out mucus and your senses of taste and smell are improving.
  • After 72 hours, your bronchial tubes have started to relax, making it easier to breathe and boosting your energy levels.
  • After 2 to 12 weeks, better circulation means blood is pumping through to your heart and muscles more effectively.
  • After 3 to 9 months, any coughs, wheezing or breathing problems improve as your lung function increases by up to 10%.
  • After 1 year, your risk of heart attack is half that of a smoker's.
  • After 10 years, your risk of death from lung cancer is half that of a smoker's.

Know your numbers Make it to 28 days without smoking and you're five times more likely to quit for good12

How to stop smoking

Giving up smoking is not easy. Here are some tips to maximise your chance of success.

  • Make a list of reasons to quit and keep a diary of your journey.
  • Tell friends and family you're planning to quit and when.
  • Consider using stop smoking aids, such as nicotine patches.
  • Have a plan of action for if you are tempted to smoke.
  • List triggers such as alcohol and workplace stress and think about how to avoid them.
  • Prepare for withdrawal symptoms and keep cravings at bay by keeping busy and exercising.
  • Look into free digital aids such as the WHO's online health worker Florence and the NHS Quit Smoking app.
  • Consider complementary treatments such as hypnosis and acupuncture.