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Smokeout '08: The Perfect Time to Quit
Date:11/19/2008

Smoking is the single largest preventable cause of disease and premature death in the United States. Each year, it causes 443,000 premature deaths, including 38,000 deaths among nonsmokers from secondhand smoke. Half the people who continue to smoke will die from smoking-related diseases, according to the American Cancer Society.

According to the cancer society, there are many good reasons to quit -- and many benefits when you do:

  • 20 minutes after quitting, your heart rate and blood pressure drop.
  • 12 hours after quitting, carbon monoxide levels in your blood drop to normal.
  • two weeks to three months after quitting, circulation improves and lung function increases.
  • one to nine months after quitting, coughing and shortness of breath decrease and lung function improves.
  • one year after quitting, the risk of heart disease is cut in half.
  • five years after quitting, the risk of stroke is reduced.
  • 10 years after quitting, the risk of dying from lung cancer is cut in half, and the risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, bladder, cervix and pancreas decrease.
  • 15 years after quitting, the risk of heart disease is the same as for non-smokers.

Dr. Jordan S. Josephson, director of the New York Nasal and Sinus Center, said the decision to stop smoking has to "come from the heart."

"A lot of people say they want to stop smoking, but truly down deep they are just not ready," he said. "But once you are ready, cold turkey seems to be the best way. Most patients just throw it in the can and they are done with it."

New York lawyer Robert Fastner is a patient of Josephson's who quit three years ago.

"I never thought it would happen," Fastner said. "Nobody who knew me ever thought it would happen. I never thought I had a shot at quitting."

Nearing 50, Fastner noticed he had developed wheezing, chronic colds and sin
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