Remember that larger-than-life aunt who always had a cigarette dangling from her lips at family gatherings? Despite her nearly century-long love affair with tobacco, she seemed to exist in a realm where the hazards of smoking dared not touch her. But, let's be clear, such instances are more of an exception rather than a norm.
Smoking, as we know, is a formidable adversary to longevity and health. It's a culprit that claims the lives of over half of its habitual users and ages the rest prematurely. You enjoy the bliss of a smoke, only to let the toxins in the tobacco mar your skin, leaving it discoloured and prematurely wrinkled. Research from as far back as 1985, substantiated this fact by introducing the term ‘smoker’s face.’ A group of scientists embarked on an journey to study the physical differences between smokers, ex-smokers, and non-smokers visiting an outpatient clinic. After considering factors like age and sun exposure, they discovered that almost half of all long-term smokers had deep facial lines and a coarse, weather-beaten appearance. In stark contrast, only a scant 8% of ex-smokers shared these features, while the non-smokers remained relatively unscathed.
The smoking-skin connection has always been under the spotlight of scientific scrutiny. It's not just heart and lung diseases that should make you throw that pack away, but also the visual markers of ageing that prematurely catch up with smokers. Those lines etched around your eyes, the deepening folds around your nose, the vertical wrinkles sprouting around your lips – these could all be your skin's SOS signals in response to your smoking habits.
But it's not just the skin that endures the brunt of your smoking habits; it's also your mouth, the first point of contact for every puff you take. The smoke's toxic components can wreak havoc on your oral flora, giving you more than just bad breath. Carcinogens within the tobacco smoke significantly elevate your risk of developing oral cancer, a threat often overshadowed by lung and heart diseases when discussing the perils of smoking. (But did you know that quitting smoking today can restore your risk of developing these cancers to that of a non-smoker in a decade's time?)
Furthermore, pursing the lips while smoking often culminates in the formation of fine vertical lines, christened as ‘smokers' lips.' These are your facial muscles' response to repeated use in a specific way, gradually turning into prominent markers of your smoking journey.
The story doesn’t end with just wrinkly lips and bad breath. Prolonged smoking can transform your radiant smile into a toothless grin. Smokers, studies have revealed, are more likely to suffer from poor oral health and even tooth loss. (If you're thinking it's too late to quit, here's a reassuring fact. The same study found that the likelihood of losing more than 8 teeth was similar between people who never smoked and those who quit smoking over 21 years ago. This goes to show that it’s never too late to kick the habit, and your body, remarkably resilient as it is, can recover from the damage caused.)
Moreover, your ability to heal from injuries takes a hit too. The inflammation crucial for healing an injury is hindered by the long-term effects of smoking. Nicotine, that addictive agent in your cigarette, is an accomplice in this process, reducing the number of healthy blood cells and increasing post-surgical complications. Your skin, bearing the brunt of poor wound healing, becomes a canvas of scars and lasting damage.
Now, you must be wondering what happens when you stop smoking? Remarkably, in as little as 48 hours post-quitting, not only will your breathing improve, but your sense of taste and smell will start to return. One year down the line, your risk of suffering a heart attack would halve, and after a decade, your risk of lung cancer would follow suit. Besides, your days of fighting off persistent coughs and wheezes will be over, as harmful carbon monoxide leaves your body and your lung function gets a 10% boost.
However, as with any significant lifestyle change, quitting smoking might come with its own set of challenges. It's quite common for ex-smokers to struggle with weight gain as nicotine's metabolism-boosting effect wears off. That's where regular exercise and a healthy diet come to the rescue. Coupled with an improved sense of taste and smell, some people might initially struggle with increased cravings for food. Opting for smaller, healthier portions can help manage these cravings without causing a significant change in your waistline.
Can you reverse the damage caused by smoking? Absolutely. The sooner you quit, the better. With a dedicated plan and unwavering resolve, you can witness significant health improvements, matching up to your non-smoking counterparts in years, sometimes even months.
A fleeting moment of relief that a cigarette might offer seems hardly worth the long-term ramifications. Not only does it impact your health and appearance, but it also burns a hole in your pocket (quite literally). The argument that 'the damage is done' falls flat when faced with countless testimonials and scientific evidence showcasing the benefits of quitting.
We live in an era armed with more knowledge about the perils of smoking than our grandparents' generation did. Yes, the damage can be reversed, and you can ward off those deep lines and gaunt features common amongst chronic smokers. It might be too late for some, but it certainly isn’t for you.
If you are motivated to quit smoking for good, click here for our Quit Smoking Essentials hypnotherapy session specifically designed to help eliminate cravings related to smoking.