Giving up smoking is difficult for many people, but the number of former smokers increases. Smoking is the leading preventable cause of early disease and death in the United States.

Cigarette smoke does not just affect smokers. When you smoke, the people around you, especially children, are also at risk of developing health problems. Environmental tobacco smoke (also called passive smoke or secondhand smoke) affects people who are frequently around smokers. Secondhand smoke can cause chronic respiratory conditions, cancer and heart disease.

According to American Heart Association estimates, about 37,000 to 40,000 people die from heart and blood vessel disease caused by other people’s smoke each year.

Did you know?

Tobacco contains poisonous substances that affect people’s health. One of these poisons is carbon monoxide. Car exhaust fumes also contain this substance, which is fatal in large doses. It replaces oxygen in the blood and starves the organs of oxygen, stopping them from functioning correctly. Another harmful poison is tar. This is a sticky, brown substance that coats the lungs and affects breathing.

While the statistics are alarming, it is vital to bear in mind that giving up smoking reduces the risk of some diseases dramatically.

Five tips to quit smoking

Curb your craving: Food and Drug Administration-approved aids like nicotine patches and gum are helpful.

Distract yourself: Talk to a friend, focus on the task you’re doing, or get up and move around.

Be active: Physical activity can help manage stress and cravings when you are trying to give up smoking.

Get support: A buddy system or support program can help with everyday struggles.

Stick with it: Picture yourself as a non-smoker and celebrate your success.

Celebrate your wins

One year after you quit smoking, your lungs will experience dramatic health improvements in terms of capacity and functioning. You’ll notice how much more comfortable you breathe when you’re exerting yourself and how much less coughing you do than when you smoked.

Share your adventure with people. Something is validating and affirming when you share successes with those who support you fully. Acknowledge each effort. When setting a goal, create a plan with a specific milestone and share them with a celebration.

Thank you

Your brain says thank you by not giving it a stroke and causing injury through a brain aneurysm.

Your heart says thank you for not allowing heart problems and cardiovascular diseases to hold you back.

Your immune system will thank you because living through a pandemic, we all know how important your immune system is. When smoking, your body cannot protect against infections.

Your lungs will say thank you because it’s like a breath of fresh air.

Healthy Kingsport would like to help you celebrate your wins. Please email abanks@healthykingsport.org and let us know your story about smoking, quitting smoking, and/or your journey to stop smoking.

For resources to help you quit smoking, visit www.smokefree.gov or call (800) QUIT-NOW.

Healthy Kingsport is a nonprofit organization dedicated to creating a community that actively embraces healthy living by promoting wellness, enhancing infrastructure and influencing policy.

Aiesha Banks is the executive director of Healthy Kingsport. She can be reached at abanks@healthykingsport.org