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HEALTH MATTERS: Benefits are felt quickly when you give up smoking

By Dr Tim Allison

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The benefits of giving up smoking can be felt quickly – and there is support to quit.
The benefits of giving up smoking can be felt quickly – and there is support to quit.

Our health is affected by many things, and I have written here in the past about lots of them.

I have covered Covid frequently as well as vaccination.

I have only mentioned smoking a few times and want to say a bit more about it now.

Usually, we make use of a particular time of year to think about quitting smoking, such as the New Year or perhaps October as part of the nationwide public health Stoptober campaign.

I have been prompted to write about smoking now, though, because of the potential for new legislation that could mean that the age for legal sale of tobacco would rise by one year every year.

Young people growing up now would see tobacco on legal sale only for older people.

The idea is to create, over a period of several years, a completely smoke free generation.

Stopping smoking remains the most important way for us to improve the health of the population as a whole.

Quitting helps the quitter of course, but it also is of benefit to those around them.

And one of the most remarkable things about quitting smoking is about how quickly doing so can lead to improvements in health.

The risk of heart disease and stroke drops almost immediately after quitting as the harmful effects of smoking on blood vessels is taken away.

The toxic chemicals in tobacco smoke have longer lasting influence on cells in our bodies and that can lead to cancer.

But the risk will gradually fall for this too once a person gives up.

Help is available from the NHS and from elsewhere to make quitting smoking easier and more local capacity is being made available to support people who want to quit.

For some people stopping smoking is straightforward while for others it can take several attempts to finally succeed.

It is never too late to start living free from smoking and never too late to see the benefit for ourselves and others.

It is not too late for those who have tried to quit before.

There is no need to wait for a New Year resolution or the next Stoptober to think about quitting.

Perhaps the forthcoming festive period with family and friends gathering inside together will give an added impetus to quit instead of having to go outside to smoke.

I want to see a time when no one is smoking, whether outside schools or outside hospitals.

I hope that new legislation will play its part to make smoking a thing of the past.

No one solution will remove smoking from society and laws will never be the whole answer to the problem.

What is most important is for us all to recognise both the harms from smoking and the real opportunity to quit – as well as the huge benefits quitting brings.

Dr Tim Allion is NHS Highland director of public health and policy.

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