Quit Chewing Tobacco
How Tobacco Harms the Body and Gets You Hooked on Nicotine
Recovering Your Losses
If you read the section on Tobacco Hurts, you already know that smoking and chewing tobacco is bad news for your body. It causes bad breath, stained fingers, and rotting teeth, as well as long-term problems like lung cancer and heart disease. But is there any good news?
Yes. When you quit smoking or chewing tobacco, your body can actually heal from the damage.
Twenty minutes after you quit smoking or chewing, your blood pressure drops to a more normal level and your hands and feet warm up. You can probably imagine the value of warm hands and feet, but if not, ask anyone who has been deployed to a colder climate.
About 8 hours after you quit, the level of carbon monoxide in your body drops to normal. As soon as you light up, it goes up again. After 8 hours, the mucus also clears out of your lungs. That nasty smoker’s cough is on its way out.
One day after you quit, your chance of having a heart attack goes down. You might not think a heart attack could happen to you, but your future will be here before you know it.
Within 2 weeks to 3 months after you quit, your blood will circulate better and your lungs will work more efficiently. You may have noticed breathing more easily and having more energy during basic training when you weren’t smoking. These are two big reasons why.
Ten years after you quit smoking or chewing (and stay tobacco free, of course), your risk for lung cancer drops to about half what it is for people who continue smoking or chewing. The risk also goes down for other types of cancer—such as mouth cancer, throat cancer, and cancers of the lip, esophagus (the “food tube” that connects your throat to your stomach), bladder, kidney, prostate, cervix, and pancreas.
Going Up in Smoke
So if your body will get these benefits from not smoking or chewing, what actually happens to your body when you use tobacco?
When a person smokes a cigarette or uses smokeless tobacco:
Nicotine (the addictive substance in tobacco) travels through the body in the bloodstream, headed straight for the brain.
The brain gets a hit of nicotine about 10–15 seconds later.
The nicotine boosts the “reward center” of the brain, causing a pleasant, happy feeling.
Adrenaline is released, which makes the heart rate and blood pressure increase and makes breathing rapid and shallow. Over time, these effects can damage your heart, arteries, and lungs, increasing the risk for heart attack, stroke, and chronic lung disease.
And we’ll be honest with you. Nicotine can increase the amount of calories that you burn, which is why some people say it helps them keep their weight down. But it is a very unhealthy way to burn calories. Any “plus” in terms of weight loss is cancelled out by the damage to the body from smoking or chewing tobacco.
Over time, nicotine changes the way certain brain cells work. When nicotine use is stopped, the changes remain. As a result, the body cannot work in the same way it did when it had a regular supply of nicotine. For about a month, until the brain readjusts, the former nicotine user may crave nicotine or feel irritable, anxious, or depressed. But don’t worry. After some time, these feelings and cravings will go away. Tough it out, use your coping strategies, and you will succeed.
Invasion of the Body Snatcher
Smoke gets in your eyes—and mouth, lungs, kidneys, stomach… In fact, smoking and chewing tobacco can harm almost any part of your body.
Head, Mouth, and Throat Area
.Reduced night vision
.Stained or rotting teeth
.Snoring and sleep problems
.Decreased sense of taste and smell
.Hoarseness in women’s voices
.Excess facial hair in women
.Oral cancer (such as mouth cancer, throat cancer, and tongue cancer).
.Asthma and allergy symptoms
.Lung disease, emphysema, and bronchitis
.Increased heart rate and blood pressure
.Coronary heart disease
.Cirrhosis (liver disease) worsened by overuse of alcohol and tobacco
.Liver, stomach, esophagus, and bladder cancer.
.Urinary tract cancers
.Impotence (difficulty having an erection)
.Pregnancy problems, such as premature birth
.Menstruation problems and early menopause
.Skin wounds that heal slowly
.More frequent illnesses caused by an impaired immune system.