Quitting smoking: The health benefits
“Have a spell son; you are no good to anyone out there while you’re coughing up a lung. If you can’t keep up I’ll kick your butt down to the reserves in two seconds flat.”
There’s nothing quite like a good old fashioned spray from your coach in front of all your friends and family to make you feel about the size of an ant. At least an ant could scurry down between the bricks and save all the embarrassment.
Meet Danny. That’s him over there bent double at the waist coughing up the most disgusting batch of lung butter you have ever seen. His chest's heaving dramatically as his lungs try in vain to stop his face turning blue.
He’s the lad on the receiving end of the coach’s spray but it’s hard to tell whether he can hear anything the coach is saying over his dog bark-like cough.
He is a young man just out of school and an absolute gun midfielder for his beloved footy team the Cougars… but lately he has been spending more time riding the pine than carving up his opponents.
Football came easy to Danny and anyone who saw him play knew he was destined for the big leagues. His silky smooth skills out on the field were effortless but as the season progressed Danny was finding it harder and harder to run out the game.
You see, Danny had one vice that was holding him back and he was struggling to give it up; Danny loved his ciggies and it was starting show in his performance during game day.
Danny had the classic self-exempting belief that ‘it would never happen to him.’
“I’ll never get cancer, I’ll quit before then,” he used to tell himself to ease the guilt when he lit up.
He was young and in his own mind he was invincible but the statistics say that if Danny didn’t quit – and soon – smoking would end his chances at the big time and create all manner of health complications later in life.
Time was running out for Danny as scouts from the big clubs would be running a recruitment camp in the coming summer and that would be his best chance to crack the big time. But by this stage his fitness was suffering and his time trial results were only mid-pack.
Danny’s coach told him if he wanted to be noticed by the scouts he needed to be leading the pack and the only way to do that would be to give up the smokes.
“Without stating the bleeding obvious Danny, they’re not looking for the 15th best player, they want the best. You could be the best but not if you keep sucking on those cancer sticks.”
Danny was sceptical that quitting would help improve his fitness and he complained to his coach.
“Coach, I can’t quit now I need the smokes; they help me and my footy!” he says.
The exact reply that the coach gave Danny is far too colourful to publish but we can say that that Danny was well informed, in no uncertain terms, of how full of factual incorrectness he was.
If Danny was to become the star his coach knew he could be he was going to have to offer his help and support throughout the quitting process.
Fast forward to the start of Danny's quitting journey. By this stage Danny had not had a dart since earlier that day; 8 hours earlier to be precise.
The first few days were really tough for Danny; all he could think about was cigarettes. Everything reminded him of smoking. Car exhausts puffing away, chimneys looked like smokes and people smoking in the street… smoke, smoke, and more smoke! He was surrounded by smoke.
It was early in Danny's quitting journey and he had become a real pain in the butt to be around. He was extremely irritable and would take it out on his team mates at training even if it wasn’t their fault. He was lucky the coach told the team to be a little patient with him or he might've been punched in the mouth… about fifty times… by every member of the team!
With his coach helping him along the way and the motivation of being close to realising his footy dreams, Danny was finding his will power to be far stronger than he imagined it might have been.
Three days into quitting and the worst of the nicotine withdrawal symptoms were behind him, Danny was feeling pretty good about himself. This new found confidence and the fact that his face no longer smelt like an ash tray was doing wonders for his love life too.
By the time 10 days had elapsed Danny was starting to experience notable changes in his body on and off the training track.
Danny’s lungs had begun to clear and he was definitely breathing more easily, especially during the high intensity sessions the coach was putting him through. His energy levels were way up on what they were while he was smoking.
One month had now passed since Danny’s last cig and preparations for the recruitment camp were looking pretty good. The nicotine addiction was completely beaten now and he was starting to feel a lot more human again. The irritability and anxiety were now well under control.
This didn’t go unnoticed by his team mates either.
During a training drill Danny fired a low and hard pass into his team mate’s chest. His mate made a meal of it and spilt it on the deck, as Danny ran over to him he almost recoiled with fear.
He was rightfully expecting to be blasted by this nicotine-craving monster but instead was greeted with encouragement and a pat on the backside. The rest of the team were equally surprised but grateful that 'pain in the butt Danny' had come and gone. The team gave an ironic cheer for Danny, as if to say ‘welcome back mate.’
This was the point where Danny felt he was well on his way to kicking the habit for good and his team mates were now accepting him back into the team.
Three months after his last smoke, and only 3 months left before his all-important date with destiny, Danny’s his coach was wrapped with his progress so far.
The coach could now see Danny was almost back to his peak. His circulation and lung function had increased dramatically.
He was also recovering from training sessions and games a lot faster than when he was smoking. He didn’t feel anywhere near as sore in the mornings after training which allowed him to go for a run before work.
Danny loved his new lease on life. He was as fit as he had ever been and was no longer coughing up the disgusting excess phlegm that his lungs produced while he was smoking.
His coach’s support through the whole process was invaluable in keeping him on track and not going back for that ‘one last smoke.’
Just a touch over 6 months after his last cigarette and Danny is carving up the recruitment camp. Using his new found lung capacity and his natural flair for the game he was head and shoulders above the others.
If Danny stays off the smokes he will undoubtedly go on to have a stellar career in football, capable of achieving the ultimate success.
The longer Danny remains smoke free the more benefits his body will experience.
10 years down the road the road and Danny’s risk of lung cancer has reduced by between 50 and 70%. Slightly further along at 15 years and Danny has reduced his risk of heart disease down to that of people who have never smoked.
While Danny wasn't thinking about these long-term benefits now, sticking with quitting was making sure he'd be alive to enjoy his life after footy.
Who knows, he might have an illustrious career in the media filling the empty seats left by Bruce and Dennis.
For now Danny was just happy he had clean smelling clothes and hair, his breathe was fresh and he didn’t have to keep stepping outside at parties to have a smoke. Not to mention that he was now able play football for a living, something he never would have been able to do if he continued to smoke.
- Ellerman A, Ford C, Stillman S. Smoking cessation: 7.2: Health and other benefits of quitting. In: Scollo M, Winstanley M (eds). Tobacco in Australia: Facts and Issues (3rd edition) [online]. Carlton, VIC: Cancer Council Victoria; 2008 [cited 15 June 2010]. Available from: URL link
- The Health Benefits of Smoking Cessation: A report of the Surgeon General. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control: 1990 [cited 10/5/12].
- When smokers quite – What are the benefits over time? [online]. American Cancer Society; 2012 [cited 10 May 2012]. Available from: URL Link
- 10 health benefits of stopping smoking [online]. National Health Service; 2010 [cited 10 May 2012]. Available from: URL Link
- The health benefits of stopping smoking [online]. Quit Victoria; 2012 [cited 10 May 2012]. Available from: URL Link
Article Date: 5/6/2012
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