We all know smoking can cause serious illnesses like lung cancer and heart disease, but 16.5 percent of women are still doing anyway, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Smoking is directly responsible for about 90 percent of lung cancer deaths—and it gets worse: Women smokers die 14.5 years earlier than non-smoking females, according to the American Lung Association.
But if those scary stats about dying young and developing a number of other cancers (bladder, mouth, throat and pancreatic, to name a few) don't convince you to quit, maybe vanity will get you to put those cigarettes down (we say, whatever it takes). That's because smoking diminishes your natural beauty with every drag you take; causing thinning hair, yellow fingernails, gum disease and premature wrinkles.
The good news: Studies confirm that the positive effects of quitting begin in as few as 20 minutes. Here are the immediate health and beauty rewards of quitting smoking, according to the American Cancer Society:
- 20 minutes after quitting your heart rate and blood pressure drop
- 12 hours after quitting the carbon monoxide level in your blood drops to normal
- 2 weeks to 3 months after quitting your circulation improves and your lung function increases
- You breath smells better and stained teeth get whiter
- Yellow stains on your fingers and nails start to disappear
- Food tastes better and your sense of smell returns to normal
- Everyday activities, like climbing stairs or light housework, no longer leave you out of breath
Plus, the National Cancer Institute reports the long-term benefits of quitting:
- 1 year after quitting the excess risk of coronary heart disease is half that of a continuing smoker
- Smokers who quit at age 30 reduce their chance of dying prematurely from smoking-related diseases by more than 90 percent
- People who quit at 50 reduce their risk of dying prematurely by 50 percent compared with those who continue to smoke
Think of it this way: Every day that you don't light up a cigarette is a day when you're doing something good for your health. Need more motivation to get—and stay—smoke-free? Try these tips from Smokefree Women:
Give your love life a makeover Some women say their partners want to kiss them more after they quit smoking. Pucker up! Plan a fun (smoke-free) date with your sweetie to celebrate the new, kissable you!
Give your purse a makeover and create a “ciggy bank” Quitting is easier when you’re prepared. Cravings can hit at any time, so make sure your purse is stocked with sugarless gum or mints, a water bottle, the QuitGuide app on your phone and something to keep your hands busy (knitting, Candy Crush). Create a “ciggy bank” for the money you're not spending on cigarettes—and then treat yourself to something fun (see below!).
Give your hands a makeover Many women say their hands look younger after they quit smoking. Choose a fun nail polish color and get a manicure to remind yourself that your hands are too beautiful to tarnish with cigarettes.
Give your clothes a makeover Remove the smell of smoke from your clothes by washing or dry-cleaning. Then splurge on a new outfit to add to your smoke-free wardrobe.
Give your skin a makeover Smoking can cause your skin to become dry and lose elasticity, leading to wrinkles, premature aging and stretch marks. Pamper yourself with a homemade facial: In a bowl mash one banana; add a tablespoon of honey and 10 drops of lemon juice. Mix well and apply to face. Leave on for 15 minutes and then rinse well with warm water.
Give your hair a makeover Get a trim, a new color or even a whole new style—and show off a new 'do that doesn't smell like old cigarettes.
Give your teeth a makeover Smoking stains your teeth yellow (and can cause tooth loss) so try this homemade teeth whitener: Pour one teaspoon of baking soda into a bowl and add 5-7 drops of hydrogen peroxide. Mix well and use as you would toothpaste.
Give your workout a makeover Exercise is a great way to get through cravings and get a burst of energy. You don't have to join a gym, but do try something new: salsa, yoga or Zumba class, anyone?
Get more tips and support to quit smoking by visiting Smokefree Women
Alyson Penn is New York City-based writer. Follow her on Google+
A version of this story originally appeared on iVillage.