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Is Smoking Dragging You Down?

10 reasons to quit smoking beyond the big health threats.
By
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

If you smoke, you've likely heard the pleas from friends and family to quit. You probably know that smoking makes heart disease, stroke, cancer, emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and other killers more likely. You might even know that smoking is the No. 1 cause of preventable death in the U.S. and worldwide.

But knowing about long-term risks may not be enough to nudge you to quit, especially if you're young. It can be hard to feel truly frightened by illnesses that may strike decades later. And quitting smoking is hard. As many as 75%-80% of smokers say they'd like to quit.  But it takes the average smoker five to 10 attempts before successfully quitting.

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For some smokers, it's the little things that motivate quitting. Things like the smell it leaves on your clothes, the way people react when they find out you're a smoker, the stains it leaves on your teeth -- everyday aggravations that can add up to a tipping point to kick the habit.

Here are 10 common daily side effects of smoking that often create the incentive to quit.

1. Smelling like smoke

There's no mistaking the smell of cigarette smoke, and it's not one many people describe favorably.

Steven Schroeder, MD, director of the Smoking Cessation Leadership Center at the University of California at San Francisco, says that smokers are commonly self-conscious about the smell of smoke on their clothes and in their hair. And the smell of their breath is one of particular sensitivity to most smokers.

"Some of the media campaigns have compared kissing a smoker to licking an ashtray," Schroeder says.  Enough said.

2. Sense of smell and taste

Smelling like an ashtray isn't the only impact smoking has on the nose. Smokers also experience a dulling of their senses; smell and taste in particular take a hit when you smoke.

Smokers can't appreciate the taste of many foods as intensely as they did before smoking, but it's really the loss of the sense of smell that diminishes the ability to taste, notes Andrew Spielman, DMD, PhD, associate dean for academic affairs and professor of basic science and craniofacial biology at the NYU School of Dentistry. Breathing in the hot fumes of cigarette smoke is toxic to the senses.

Some smokers realize that foods don't taste the way they used to, but the process can be quite gradual, making it difficult to detect. Quitting brings a swift return of the senses.

"I can't tell you how many smokers who have successfully quit come back to the clinic and say eating is a totally different experience," says Michael Fiore, MD, MPH, founder and director of the University of Wisconsin Center for Tobacco Research and Intervention. "The pleasure of eating is dramatically enhanced when smokers quit. And it happens within a few days but can continue for up to three to six months."

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