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NKU Professors: Now is a Good Time to Quit Smoking

Imagine breathing through a straw – that’s what it feels like to live with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

COPD is the third leading cause of death in the U.S., but about half of those who suffer from COPD don’t even know they have the condition. And the leading cause of COPD is smoking.  

November is COPD Awareness Month – and Thursday, Nov. 17 is also the American Cancer Society’s Great American Smokeout, a day when individuals are encouraged to put down their tobacco products and develop a plan to quit using tobacco permanently.  

Here are some of the highlights of the many health benefits of tobacco cessation:

  • 20 minutes: Your heart rate and blood pressure decrease.

  • 12 hours: The carbon monoxide level in your blood drops to normal.

  • 2 to 12 weeks: Circulation improves and lung function increases.

  • 1 to 9 months: Coughing and shortness of breath decreases.

  • 1 year: The excess risk of coronary heart disease is reduced by half.

  • 5 years: The risk of mouth, throat, esophagus, and bladder cancer are cut in half.

  • 10 years: The risk of dying from lung cancer is about half that of a person who is still smoking.

The Great American Smokeout gives us a chance to enhance our awareness of the negative effects of smoking, and the potential consequences.

Smoking rates have dropped dramatically in the past several decades: from about 42 percent of adults in 1965, to 16.8 percent in 2014. That represents 8 million lives saved in the U.S. since the first Surgeon General’s report regarding the dangers of smoking.

Still, about 40 million Americans still smoke cigarettes – including 26 percent of the population in Kentucky. Tobacco remains the leading preventable killer in our society, responsible for nearly one in five deaths.

This month, we are doing our part to reverse that trend and raise awareness of the benefits of tobacco-free living, and we hope the conversations and activities surrounding COPD Awareness Month and the Great American Smokeout help result in improved lung health for everyone in Kentucky.

For help quitting smoking, please visit the American Cancer Society website,

Written by Debra Kasel, Ed.D., RRT-ACCS, AE-C and Deborah Patten, MS, RRT of Northern Kentucky University's Respiratory Care Program

Photos provided