It’s no secret that smokers are generally not as healthy as nonsmokers or ex-smokers. Even with the healthiest diet and regular exercise, people who smoke put themselves at extraordinary risk for countless health problems, not the least of which is cancer.
Studies have shown that smokers eat less fruits and vegetables, and that ex- or nonsmokers drink less alcohol, exercise more, and have fewer chronic diseases than smokers. These differing health behaviors between smokers and former smokers/nonsmokers prompted researchers in Thailand to ponder the relationship between smoking cessation duration and health behaviors.
Using data obtained from the fourth round of the National Health Examination Survey (a health survey conducted every five years in Thailand), researchers looked at the health behaviors of 19,371 people.
Overall, 22.3 percent aged 15 or older were smokers, 12 percent were ex-smokers, and 65.7 percent never smoked. Among smokers, unassisted cessation was the most common method used to quit smoking (96.6 percent), while smoking cessation aids (nicotine replacement therapy, cessation programs, quit lines and/or alternative medicine) were scarcely used. However, about 60 percent of those who had attempted to quit at some point failed.
Smoking Cessation Leads to Better Health Habits
Researchers also found that, in general, the health behaviors of ex-smokers were better than those of nonsmokers. And the longer the duration of smoking the cessation, the greater the odds of taking nutritional supplements and eating healthy foods like vegetables, and the lower the odds of consuming alcohol in excess.
The results of this study make sense when you consider that deciding to put an end to a harmful habit like smoking can also motivate the start of other healthy behaviors.
The take-home message is this: If you’re a smoker, quitting now can lead to other good habits down the road, which can improve your health exponentially.
4 Tips to Quit Smoking
If you would like to quit smoking but are having a hard time, talk to your doctor. Quitting cold turkey is extremely difficult, and you may find that cessation aids can help you quit with less severe withdrawal symptoms.
Here are some other tips to make withdrawal symptoms more bearable:
1. Stay active. Going for frequent walks will not only keep your mind occupied and off of the withdrawal symptoms, but also give your heart and body a good workout.
2. Keep your hands busy by squeezing a stress ball or some other object.
3. Keep a stash of healthy treats to put into your mouth when you start craving a cigarette, like carrot sticks, nuts, sugar-free candy or gum.
4. Drink plenty of water to keep yourself hydrated and quickly flush toxins from your body.
 Sangthong R et al. Health behaviors among short- and long-term ex-smokers: Results from the Thai National Health Examination Survey IV, 2009. Prev Med. 2012. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2012.044.022.