Quit Smoking with Your Benefit Accounts

Quitting smoking is a huge step towards a healthier life. But it’s a tough challenge that often seems impossible. Luckily, many support tools and resources are available to you. They are there when you’re ready to start this life-changing journey. Let’s take a look at the bad effects of smoking, the clear health benefits of quitting, and some tools and resources that can help you become smoke-free.

Negative Health Effects

The CDC reports that smoking is a top cause of preventable deaths in the United States. To put the gravity of this into perspective, consider these statistics:

  • More than 34 million adults in the United States smoke. Many want to quit.
  • Each day, over 2,000 youths experiment with smoking for the first time.
  • Smoking causes health issues and lost productivity that cost the U.S. economy over $300 billion each year.
  • States get lots of money from tobacco taxes. But, they allocate less than 15% of those funds to programs to prevent and stop smoking.

Tobacco’s Toll

Smoking’s contribution to health deterioration is staggering. It’s a top cause of early death. It leads to heart disease, various cancers, and lung diseases. Smoking also causes many other health problems:

  • Cigarettes kill nearly 500,000 Americans every year.
  • It causes 85% of lung cancer deaths and 80% of deaths from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD),
  • Over the past five decades, the risk of dying from the side effects of smoking has increased.
  • Smoking can cause issues with fertility and childbirth. Women who smoke face lower bone density, meaning a greater risk for breaks. Smoking can cause eye issues like cataracts and macular degeneration. It can lead to type 2 diabetes, increase general inflammation, and decrease immunity strength.

Pretty awful stuff, right? That’s why it’s so important that people never start smoking, or if they do start, that they quit as soon as they can.

Quitting a nicotine addiction is not easy; it’s been estimated that the average smoker attempts to quit about 30 times before succeeding. But the benefits are priceless.

Benefits When You Quit Smoking

The American Lung Association outlines the health improvements smokers experience after quitting:

  • Within 20 minutes: Normalization of heart rate.
  • Within 24 hours:  A large reduction in heart attack risk.
  • Within a month:  Decreased coughing and shortness of breath.
  • Within one year: Halving the risk of coronary heart disease.
  • Within 5-15 years: The risk of stroke and heart disease gets close to that of non-smokers, and the risk of various cancers is cut in half.

Start Your Smoke-Free Journey

Find a personal motivator – which might be health, money, or the hassle of smoking bans. Having a clear reason can push you forward. Talk with your doctor. Discuss the best strategies and tools for you.

Programs like the American Lung Association’s Freedom From Smoking offer full support. They do this through online resources, group sessions, and counseling. Also, use FSAs or HSAs for nicotine products and cessation programs. With the IRS increasing FSA and HSA contribution limits in 2024, there’s no better time to invest in your health.

Inspiring Journeys to a Smoke-Free Life

These stories highlight the power of personal motivation and the help of support systems in overcoming the challenge of quitting smoking.

Sarah, a 35-year-old graphic designer, smoked for over a decade. It was a habit she picked up in college, one that stuck through jobs, relationships, and life’s ups and downs. But when she became an aunt, Sarah’s perspective shifted. She wanted to be a role model for her niece, and that meant quitting smoking. After several tries, Sarah found success. She used nicotine patches, support from an online community, and a new love for running. Today, Sarah is not only smoke-free but also training for her first half-marathon.

Mark is a retired veteran. He began smoking at 18 during his military service. He intertwined smoking with the camaraderie of his unit. But, after 30 years of smoking, Mark faced a severe COPD diagnosis. Determined to see his grandchildren grow up, he decided it was time to quit. Mark quit smoking with his family’s help, a cessation program, and his determination. He’s been smoke-free for five years. He now volunteers at his local VA hospital, sharing his story and encouraging others to quit.

Take the Leap

Now is the perfect time to quit! Partner with others or pause when needed. Embrace the support available to you and look forward to the immense benefits that await. Betty and I are rooting for you on your path to better health and a smoke-free life!

Captain Contributor is an award-winning employee benefits education and engagement program.