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Now is the time to stop smoking

12/17/2010, 6 a.m.

Every day, more than 1,200 people die from smoking cigarettes, and yet one in five adults continue to light up. Smoking harms nearly every organ in your body, but if you quit today, you can stop and even reverse the damage. If you smoke:

You're twice as likely to have a heart attack. Female smokers are six times more likely. Smoking increases your blood pressure, narrows arteries, promotes plaque buildup and leads to blood clots. Studies also show that the nicotine and carbon monoxide in cigarette smoke raises your stroke risk. If you quit today, within just 20 minutes, blood pressure drops. In about a half a day, toxic carbon monoxide in your blood decreases and oxygen increases back to normal levels. Two weeks after your last drag, your risk of heart attack drops; a year later, your risk of coronary heart disease is cut in half; and after five years, your chances for stroke decreases.

You inhale more than 4,000 chemicals. Those chemicals destroy lung tissue, irritate and damage the airways and trigger the production of mucus that blocks air flow -- all of which make smoking directly responsible for about 85% of deaths from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). If you quit today, in two weeks, lungs begin to heal. The microscopic, broom-like hairs in your lungs called cilia repair themselves. One to nine months later, coughing and shortness of breath decrease.

You're at risk for almost a dozen cancers. Tobacco smoke causes nearly 90% of all lung cancer cases. But smoking is also linked to cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, kidney and stomach. If you quit today, within five years, you can cut your risk of lung cancer by more than 20%. In 10 years, your risk of death from lung cancer is cut in half.

Call 800-QUIT-NOW or visit smokefree.gov.