There are millions of reasons to quit smoking and probably only a few reasons why you feel like you can’t. 

Here are two alarming statistics: first, lung cancer is by far the leading cause of cancer death among both men and women - about one out of four cancer deaths are from lung cancer. 

The second is each year more people die from lung cancer than of colon, breast and prostate cancers combined.

Most people know that smoking can lead to lung cancer, heart disease or respiratory problems but many ignore these consequences, especially if they began smoking at an early age. 

In order to quit smoking, a person must overcome the addictive properties of nicotine - and it’s not easy. 

But by quitting today, here is how your body could benefit:

• 20 minutes: heart rate, blood pressure drop

• 12 hours: carbon monoxide in the bloodstream drops to normal

• two weeks to three months: circulation, lung function improve; heart attack risk begins to drop

• one to nine months: cough less, breathe easier

• one year: risk of coronary heart disease cut in half

• two to five years: risk of cancer of mouth, throat, esophagus, bladder cut in half; stroke risk is reduced to that of a nonsmoker

• 10 years: half as likely to die from lung cancer; risk of kidney or pancreatic cancer decreases; and

• 15 years: risk of coronary heart disease same as non-smoker’s risk.

What you do today affects your immediate and long-term future. Quitting can help you add years to your life. Smokers who quit before age 40 reduce their chance of dying early from smoking-related diseases by about 90 percent. 

Those who quit between age 45 and 54 reduce their chance of dying early by about two-thirds. 

You can take control of your health by quitting and staying smoke free. Over time, you’ll greatly lower your risk of death from lung cancer and other diseases such as heart disease, stroke, chronic bronchitis, emphysema, and many other kinds of cancer.

According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, whether you smoke traditional cigarettes or use e-cigarettes, both contain nicotine which is a highly addictive and toxic substance. 

It can raise your blood pressure and spike your adrenaline, which increases your heart rate and the likelihood of having a heart attack. 

It’s never too late to quit smoking or vaping. Mary Ripper, MSW, LCSW, OSW-C is a smoking cessation class instructor at the James E. Cary Cancer Center who holds classes to help people to quit smoking in eight weeks. 

Classes begin Nov. 18. For more information, call the James E. Cary Cancer Center at 573-406-5812.