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5/31/2013 - Societies unite in goal to stamp out tobacco use permanently

May 31 is World No Tobacco Day.

What would the world be like if no one smoked? This is a question the World Health Organization has asked for the past several years, as each year on May 31, countries throughout the world recognize No Tobacco Day.

While there may never come a point in time in which cigarette and cigar use is completely eliminated, health experts are hopeful that future generations will recognize the dangers associated with the activity and choose not to even try it should they ever feel tempted.

As myriad as the side effects are when it comes to smoking - responsible for killing 6 million people worldwide each year and the leading cause of lung cancer, among other sobering statistics - there are just as many health benefits that come through stopping. In fact, doctors say that it's virtually never too late to quit the habit. As noted by WHO, within 20 minutes of one last cigarette, heart rate and blood pressure readings diminish. And within 12 hours, carbon monoxide levels that accumulate in the blood return to a healthier range.

As the weeks turn to months that people go without lighting up, they'll notice that shortness of breath and coughing fits become less and less frequent. And by the time they hit the one-year mark, WHO says that an individual's risk for coronary heart disease is cut in half compared to what it would be had they continued to smoke.

Innumerable as the health benefits may be, there are even some favorable homeowners insurance implications as well. Many insurers will ask policyholders about whether they smoke, and if they don't, it's not unusual for them to provide a discount for their policies, sometimes as much as 10% or more.

But the main goal of No Tobacco Day is to hammer home the message that smoking shortens the average lifespan. The earlier someone quits, the healthier and longer- lasting their life will be.

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