Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Apple #166: Turkeys

When I'm searching for a word or an idea and I can't come up with anything, my mind automatically supplies one of two default words: it gives me either turkey or chicken. I have no idea why this is so. I don't particularly like either of those two birds, alive or on the table. But those are the words that continue to pop up in my brain.

So I thought I'd do an entry on one of them, turkeys, just because that's what my brain is saying to me.

These are domestic turkeys. The big one on the right is Wally, and the smaller one on the left is Wendy. They are 10 months old.
(Photo from the Dog Breed Info Center)

  • At nightfall, turkeys fly up to the low branches of trees to sleep. But that's usually only wild turkeys that do that. Most domestic turkeys are too fat to fly.
  • A female turkey may lay as many as 18 eggs at a time.
  • When upset or excited during courtship, the bare skin on the turkey's head and throat may change from its usual gray to white, bright red, or even blue.
  • All those weird fleshy things that hang down below the turkey's chin (the wattle) or over the turkey's beak (the snood) are there to attract mates. Those also turn color during courtship.
  • Some breeders put a special cloth garment over their turkeys to prevent their feathers from getting damaged while breeding takes place. Those garments are called turkey saddles.

A turkey saddle
(Photo from Feathersite)

  • Males not ready to breed, or immature males, are called jakes. Adult males are called gobblers, and females are called hens.
  • The number of turkeys raised in the United States in 2005 was down 3% from 2004, to a mere 256 million birds.

Wild turkeys, living on Long Island and monitored by the US Dept of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory.
(Photo from Brookhaven Natl Lab)

  • Among other things, wild turkeys like to eat corn.
  • Wild Turkey whiskey is named for the fact that it was originally distilled in Wild Turkey Hill in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky.
  • Originally, in order to be called bourbon, a whiskey had to be distilled in Bourbon County, Kentucky, which used to be as big as 17 present-day counties grouped together, and the whiskey had to be made from a mash of no less than 51% corn. Today, any whiskey made in Kentucky can be called Bourbon.

Another kind of Wild Turkey
(Photo from UK Wines)

Kidzone, The American Turkey
Feathersite, Turkeys
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Environmental Education for Kids, the Wild Turkey
National Agricultural Statistics Service, Turkeys Raised, Jan 06
Wild Turkey Bourbon, History
Wikipedia, Bourbon County, Kentucky

Friday, April 21, 2006

Apple #165: Amazing Alternatives

Okay, United States, can we please all find another word to use besides "amazing"?

  • "This is going to be an amazing decade," Bill Gates said.
  • "The will to finish [the Honolulu marathon] is just amazing," said Espinada, a civilian employee at Hickam Air Force Base.
  • "On the political front, you've seen it -- you've seen what happened in one year's time. It's just amazing, I think," said President Bush in a speech on the war on terrorism at Kansas State University.
  • From the ad copy for Ruben Studdard's I Need an Angel CD: "The second album from the 2nd Season American Idol winner Ruben Studdard features 12 amazing tracks that not only further showcase his beautiful voice but his passionate and deep-affection for staying true to his virtues." (There are all kinds of things wrong with that sentence, but I won't get into it)
  • From wedding coordinator Monica, to band Blind Date who played at a wedding she recently directed: "We all thought you were amazing, and we look forward to having you back!"
  • From bride Angela K., to the same band, who played at her wedding: "Cody and I thank you and the rest of Blind Date for helping to make our wedding reception so amazing!"
  • When asked about why he wanted to work on The Last Samurai and what he likes about Japan, Tom Cruise said, "It's just an amazing culture and I've always been fascinated with it, and one of the great things about being an actor is that I get to travel to these places."
  • "I think Angelina Jolie has done amazing, amazing things," said Jessica Simpson who was speaking in reference to adoption, "and the international adoption rate since her has skyrocketed."
You get the point.

With all of these "amazings" being flung around, I've kind of lost track of what exactly the word means. So I looked it up in various dictionaries. Here are its three definitions:

  • Inspiring awe
  • Causing great surprise or wonder
  • (obsolete use) Bewildering or perplexing
By the way, "awe" is an overwhelming feeling of wonder or admiration, often inspired by a deity. So when we say we are amazed, we should be saying we are awestruck, given chills of wonder, thrilled by the presence of something majestic. Do you think that was really the case when a little-known band played at Angela K's wedding reception? Do you think that Ruben Studdard's singing performance would inspire such a reaction? Or perhaps these people are using "amazing" in its second form of use, to indicate their suprise at how good these performances were?

Okay, I'm just being snarky. Obviously, people have beaten this word to death and mashed its definition into an unrecognizable pulp that everyone is supposed to see as vaguely positive. But I'm sick of it. I'd like to start seeing and hearing a little variety, please. I recognize that I won't be able to get people to start using "amazing" in appropriate contexts, but maybe I can encourage people to use something else instead every once in a while.

Here are some alternatives:

  • Glorious - having great beauty and splendor, worthy of pride, bringing great happiness.
    • Cody and I thank you and the rest of Blind Date for helping to make our wedding reception so glorious!
  • Superb - surpassingly good, excellent
    • We all thought you were superb, and we look forward to having you back.
  • Wonderful - extraordinarily good, to the point of inspiring wonder, used as an intensifier.
    • I think Angelina Jolie has done wonderful, wonderful things.
  • Delightful - greatly pleasing or entertaining.
    • Ruben Studdard's performance is simply delightful.
  • Enchanting - capturing interest as if by a spell.
    • It's just an enchanting culture and I've always been fascinated by it.
  • Sensational - causing interest, curiosity, or emotion.
    • This is going to be a sensational decade.
  • Spectacular - lavishly produced, as in a performance.
    • I love the movie I made because I think it's spectacular.
  • Terrific - very great or intense, possibly to the point of terror.
    • On the political front, you've seen what happened in one year's time. It's just terrific, I think.
  • Prodigious - so great in size of force or extent as to elicit awe; or far beyond what is usual.
    • The runners' will to finish the marathon is just prodigious.
See, now, isn't that so much more interesting? Engaging? Evocative? Descriptive? Fun?

(And now if you look back up at the title of this entry, doesn't it kind of bug you, even just a little bit?)

OneLook, Roget's II: The New Thesaurus

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Apple #164: The Whole Shebang

I was cleaning up today, and at one point I thought, "I'd like to just throw the whole shebang in the trash." But then I paused. What kind of word is shebang, anyway? Is it actually spelled she-bang? If so, what does it mean that a bang is feminine? Does its femininity somehow make it a much larger bang?

  • Well, apparently the word is spelled without a hyphen: shebang. It can also be spelled chebang, although that's pretty much not used any more.
  • Strictly speaking, shebang means "hut or dwelling." It can also refer to a vehicle.
  • Lots of people say that the first documented use of the phrase "the whole chebang" to mean the entire dwelling and everything in it, occurred in a letter from Mark Twain to his publisher in 1869. He also used the word "chebang" in its original meaning in the text of one of his novels, Roughing It, which was published in 1872: "We've got a chebang fixed up for you."
  • But according to the Oxford English Dictionary, an earlier use of the word "chebang" occurred in 1867, in W.L. Goss's Soldier's Story: "By common consent, if anyone had any complaints to make, he carried them to the 'shebang' of Big Peter." I'd like to know who Big Peter was, but that's another entry.
  • The OED gives no indication about the first use of the phrase "the whole shebang." As for where the word itself comes from, it says, "Of obscure origin."
  • Others have suggested that it might be related to the Irish word shebeen, which is sort of a ratty pub or bar, one that's also usually illegal. Since shebang is often a temporary or crudely constructed house, perhaps the idea is that an illegal bar would also be slapdash, and hence the connection.
  • So there's no connection to the word "bang," although science author Timothy Ferris does make a nice pun in the title of his book on the origins of the universe, The Whole Shebang.
The Oxford English Dictionary, my micrographically reproduced two-volume set.
Etymologies & Word Origins: Letter W
The Phrase Finder Re: The whole shebang
Words to the Wise, issue 193, page 2

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Apple #163: Axolotls

Sorry about the infrequent posts lately. In my free time the past few weeks, I was working on my taxes. This year, they were nightmare-ish. I had to fill out extra forms and schedules and worksheets and who knows what else. But now all that's done, filed, official, done. So, on to other things.

Some time ago, I was at the aquarium in Niagara Falls and I saw the strangest animal there. There were actually about six of them in the tank of water. They were very pale, looked like they'd never seen daylight in a kajillion eons, and they had these frondy things like extra arms sticking out of their necks.

Photo from Jean Hardiwck, Ph.D.'s page, which describes how she uses axolotls and other creatures to study cardiac function.

The sign beneath the tank said the frondy things were their gills exposed. They looked like something out of a Simpsons episode. The person I was with was disgusted, then fascinated, but then disgusted again by them. The more I looked at them, the more I thought they looked like they'd be good to eat. Fleshy, not too many bones, no fur or hair or scales to worry about. The person I was with said, "Ugh, you want to EAT them?"

Yes. I did.

It turns out, these things are called Axolotls. The word is pronounced like it looks: Ax-uh-lo-tul. Here's another picture:

Photo linked from Steven Carr's page on the Origin of Evolutionary Novelty, Department of Biology, Memorial University of Newfoundland

  • Axolotls are from Mexico. They are an aquatic amphibian, specifically a type of salamander.
  • The name for these animals comes from an Aztec word, Nahuatl. The most commonly accepted translation for axolotl is "water dog."
  • They originally lived in high-altitude, freshwater and volcanic lakes in a couple of regions of Mexico. But after one of their favorite lakes was filled in to make more room for Mexico City, they are now on the endangered species list, and most are raised in captivity.
  • In the wild, Axolotls tend to be darker colored, most often sort of chocolate-colored. In captivity, they are often paler, ranging from gray to pale yellow to white albino.

Photo from Animalweb's page on amphibians

  • Axolotls are often studied with great interest because if they lose a limb or other tissue, they can grow new limbs.
  • Perhaps the reason they can regenerate tissue has to do with the second reason they fascinate scientists, which is that while most amphibians progress through three stages of growth, from egg to larva to adult, Axolotls stay in the larval stage their entire lives.
  • They do reach sexual maturity, even while they are in their larval state, and though they do grow lungs, they continue to breathe primarily through their gills.
  • If they are taken out of the water, they can breathe for a while through their skin, but only if the skin stays moist.
  • If you want them to metamorphose into full adults, you can make it happen if you give them lots of iodine or a shot of a hormone called thyroxine. If you make them turn into adults, they'll only live about 5 years. If they stay in larval form, they'll live to be 10 or 15.
  • It's speculated that the reason they don't become fully-grown adults on their own is that the freshwater lakes where they used to live didn't have enough iodine in them. But that's just a guess.

Photo from a German site on Axolotls

  • Axolotls are carnivores. They will eat either live or dead food. They like lots of different kinds of worms, including earthworms, bloodworms (midge larvae), blackworms, or whiteworms. They can also eat Daphnia or brine shrimp. Breeders have also been known to feed their Axolotls chopped beef heart, but that's not the best choice becaues Axolotls can't digest mammal proteins very well.
  • Axolotls have sort of stubby teeth, and they snap at their food, trapping it, then swallow it whole.
  • They like it cold, preferring water temperatures around 60 degrees Fahrenheit.

Photo from the University of Kent

  • They used to be a staple of the diet of Aztecs, and until very recently, they were sold in Mexican markets. People liked to eat them best roasted. So I am by far not the only person who thought they'd be good to eat.
This just in as of August 2009: only about 1,200 axolotls still live in the wild.

Sources, Axolotls
Wikipedia, Axolotl, Axolotls as Pets
Wellington Zoo, Axolotl

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Apple #162: Some Updates

I'm brewing up another topic for you, but in the meantime, I have a few updates to share.


My Betta fish, Fishfish, has revealed himself to be a bubble-maker. By that I mean he makes bubbles every day. After I change all the water in his tank, he makes a slightly larger amount. I learned in a book I read that Bettas tend to make the most bubbles after a 100% water change. According to this book, Bettas aren't really ready to mate until the bubbles are bigger than the size the fish normally makes. But you know, I'm starting to think that these fish-book-writing people don't have that much better of an idea about what the fish want than I do after only staring at my fish for a chunk of time each day. All I know is, my fish is a bubble-making Fishfish.

I also suspect he can see his reflection in the side of his bowl. He swims up to the side of the bowl, looks at it very intently, and flares his fins. He also likes a certain tight spot behind the fake plant in the bottom of his bowl. If he hasn't been back there in a while, he swims over to it very cautiously, and then flares his fins like mad, just to make sure no one's snuck back there when he wasn't looking.

For more about betta fish, see basic betta fish care and bubble nests and water care and betta fish food.


In case anybody is interested, here are the major events in this year's Formula One season so far. In the second race of the year, young major threat Kimi Raikkonen had an accident in the very first lap, making his car look like it had been stomped on, and though he was unhurt he was out of the race. In the third race, seasoned 7-time champion Michael Schumacher bounced his Ferrari off one wall and then another in the 32nd lap, totaling his car. Your Apple Lady's favorite and last year's champion, Fernando Alonso, won the first and third races, and he came in second in the second race.

So Alonso has an early lead in the drivers points race with 28 points. At 14 points, Alonso's teammate Giancarlo Fisichella is tied for second with Raikonnen, the formidable Finn. Schumacher is not far behind, tied for fourth, with 11 points.

The next race is coming up on April 23, in Europe's third smallest state, San Marino, in central Italy. The racetrack and town are called Imola, and both are near the birthplace of the Ferrari, the Lamborghini, and the Maserati. Tickets for the race -- if you can still get them -- are going for a mere $128 for one seat in general admission to about $875 for a seat in a prime location. If you'd rather wait, you could go to the fifth race in Cologne, and pay only $113 for a 3-day pass to general admission. A bargain!

Formula One official website
CIA World Factbook, San Marino
Wikipedia, San Marino Grand Prix
Ticket Finders, San Marino Grand Prix 2006

Saturday, April 8, 2006

Apple #161: Ava Gardner

Last night, one of my favorite movies was on TV, Night of the Iguana. It's one of those 1960's black and white classics that just tear you to pieces. I think it's fantastic. Or, I should say, excellent.

It's based on a Tennessee Williams play, for one thing. It stars Richard Burton as the just-shy-of-defrocked Rev. Dr. T. Lawrence Shannon, who has been reduced to giving cheap bus tours of Mexico. Dr. Shannon is being hounded by a dim but beautiful and excitable young girl, who is under the aegis of a harpy named Judith Fellowes (played by Grayson Hall). To escape them and find some solace, Dr. Shannon runs to a seaside resort operated by the dynamic Maxine Faulks (Ava Gardner). While he is trying to duck Ms. Fellowes' wrath, the unflappable but highly sympathetic Hannah Jelks (Deborah Kerr) arrives, flat broke, with her 97 year-old grandfather who also happens to be a poet. There are also two Mexican cabana men, a.k.a. "beach boys," who go around playing maracas and trapping an iguana. You can see the possibilities. It's about people trying to endure the spooks, the blue devils, the nights of iguanas, trying to find some kind of solace and comfort in other people. It's magnificent.

Some stills from Night of the Iguana
(Photo from some French movie site)

I decided, this time through, that I really liked Ava Gardner. She gets pretty dramatic in this role, flips her hair around quite a lot, but it suited her character. In this role, she's brash yet comfortable, walks around barefoot, and is equally at ease whether she's pushing a cocktail cart, shaving a man's face, or dropping headless dogfish into a pot of boiling water. I decided I wanted to watch another movie she was in.

But first, a few facts about her life. Then I'll list some movies and let you know which one I think I want to watch next.

  • She was born in 1992 on a tobacco farm in Brogden, North Carolina. Hence, her accent.
  • She was the youngest of seven children. One sister, whose given name was Beatrice, was actually called Bappie. Another sister was named Elsie Mae.
  • She got a contract with MGM based strictly on her photo, with zero acting experience.
  • She married Mickey Rooney in 1942, but by 1943, they were divorced.
  • Later Howard Hughes pursued her persistently, though she continued to refuse him. Finally, to get her point across, she hit him over the head with a candlestick.
  • She had a lot of one-liner roles from 1942-1945, but then in 1946, Universal was allowed to borrow her from MGM, and she starred in The Killers, starring Burt Lancaster and written by Ernest Hemingway.

Gardner looking sultry in The Killers
(Photo from The Palace)

  • In the meantime, she had married big band clarinetist Artie Shaw in October 1945, but a year and a week later, they were divorced.
  • MGM hung onto her because she became very popular, but they gave her a lot of mediocre scripts. This contributed to her opinion of herself as not that talented an actress.
  • However, when she started working with the renowned director John Ford, her talents were allowed to surface in Mogambo in 1953 and Bhowani Junction in 1956.

(Photo from Cine Clasico)

  • She learned flamenco dancing for The Barefoot Contessa, which was released in 1954. She liked flamenco so much, she kept it up. Often, instead of sleeping, she flamenco'ed most of the night.
  • She had married Frank Sinatra in 1951. He had gotten a hard-fought divorce from Nancy, after lots of hoo-hah in the press and resistance from the Catholic Church. Early in their marriage, Sinatra was broke, and she gave him money to buy presents for his children. Since their relationship had begun as an affair while he was still married to Nancy, they both suffered from jealousy and things were usually pretty rocky between them.

Gardner & Sinatra
(Photo from Divas - The Site)

  • She became increasingly disturbed by what was happening in her marriage and in her Hollywood life in general. In 1955, after filming The Sun Also Rises, she moved to Spain. Believing she and Sinatra could not raise a child since they did not seem able to take care of each other, she had an abortion. Shortly thereafter, they were divorced.
  • In 1959, she was in On the Beach with Gregory Peck. They had already been in several films together, and the two of them formed a friendship that lasted the rest of her life.
  • After The Night of the Iguana in 1964, most of her roles were pretty un-memorable, including her performance as Sarah in The Bible. She did do her own stunts in Earthquake in 1974, but you can tell by the title what kind of movie that was.
  • She found herself in tax trouble with the Spanish government in 1968, and moved to London, where she lived for the next 22 years until her death.
  • In 1989, she suffered a stroke which left her partially paralyzed and bedridden. She lived with her long-time housekeeper, Carmen Vargas, and her Welsh corgi, Morgan.
  • After she died in 1990, her friend Gregory Peck took in both Vargas and the dog.

(Photo from Lenin Imports)

Here are some quotes from her:
  • "When I lose my temper, honey, you can't find it any place."
  • "I haven't taken an overdose of sleeping pills and called my agent. I haven't been in jail, and I don't go running to the psychiatrist every two minutes. That's something of an accomplishment these days."
  • "Nobody ever called it an intellectual profession."
  • "I wish to live until 150 years old but the day I'll die, I wish it to be with a cigarette in one hand and a glass of whisky in the other."
Okay, now for some of the movies of hers that intrigue me:
  • The Killers
    • Two hit-men kill a gas station attendant called the Swede. An insurance investigator looks into the Swede's past and discovers "treachery and crime," as well as the mysterious Kitty Collins.
    • I've heard good things about this movie off and on for some time. I just purchased a copy on VHS not too long ago (not knowing she was in it), so this might be the one I watch next, just because it's readily available.
  • On the Beach
    • Made in 1959, the movie is set in 1964, or The Future, and a nuclear war destroys just about everything, except Australia. A submarine captain, Dwight Lionel Towers (Gregory Peck), has lost his family when he encounters the beautiful Moira Davidson. They begin to fall in love, but the radiation and more war is on its way. Oddly, Fred Astaire is in this, too.
    • I've seen many references to this movie before, too, but this sounds a little too bleak for my taste at the moment.
  • The Hucksters
    • Starring the King, Clark Gable, this film combines the post-World War II fascination for advertising with a love triangle. Victor Norman, just back from the war, wants a job as an ad man. He decides to get a war widow (Deborah Kerr) to endorse Beautee Soap, which gets him the job. He starts to fall for her, but he is also pursued by the younger Jean Ogilvie (Gardner). Whom will he chose?
    • It might be interesting to see that contrast between Deborah Kerr and Ava Gardner in another picture. And it might also be interesting to see Gardner and Gable together. Ooh, and Sydney Greenstreet is in it, too, and I always like his strange brand of creepiness. This is a close contender, but it might be hard to find.
  • Mogambo
    • Also starring Clark Gable, this time as Victor Marswell, the owner of a big game hunting company. He's about to take anthropologist Donald Nordley and his wife Linda (Grace Kelly) on a trip to document gorillas, but first Marswell meets Eloise "Honey Bear" Kelly (Gardner). They get after it, but then when the Nordleys show up, the dimwit Mrs. Nordley decides she likes Marswell, too. Which woman will win?
    • I wanted to see what this was about, just because John Ford was the director and apparently much was made of this. But I don't really go for those safari-type movies very much (which also rules out The Snows of Kilimanjaro, in which Gardner also appeared).
  • The Sun Also Rises
    • Another Hemingway work. American journalist Jake Barnes, wounded in World War I, hangs out in Paris and Spain with his pals, the once-rich drunk Mike (Errol Flynn), drinking buddy Bill Gorton (Eddie Albert), and his unrequited love Lady Brett Ashley (Ava Gardner).
    • The book is tremendous. The film, maybe not so much. I've seen it once, at least in part. It includes a scene I have never forgotten, of a pudgy Errol Flynn pretending to be--or perhaps actually--drunk, staggering in the middle of a bull fight ring, waving a bad check and asking who will take it. I'd like to see it again at some point, if only for this scene. Somehow Ava Gardner's lush screen presence doesn't match up well with my idea of Brett, though.
All in all, it looks like I'll probably watch The Killers next, and then maybe if I can get my hands on it, The Hucksters. It is going to be shown at 4:30 in the morning on Turner Classic Movies on April 14, but I doubt I'll be up at 4:30 in the morning on Good Friday.

Or I might watch another Tennessee Williams play-turned-movie, perhaps The Glass Menagerie, which I've never seen.

Want to see a movie of hers for yourself? Check out TV-Now's schedule of Ava Gardner's movies on TV.

IMDB, Ava Gardner
The Ava Gardner Museum
The Life of Ava Gardner

Monday, April 3, 2006

Apple #160: Benefits of Quitting Smoking

In the past few months, many of my friends and co-workers have quit smoking. Hooray and congratulations to you!

One of the questions that an ex-smoker-still-friend has asked is, how long does it take for your body to heal itself from the damage smoking has done to it? What stages or processes does your body go through in recovering from smoking? He particularly wanted to know, how long would he be coughing up goo?

These are the ashy and blackened lungs of someone who was a smoker for an unknown number of years.
(Photo from Premier Exhibitions, at National Geographic's site on the "Bodies" cadaver exhibition that was on display at Florida's Museum of Science and Industry in February 2006)

First, some of the risks you incur when you take on the smoking habit:
  • Increased risk of dying from lung cancer: 22 times higher than non-smokers if you're male, 12 times higher if you're female
  • Increased risk of dying from coronary heart disease: 2 times that of non-smokers
  • Increased risk of dying of stroke: 2 times that of non-smokers
  • Increased risk of developing these other potentially fatal cancers besides lung cancer:
      • larynx
      • esophagus
      • oral cavity
      • bladder
      • pancreas
      • cervix
  • Increased risk of developing the following conditions, which are leading causes of death:
      • chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
      • emphysema
      • influenza
      • pneumonia
      • peripheral artery occlusive disease
      • abdominal aortic aneurysm (blood clots in your gut that can rupture without warning)

The lung of someone who died of emphysema
(Photo from University of South Wales' Museum of Human Disease)

  • Increased risk of other conditions which, though not necessarily fatal, can be pretty nasty:
      • bronchitis
      • ulcer of the stomach
      • ulcer of the duodenum
  • Risks you give your children, if you smoke around them:
      • increased number of respiratory infections such as pneumonia or bronchitis
      • more likely to develop acute ear infections and persistent middle ear disease, which is treated by inserting tubes in the child's ears
      • increased risk of developing asthma

Smoker's lung on the left vs. non-smoker's lung on the right
(Image sourced from's forum on motivating someone to quit smoking)

Now here's how your body heals itself and slowly moves away from those bad and nasty diseases. The following time markers represent the amount of time elapsed since smoking your last cigarette.
  • 20 minutes - your heart rate drops
  • 12 hours - carbon monoxide levels in blood drop to normal
  • 1 to 2 days - nicotine withdrawal symptoms peak and then drop rapidly over the following weeks
  • 2 days - senses of smell and taste noticeably improve
  • 2 weeks to 3 months - circulation and immune system function improve. Risk for heart attack begins to drop and lung function begins to improve
  • 1 to 9 months - coughing and shortness of breath decrease
  • 1 year - the additional risk of heart attack that smoking gave you is cut in half (you're still at the same risk of heart attack for non-smokers, plus half the risk a smoker has)
  • 3 to 5 years - risks of cervical and bladder cancer are reduced
  • 5 years - persistent cough, sputum production, or wheezing reduced in most former smokers drops to near that of non-smokers
  • 5 to 15 years - risk of stroke drops down to that of a non-smoker's. Risk of cancers of the mouth, throat, and esophagus is halved.
  • 10 years - risk of lung cancer drops to half that of a smoker's (wow, so 10 years after quitting, your risk of getting lung cancer is still higher than a non-smoker's). Also, the risk of getting cancers of the mouth, throat, esophagus, bladder, kidney and pancreas decrease further.
  • 15 years - risk of coronary heart disease declines to that of a non-smoker's.
  • Eventually, the health and function of your lungs will return to that of those who never smoked. The time that takes will vary depending on how many cigarettes you used to smoke per day, how many years you smoked, your gender (it takes longer for your lungs to recover if you're male), and the presence or absence of other environmental hazards.

A nice, pink, healthy set of lungs
(Photo from

Some other data:
  • Women who quit smoking before getting pregnant reduce the risk that their baby will be born with a low birthweight to the same risk as women who never smoked.
  • Pregnant women who quit smoking even in the first trimester reduce their risk to the same levels as if they had not smoked during pregnancy at all.
  • People who quit smoking before age 50 have half the risk of dying in the next 15 years compared to people who continue to smoke.
  • Even if you already have one smoking-related ailment such as heart disease or one form of cancer, quitting smoking can reduce your risk of contracting another smoking-related ailment, or it can reduce the virulence of the disease you already have.

Finally, most former smokers tried to quit and returned to smoking several times before they were able to quit successfully over the long term. This means that if you've quit and returned to smoking, you've gone through one of your quitting cycles and you're that much closer to making the next time you quit, the one that sticks for good.

Never stop quitting smoking.

CDC, Within 20 Minutes of Quitting poster
CDC, Benefits of Quitting poster
State of New York Department of Health, The Truth About Cigarettes: Break Loose!
Antonia C. Novello et al., US Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control, The Health Benefits of Smoking Cessation: a report of the Surgeon General, 1990 (this pdf file is huge, weighing in at 627 pages).