"But I've been smoking for 45 years."
"The damage has already been done."
"Why shouldn't I enjoy my cigarettes? It doesn't matter at my age."
The truth is, it does matter. Seniors who quit smoking tend to enjoy better health and quality of life than their peers who continue to smoke.
Many people do not realize that smoking cessation has immediate as well as long-term benefits. Here are some benefits found in individuals, both young and old, who stop smoking:
In one day:
In several days to several weeks:
In several weeks to nine months:
Quitting smoking has additional health benefits, such as decreased risk of peripheral vascular disease, stroke, and chronic lung disease ( bronchitis, emphysema, and asthma). Giving up cigarettes may also reduce your risk of cataracts, macular degeneration, thyroid conditions, hearing loss, erectile dysfunction, dementia, and osteoporosis.
Even if you already have a chronic disease, quitting smoking may help reduce the severity of your symptoms and keep you healthier longer. Still think it is too late?
"But I have been smoking for 45 years!" you say. "I'll never be able to quit smoking at this point."
You may be surprised to hear that older smokers are usually more successful at quitting smoking than younger smokers. This is especially true if they already have health problems, particularly those associated with smoking.
Studies suggest that elderly persons who ask their doctors about help for smoking cessation are more likely to get that help and may be more likely to be successful quitters. At your next medical visit do not forget to ask what you and your doctor together can do to help you kick the habit.
Many people go back to smoking sometimes years after quitting when a crisis hits. Plan ahead for how you will handle a stressful event such as a death, divorce, retirement, illness, etc. That way, you will not be caught off guard.
Most ex-smokers make several attempts to quit before they are successful. If you start smoking again, do not let feelings of regret, guilt, or failure get a handle on you. Learn from your setbacks and get right back on the program. It is not too late!
American Lung Association
Tobacco Information and Prevention Source
US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Canadian Lung Association
Bupropion for smoking cessation. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated June 19, 2012. Accessed August 20, 2012.
Smoking and older adults. American Lung Association website. Available at: http://www.lung.or.... Published February 2010. Accessed August 20, 2012.
Stop smoking. YourLungHealth.org website. Available at: http://www.yourlunghealth.org/stop_smoking/index.cfm. Accessed August 20, 2012.
Whitson HE, Heflin MT, Burchett BM. Patterns and predictors of smoking cessation in an elderly cohort. J Am Geriatr Soc . 2006;54:466-471.
12/30/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/: Cao Y, Kenfield S, Song Y, et al. Cigarette smoking cessation and total and cause-specific mortality: a 22-year follow-up study among US male physicians. Arch Intern Med. 2011;171(21):1956-1959.
Last reviewed August 2012 by Brian Randall, MD
Last Updated: 8/20/2012
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