Smoking Cessation for Older Adults: It's Not Too Late!
"But I have been smoking for 45 years."
"The damage has already been done."
"Why shouldn't I enjoy my cigarettes? It does not matter at my age."
The truth is, it does matter.
Health Benefits and More
Quitting smoking has many benefits. This is true even if you are older and have smoked for a long time.
Short -term Benefits
As soon as you stop smoking, your body begins to heal itself. Short term benefits happen in days, weeks, and months. They include:
- Improved blood flow
- Decreased heart rate and blood pressure
- Improved sense of taste and smell
- Cleaner lungs and easier breathing
- More energy
- Fewer colds, flus, lung infections, and sinus problems
Over time, quitting smoking lowers the risk of:
- Heart attack, peripheral artery disease, stroke, and erectile dysfunction
- Breathing problems such as bronchitis and emphysema
- Cancers of the mouth,lungs, food pipe, voice box, bladder, pancreas, cervix, and kidney
- Osteoporosis (weak bones)
- Cataracts and macular degeneration
- Type 2 diabetes
- Hearing loss
Perhaps you already have a long-term disease. Quitting smoking can still help. It may make symptoms less severe. It can keep you healthier longer.
Quitting smoking is also good for the skin. It can help wounds heal faster. It can also help prevent wrinkles.
"But I have been smoking for 45 years!" you say. "I'll never be able to quit smoking at this point."
Actually, older smokers are often more successful at quitting. This is especially true if they have health problems from smoking. It also helps to ask your doctor for help.
Preparing to Quit
- List all the reasons you want to quit smoking. Look at your list often.
- Get help from your doctor. You can also try a quit smoking counselor or group. Ask about nicotine patches, gum, or nasal spray. Medicines can also help. It is best to use these products with a behavior change program.
- 1 week before you quit, keep a journal. Write down when and where you smoke each time. Record how you are feeling each time (happy, anxious, relaxed, angry, sad, or lonely). This helps you be more aware of your smoking patterns.
- Choose a method of quitting. You can slowly cut back or quit all at once. Quitting all at once tends to work best.
- Set a quit date on your calendar.
- On quit day, throw out all your cigarettes and ashtrays.
- Review your smoking journal. Look at your smoking patterns. You may often smoke in certain places at certain times (in the kitchen after a meal, for example). If so, change your routine (get up from the table after eating). Look for other situations that trigger your smoking. Examples are stress, depression, and being around other smokers. Have a plan for every situation.
- Make a list of ways to distract yourself from smoking. Call a friend, take a walk, chew gum, or take a warm bath.
- Reward yourself with a treat (not food). Do this for every week you do not smoke. Save the money you do not spend on cigarettes. Put it in a jar and watch it grow.
- Have a supportive buddy (an ex-smoker is best). Call this person during the rough times.
- Try not to gain weight. Eat low-fat meals and snacks. Include lots of fruit, vegetables, and whole grains. Drink lots of water. Exercise daily. A dietitian can help.
- Withdrawal symptoms should go away in a few days. Nicotine replacement products and medicines can help. Try to get more rest and relaxation.
Learn How to Handle Stress
Many people go back to smoking when a crisis hits. This can happen even years after quitting. 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 try to quit several times before they are successful. If you start smoking again, do not beat yourself up. Learn from your setbacks. Get right back on the program. It is not too late!
American Lung Association
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Benefits of quitting. Smoke Free website. Available at: https://smokefree.gov/quit-smoking/why-you-should-quit/benefits-of-quitting . Accessed October 13, 2021.
Counseling for tobacco cessation. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/management/counseling-for-tobacco-cessation. Accessed October 13, 2021.
Quitting smoking for older adults. National Institute on Aging website. Available at: https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/quitting-smoking-older-adults. Accessed October 13, 2021.
Smoking cessation strategies for hospitalized patients. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/management/smoking-cessation-strategies-for-hospitalized-patients-16. Accessed October 13, 2021.
Last reviewed October 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Last Updated: 10/13/2021