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Is It Ever Too Late to Quit?

With all the bad news about smoking and its effects on health, it’s easy to see how someone who has smoked for 10, 20, 30, or even 40 years would think quitting now probably wouldn’t do them much good.

Nothing could be farther from the truth! In fact, statistics show the people who benefit the most from stopping smoking are older people who’ve smoked their whole lives. According to research published in the journal Tobacco Control, the majority of lives saved due to more widespread use of smoking cessation programs would be among older smokers, particularly those in the 45-60 age group, because that’s the age when smoking-related diseases really start catching up with people.

Just consider the health benefits that come from even one day without cigarettes:

  • Blood circulation improves
  • Carbon monoxide levels in the blood decline
  • Heart rate and blood pressure decrease
  • The risk of having a heart attack drops

After a few days or weeks of not smoking you’ll experience:

  • An improved sense of smell and taste
  • Increased lung capacity
  • Easier breathing

After several weeks to nine months, you’ll have:

  • More energy
  • Cleaner and better working lungs
  • Fewer colds and other respiratory tract infections
  • Decreased sinus congestion
  • Less shortness of breath

Stay off cigarettes over the long term and you’ll:

  • Decrease your risk of lung cancer, even lowering it to that of someone who’s never smoked
  • Decrease your risk of other tobacco-related cancers, such as cancer of the mouth, esophagus, larynx, bladder, and pancreas, and lessen your chance of getting kidney disease
  • Decrease your risk of heart disease (risk drops by one half after just a year of not smoking) and stroke
  • Decrease your risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Decrease your risk of several other diseases and conditions, such as cataracts, macular degeneration, thyroid conditions, hearing loss, erectile dysfunction, dementia, and osteoporosis

What if you already suffer from a smoking-related illness? It’s still not too late to enjoy better health from quitting. The medical evidence is clear on several points:

  • If you’ve had a heart attack, quitting smoking can significantly reduce your risks of having another heart attack.
  • If you’ve had a stroke, quitting reduces your risks of having another stroke.
  • If you’ve been diagnosed with COPD, quitting smoking is the only way to stop the progression of the disease.
  • If you’ve been diagnosed with lung cancer or any of the many other cancers caused by smoking, quitting smoking can improve your overall health and increase your chances of recovery.

So, to answer the question asked by the title of this article, no, it’s never too late to quit smoking!

© 2014 American Association for Respiratory Care