"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 and long-term benefits. One study of adults (aged 50-74 years) without a history of heart attack or stroke were followed for 9 years. Current and former smokers experienced a first heart attack, stroke, or death from heart-related diseases over 2 times more than nonsmokers. But, researchers found the risks from smoking decreased after smokers quit, regardless of age, how much one smoked, or for how long.
The benefits of quitting increase over time as your body heals itself.
In 1 day:
In several days to several weeks:
In several weeks to 9 months:
Quitting smoking has additional health benefits, such as decreased risk of peripheral artery 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
Gellert C, Schottker B, et al. Impact of smoking and quitting on cardiovascular outcomes and risk advancement periods among older adults. Eur J Epidemiol. 2013;28(8):649-658.
Guide to quitting smoking. American Cancer Society website. Available at: http://www.cancer.org/acs/groups/cid/documents/webcontent/002971-pdf.pdf. Published February 6, 2014. Accessed July 15, 2016.
The real rewards of quitting. Smoke Free website. Available at: http://smokefree.gov/rewards-of-quitting. Accessed July 15, 2016.
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 July 2016 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.