Why quit smoking?

Nicotine is a very addictive drug. People usually try to quit many times before they are successful. But the struggle can be worth the effort. In September 1990, the US Surgeon General outlined what you gain when you quit smoking:
  • Quitting smoking has major health benefits that start right away. This is true for people who already have a smoking-related disease as well as those who don't.
  • Former smokers live longer than people who keep smoking. For example, people who quit smoking before age 50 have one-half the risk of dying in the next 15 years compared with people who keep smoking.
  • Quitting smoking lowers the risk of lung cancer, other cancers, heart attack, stroke, and chronic lung diseases such as emphysema and chronic bronchitis.
  • Women who stop smoking before they get pregnant, or even during the first 3 to 4 months of pregnancy, reduce their risk of having a low birth-weight baby to that of women who never smoked.
  • The health benefits of quitting smoking are far greater than any risks from the weight gain or any emotional or psychological problems that may follow quitting.
Your risk of having lung cancer and other smoking-related cancers depends on how much you have been exposed to cigarette smoke over your lifetime. This is measured by the number of cigarettes you smoked each day, how you smoked them, how young you were when you started smoking, and the number of years you have smoked. There is no way to precisely measure a person's risk of getting cancer, but the more you smoke and the longer you do it, the greater your risk.
The good news is that the risk of having lung cancer and other smoking-related illnesses can be reduced if you stop smoking. The risk of lung cancer is less in people who quit smoking than in people who keep smoking the same number of cigarettes every day. The risk decreases as the number of years since quitting increases.
People who stop smoking while they are young get the greatest health benefits from quitting. Those who quit in their 30s may avoid most of the risk due to tobacco use. But even smokers who quit after age 50 largely reduce their risk of dying early. The argument that it is too late to quit smoking because the damage is already done is not true. It is never too late to quit smoking!
For more information, see our Guide to Quitting Smoking.


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