1. Health
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

Discuss in my forum

Am I Too Old to Quit Smoking?

When is it Too Late?


Updated July 10, 2014

Portrait of elderly man smoking
Dimitri Otis/The Image Bank/Getty Images
Am I Too Old to Quit Smoking?
Gilbert Laurie/Photographer's Choice RF/Getty Images
I've smoked for most of my life. Is it worth it for me to quit smoking now?

You have every reason to quit smoking now. Though you've smoked for years, the benefits you'll enjoy when you quit smoking will begin within 20 minutes of your last cigarette, and continue for years to come. You will reduce your risk of heart attack, stroke and cancer. Your circulation and lung function will improve. If you have chronic bronchitis or emphysema, quitting will help to arrest further damage from happening. You'll feel physically better, have more stamina and energy, and your self-esteem will soar!

It's never too late to quit smoking.

Are older smokers more likely to stay off cigarettes once they quit?

Yes. Once they quit smoking, older smokers are more likely to quit for good than younger smokers. Older smokers often begin to experience physical symptoms such as shortness of breath and coughing which signal the damage smoking causes. They've also spent years developing a loathing for the habit they now feel chained to. Once an older smoker quits, along with improved health, there is also often a feeling of relief and gratitude. And that feeds long-term success.

Why do older smokers get tired and short of breath so easily?

Smokers, especially those over 50 years old, are more likely to feel tired, have shortness of breath, and experience a persistent cough.These symptoms often signal the onset of COPD, which includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Because COPD is usally slow to develop, it doesn't bother most people until they've been smoking for many years.

Is smoking a major risk factor for heart attack among adults 60 years of age and older?

Yes. Smoking is a major risk factor for four of the five leading causes of death.They include: For adults 60 and over, smoking is a major risk factor for six of the top 14 causes of death. Older male smokers are nearly twice as likely to die from stroke as older men who do not smoke. The odds are nearly as high for older female smokers. Cigarette smokers of any age have a 70% greater heart disease death rate than do nonsmokers.

Can quitting smoking help people who have already suffered a heart attack?

Yes. The good news is that quitting smoking does help people who have had a heart attack. It reduces the chance of another attack, and in some cases, ex-smokers can cut their risk of another heart attack by half or more.

Do most older smokers want to quit smoking?

Yes! Most smokers, even younger ones want to quit smoking. What keeps them from quitting? Fear of being irritable, nervous and tense. Fear that nicotine withdrawal symptoms will be more than they can manage. Fear that life will be boring without their smokes. Not good reasons, any of them, but nicotine addiction clouds a person's thinking. Once free, people usually look back and wonder why they didn't quit sooner. The discomforts associated with smoking cessation are all temporary. Education about what to expect and having a support system in place can make the quitting process doable and even enjoyable.

Do older smokers tend to smoke more cigarettes than a younger smoker?

Older smokers usually do smoke more than younger people. They are also more likely to smoke brands of cigarettes that have high nicotine levels.

If a person has smoked for 30 or 40 years, will they be able to successfully quit?

Yes. The longer a person smokes, the less appealing it becomes. And, as mentioned above, older smokers are more inclined to quit smoking permanently. They may have smoking-related symptoms that make denial of the damage smoking causes impossible. Thanks to the healing powers of the human body, many long-term smokers will notice significant improvements once they quit.

Do many older people smoke?

One out of five adults over the age of 50 smokes cigarettes. That amounts to more than 11 million smokers in the United States - a quarter of the nation's 43 million smokers. Approximately 25% of the U.S. population still smokes.

Are lifelong smokers more likely to die of a smoking-related illness?

Yes. Coronary heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S., and the leading cause of death caused by smoking. Smoking is hard on the heart. Smoking also increases the risk of dying from lung cancer or emphysema, along with numerous other smoking-related diseases. The risk of dying from lung cancer is much higher for smokers than nonsmokers: 22 times higher for men, and 12 times higher for women.

If you still smoke...

Quit now. Every day you dedicate to this habit steals more of your life from you and from those who love you. Don't fall for the misguided thinking that it's too late for you to quit smoking. That's nicotine addiction talking - what's called junkie thinking. It's never too late to quit smoking. As soon as you put down that last cigarette, the benefits begin.

Quit now.

Information for this article provided by NHLBI

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.

We comply with the HONcode standard
for trustworthy health
information: verify here.