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Quitting Smoking Adds Years to Life

Smokers with years of puffing behind them sometimes question whether it’s worth the struggle to quit. After all, hasn’t the damage to their health already been done?

The answer is that regardless of your age or how long you have been a smoker, it’s never too late to quit. New research published in the New England Journal of Medicine finds that once exposure to cigarette smoke stops, the human body is quite resilient. The benefits to health start immediately.

The study found that:

  • Smoking typically reduces life expectancy by at least ten years, but smokers who quit by age 40 saw nine of those years returned.
  • Smokers who kicked the habit before age 35 regained the entire decade.
  • Smokers who gave up cigarettes at age 54 recouped six years that otherwise would have been lost.

These improvements in life expectancy are because the risks of heart disease and stroke, both of which are aggravated by smoking, significantly drop when that last cigarette is put out.

If for no other reason than wanting to live to age 80 and have more opportunities to enjoy retirement, smokers age 55 and older also have much to gain when they quit. The study found that nonsmokers are twice as likely as smokers to reach this milestone and to be in good health when they do.

Researchers made these determinations using information obtained from 217,000 surveys collected between the years of 1997 and 2004 for the federal National Health Interview Survey and comparing it to causes of death that occurred by 2006.

The LHSFNA’s Laborers’ Guide to Tobacco and Quit Smoking Survival Kits offer suggestions and tips for breaking the tobacco habit. They can be ordered through the Fund’s Publications Catalogue along with brochures and posters that contain additional information about the hazards of tobacco.

[Janet Lubman Rathner]

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