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Stop Smoking Benefits That Last
By : Tim Frymyer

As a respiratory therapist, I get to have lots of conversations with patients about their smoking habits. They ask me all sorts of questions.

1. Am I too old to quit smoking? 
2. I already have a smoking disease, so why should I quit? 
3. It's too late for me, isn't it?

When patients are in the hospital because they smoked, it's hard to be brutally honest with them, because they already feel bad. The last thing they need is a guilt trip from some young whipper-snapper in a white lab jacket about their smoking habit. So I carefully answer their questions as best I can without making them feel too bad about their poor choices in life.

But they do ask some good questions, don't they? Are they too old or sick to even think about quitting? Lets look at these for a moment.

Stop smoking benefits are great. They're even greater if you stop smoking at a young age. But just because you are getting a little long in the tooth, doesn't mean there are no benefits for you. Consider this for a moment.

Roughly 90% of all lung cancers are brought on by smoking. Let that sink in for a moment. If people stopped smoking, 90% of all lung cancers would just go extinct, like the dinosaurs. But how long do you run the risk of lung cancer after you stop smoking? For those who quit smoking for 10 years, the risk is 30-50% less than current smokers. Also, if you have quit for 15 years, the risk may be 80-90% less than current smokers. What does this mean in real terms? Lets say you quit at age 55. That mean by age 70, you have approximately the same risk of lung cancer as a non-smoker. So when you are about to enjoy those grandchildren, you'll have a greater chance to do so. What if you quit when you're 40? Then you can enjoy your retirement without as much concern for that dreaded disease.

Now we turn our attention to COPD, popularly known as emphysema. Many smokers have some sort of COPD as they age. They simply can't help it. Smoking does what smoking does, it damages the lungs; some people more, some less, but the damage is there. The question is, how much damage do you want to risk? So when my patients ask me if stopping smoking will help their COPD, the answer is of course it will. The less you smoke the less damage you have. Studies show the progression of COPD slows after smoking cessation. The amount of obstruction in the airways to airflow continues to occur, but at slower rates of decline.