Is it worth it to quit smoking late in life?

Older man smoking

JuiMagicman / Pixabay

Although we mostly hear about the link between smoking and lung cancer, smoking also increases your risk of stroke, chronic lung diseases other than cancer, and cancer of the bladder, throat and mouth, kidneys, cervix, and pancreas.

And according to the American Heart Association,

  • Almost one-third of deaths from coronary heart disease are attributable to smoking and secondhand smoke.

Some people who’ve been smoking for years think the damage is already done, so why bother trying to quit.

I recently interviewed Dr. Douglas Sawyer, the Chief of Cardiology at Maine Medical Center for a blog post on a different subject (Understanding aortic valve stenosis and new treatment options.)

I also asked his opinion on whether it was worth it to quit smoking late in life. Would it make a difference? His answer:

Absolutely. It’s worth it to quit when you’re 85. There is an absolute benefit to quitting smoking.

You can try to play the odds  — I smoked all my life and I’m still here so I’m going to enjoy every puff I can have. Or my grandmother lived to be 95 and she smoked all her life.

Sure, you can try to play those odds, but the damage continues and it’s kind of relentless.

To make it to 65 and older is great, but what if you had to deal with a bloody cough that was from lung cancer or peripheral vascular disease that prevented you from walking to the park or any other form of cancer that is associated with tobacco.

Some people get frustrated because early after quitting they have more cough for a while. In the long run, they’re better off.

Benefits of quittingACS Smoking screenshot


Here are some more benefits you should notice almost right away when you quit smoking.

  • Food tastes better
  • Your sense of smell returns to normal
  • Your breath, hair, and clothes smell better
  • Your teeth and fingernails stop yellowing
  • You’re less apt to feel out of breath climbing stairs and doing other ordinary activities
  • You’ll save money

No matter what your age, If you’d like to quit but need some motivation and support, consider participating in the American Cancer Society’s annual Great American Smokeout — it’s  the Thursday before Thanksgiving. And check out the ACS Guide to Quitting Smoking.

Are you someone who already quit smoking? Do you have any advice for anyone who wants to quit and is struggling?

Diane Atwood

About Diane Atwood

For more than 20 years, Diane was the health reporter on WCSH 6. Before that, a radiation therapist at Maine Medical Center and after, Manager of Marketing/PR at Mercy Hospital. She now hosts and produces the Catching Health podcast and writes the award-winning blog Catching Health with Diane Atwood.