New Year, New You: Why stopping smoking is important at any age

Tuesday 22 December 2015

Stopping smoking remains one of the most popular New Year resolutions and can be a life-saving decision for those who succeed. Quitting is often a challenge but the more often a person tries, the greater the chance of finally kicking the habit.

Whatever your stage of life, there are good reasons not to smoke.

Most smokers take up the habit in childhood, with around two-thirds of smokers starting before the age of 18. Among children who try smoking, between one half to two thirds are likely to become regular smokers, potentially paving the way to a life-long addiction. Children are 3 times more likely to start if they grow up in a household where adults smoke so when parents quit they are also increasing the chances of protecting their children from a lifetime of addiction.

Nowadays very few teenagers smoke regularly, partly due to the high cost. With premium brands costing over £9 a packet, most teens would sensibly choose to spend that on something more long-lasting such as clothes or cosmetics. But for those who do smoke, they should be aware that nicotine addiction can kick in after smoking just a few cigarettes. Once addicted, it’s hard to break the habit, and it can take 6 or more attempts before a person finally manages to quit for good.

Those who are trying to start a family should be aware that smoking adversely affects fertility for both sexes, making it harder to conceive. For women in particular, it’s important to try to quit before becoming pregnant and also to stay smokefree after the birth, since smoking increases the risk of miscarriage, premature birth, and cot death.

During middle age and older age smokers may start to notice common health problems caused by smoking such as a chronic cough, shortness of breath or chest pains. These could be symptomatic of serious disorders such as bronchitis, emphysema or heart disease and should be a cue to get your health checked.

The risks of heart disease, cancer and respiratory disorders increase substantially in people who have smoked for 20 years of more. In addition, the diseases associated with older age such as dementia, arthritis and risk of blindness are also increased if a person smokes.

But it’s never too late to quit, even if you have already developed heart disease or lung cancer. For example, within a year of stopping smoking, the risk of a heart attack halves compared to that of a continuing smoker and survival rates for people with lung cancer are increased if they quit after diagnosis. Stopping smoking between the ages of 50-60 significantly improves a person’s quality of life.

Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive of health charity ASH said:

“Stopping smoking is the best way of improving health at any age and some health benefits can be felt immediately. It’s a good idea to speak to your GP or other health professional to get help to quit. It can be tough but once you’ve stopped you will never regret it.”

ASH’s top tips:
1. Set a date – e.g. New Year’s Day – and mentally prepare for it.
2. Get professional help. Smokers who quit by using local Stop Smoking Services and a nicotine substitute are up to 4 times more likely to quit than someone going “cold turkey”. Speak to an adviser well before your quit day so they can advise you on how to cope with any nicotine withdrawal symptoms.
3. Tell family and friends of your intention so they can support you.
4. Throw out any remaining cigarettes, lighters etc. on the eve of your chosen quit day.
5. Understand what to expect. Nicotine withdrawal may make you restless, irritable and can interrupt sleep but these symptoms usually pass after a few days. Using nicotine replacement therapy or electronic cigarettes may help you cope with these symptoms.
6. Make your home smokefree – not letting others smoke in your home will strengthen your resolve as well as ridding your home of toxic chemicals.
7. Remind yourself of the health risks: smokers die on average 10 years younger than non-smokers
8. Reward yourself for every day of being smokefree
9. Be aware of triggers that might lead to relapse, e.g. places or times when you would usually smoke, and have a substitute to hand.
10. Don’t give up giving up. If you do relapse, try again. It can often take several attempts to quit completely.

Notes and Links:

Action on Smoking and Health is a health charity working to eliminate the harm caused by tobacco use. For more information see:
ASH receives core funding from Cancer Research UK and the British Heart Foundation.

[1] To find your local stop smoking service contact: NHS Go Smokefree
0300 123 1044 or visit:
[2] For more information on the benefits of stopping smoking see: ASH Fact sheet: Stopping smoking – the benefits and aids to quitting

Contact: Deborah Arnott 020 7404 0242 (w) or 07976 935 987 (m)