Reasons Why You Should Consider Quitting Smoking

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As of Dec. 20, 2019, the legal age limit is 21 years old for purchasing cigarettes, cigars, or any other tobacco products in the U.S.

Making the decision to quit smoking is perhaps the best decision you can make for your health. While it won't be easy, it will be worth it.

Yes, it takes work and yes, it takes some time. That said, the hard part happens early on, and with some understanding about what's ahead and the support to get through it, you'll be pleasantly surprised that recovery from nicotine addiction is doable and a finite task. In other words, you won't always miss smoking. It also helps to keep these facts in mind.

Tobacco Use Is Dangerous

When thinking about quitting, consider the statistics. First, the good news: In 2005, 20.9% of people over the age of 18 smoked in the United States. By 2018, that number had dropped to 13.7%, and it continues to decrease.

We can thank aggressive anti-smoking legislation and campaigns for nudging American smokers in the right direction. They've educated us about the hazards associated with tobacco use, but in countries without this advantage, smoking rates are much higher.

For those who do smoke, however, here are some key facts about how tobacco can have a negative impact on your health and life.

  • There are one billion smokers around the world today. Eighty percent of them live in low and middle income countries.
  • Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death. If smoking rates continue as they are now, an estimated eight million lives around the world will be lost to tobacco use annually by 2030.
  • For every person who dies a smoking-related death, 30 or more people are living with a smoking-related disease.
  • The most common smoking-related causes of death for smokers are heart disease, COPD, stroke, and cancer. 
  • Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death worldwide, claiming 1.4 million souls each year. Approximately 80% of them are caused by smoking. Similarly, 80% of COPD deaths are smoking-related.
  • "Light" smokers (those who smoke 10 or fewer cigarettes a day) reduce their life expectancy by about five years and increase their risk of lung cancer by 20 times compared to people who have never smoked. Those who smoke just one to four cigarettes a day still have a risk of developing lung cancer that's five times greater than never-smokers.

Quitting Can Lengthen Your Life

If you are a lifetime smoker, your risk of dying a tobacco-related death is about 50%. Additionally, on average, lifetime smokers lose 10 years of life over those who don't smoke. Each year, 480,000 lives are lost to tobacco in the United States.

If you quit smoking before your 40th birthday, you'll reduce your risk of dying from a smoking-related disease by 90%. And if you're older than 40, you'll still benefit from quitting.

The Benefits Outweigh the Work

When asked about the advantages of quitting tobacco, most smokers will talk about the health benefits and perhaps the money saved. There is no doubt that both have a significant impact on life after cigarettes, but there are more advantages to quitting smoking.

The sense of inner strength and belief in your ability to accomplish challenging goals grows immeasurably. For most people, quitting tobacco represents an out-of-reach dream we've carried with us for many years. Learning that we are indeed strong enough and worthy of a life free of addiction can open doors long closed.

Just ask an ex-smoker about the benefits they have experienced since quitting. You might be surprised at what they have to say. For example, ex-smokers often take on a sport they always wanted to do, change course in their careers, or go back to school. Smoking cessation is a life-changer.

Fear and Anxiety Subside

Nicotine addiction compels us to continue smoking long after we want to stop. We think about quitting daily, but then the fear of letting go sets in and we put it off. 

The fact is, no matter when you quit, you'll feel that fear every smoker is familiar with. Push through it and move forward. Your anxiety will dissipate with a little time invested in smoking cessation.

Get Started With Smoking Cessation

If you're thinking about quitting smoking, you're not alone. Nearly 70% (22.7 million) of smokers say they want to quit. We also know that more than half make at least one quit attempt before stopping permanently.

How do you make smoking cessation stick? To get you started on the path toward a nicotine-free life:

  • Think about why you want to quit smoking, and commit those reasons to paper and to memory. Start with the big, obvious reasons, and keep going until you've listed all of the little ones, too. Smoking touches so many parts of our lives. Look at how it has affected yours in detail.
  • Learn what smoking cessation involves. Most smokers think quitting should be a relatively straightforward (and quick) task. Those who have one or more quit attempts under their belts know that's not true. As you go through nicotine withdrawal, it's easy to get stuck in thinking you'll always be miserable without cigarettes. Knowledge put into action is power. 
  • Stay in the present moment. This sounds simple, but it isn't for most of us. We live our lives looking back or ahead, ignoring the day we're experiencing right now. You will be able to cope with the ups and downs of recovery from nicotine addiction more easily if you develop the ability to shut down "junkie thinking," or thoughts of missing smoking (looking back) or the fear of never smoking again (looking ahead). Keep it simple and deal with the smoke-free day you have in front of you. It's where your power to change exists.
  • Have patience. Recovery is a gradual process. Make each day count. That's all you can do, and guess what? It's enough.

A Word From Verywell

You might think you love smoking, but the truth is more about addiction than it is about a fondness for cigarettes. That edgy feeling when the nicotine in your blood needs replenishing is at the root of what we think of as smoking pleasure. And, over time, we learn to connect smoking with most of the daily activities and events in our lives until we come to believe that cigarettes help us cope with just about everything.

Change the faulty programming cigarettes forced on you and build the smoke-free life you've been dreaming of. It's worth the work and will reward you with benefits you have yet to discover.

5 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Smoking and tobacco use: Fast facts.

  2. World Health Organization. Tobacco.

  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Health effects of cigarette smoking.

  4. Schane RE, Ling PM, Glantz SA. Health effects of light and intermittent smoking: a reviewCirculation. 2010;121(13):1518-1522. doi:10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.109.904235

  5. Thomson B, Emberson J, Lacey B, Peto R, Woodward M, Lewington S. Childhood smoking, adult cessation, and cardiovascular mortality: prospective study of 390 000 us adultsJAHA. 2020;9(21). doi:10.1161/JAHA.120.018431

By Terry Martin
Terry Martin quit smoking after 26 years and is now an advocate for those seeking freedom from nicotine addiction.