Sep 13, 2021
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To quit smoking or not?

To quit smoking or not?

The answer to the question “To quit smoking or not?” seems obvious.

It is necessary to get rid of such a bad habit at any age, because it continues to exert its negative effect all the time while you smoke.

On the other hand, there are skeptics who claim that it is too late to fight an ingrained bad habit in old age: the efforts made are not worth it – any smoker will tell you how hard it was for him to part with his cigarette, that he almost died, that it is more harmful for him to quit smoke than keep smoking.


And there are many who support this opinion. At one time in the United States, a famous news anchor of the ABC channel Peter Jennings made a big storm on this topic. He told fans that he has lung cancer due to smoking. But the intrigue was that he quit smoking 20 years before he was given this terrible diagnosis. It turns out that he was in vain struggling with his bad habit: “tobacco cancer” caught up with him two decades after all these labors.

Is quitting smoking really not good for your health? Among patients with both lung cancer and those with other malignant tumors, there are many former smokers. But numerous studies still confirm that quitting smoking significantly reduces the likelihood of developing cancer, as well as diseases of the heart, blood vessels and lungs. These are all major ailments associated with smoking.

In particular, at one time in the influential “British Medical Journal” was published a huge study conducted among British doctors and lasted 50 years. According to his data, it turned out that those who continue to smoke live on average 10 years less than those Aesculapians who were able to quit smoking before they turned 30: in terms of life expectancy, they differed little from those who had never smoked. That is, the first conclusion is obvious: you need to quit smoking when you are young, up to 30 years old.


But this study does not provide an answer for those who are already over 30. How to be one? Where is the line when you need to quit smoking in order to stay healthy? The original answer came from Dr. Claudia Henschke of Cornell University College of Medicine in New York. She estimates a dangerous dose of tobacco at 10 pack-years. What does it mean? One pack-year is a daily pack of cigarettes smoked throughout the year. And 10 pack-years is 10 pack-years. It doesn’t matter if you’ve smoked for a decade in a row or intermittently. By taking this dose, you put yourself at an increased risk of developing lung cancer forever.

Professor Henschke believes that smokers with such experience and who have reached the age of 60 should have their lungs checked – to do an X-ray, and if necessary, a computed tomography of the chest. The risk of the harmful effects of smoking at this age is very high. But with this theory, some doctors disagree. They argue that it is very difficult, if not impossible, to draw a dividing line between health and an increased risk of cancer.

But people need some guidelines. Let them not be absolutely accurate, but they will be – this is a feature of the human psyche. Maybe it’s never too late to quit smoking at all: who proved that TV presenter Peter Jennings got lung cancer precisely because of smoking? Perhaps some other factors were the cause of the tumor. After all, there are cases when people who have never held a cigarette in their mouths, who were practically not in the same room with smokers or who did not have other obvious risk factors for the development of this disease, fell ill with lung cancer.


But it turns out that there is no age when it’s too late and pointless to quit smoking. This was recently proved by a group of German scientists from Heidelberg. Their answer is unequivocal: “It’s never too late!” They demonstrated it with numbers on hand. At any age, even 80 years old, there is a sense of this: those who quit smoking increase their life expectancy and reduce the risk of death.

It is understandable that such a response will discourage many elderly smokers who think they are too old to quit or to benefit from it. So they are deeply mistaken. When scientists compared the fate of a huge number of smokers over 60 years old, it turned out that among those who continue to smoke, the risk of death from any cause is almost twice as high as among their peers who have never smoked.

For comparison, among those who quit smoking in old age, this risk was only 34% higher. That is, their situation was worse than that of non-smokers in life in general, but almost three times better than that of those who continued to smoke. This pattern is typical for both men and women. It holds true for 60-year-olds as well as 70- and 80-year-olds, and even those who are even older.

In addition, this pattern does not depend on the place of residence of a person; it has been confirmed on different continents. To reach such conclusions, the authors summarized 17 studies from seven countries: the United States, China, Australia, Japan, England, Spain and France. The observation time for smokers ranged from three to 50 years, and the number of participants under medical supervision was about 900 thousand. Of course, such statistics can be trusted.

As well as the fact that every smoker needs to quit a bad habit as quickly as possible, regardless of his age. Scientists have found that at any age, the risk of death decreases depending on the time elapsed since quitting smoking. The larger it is, the better, even for people over 80 years old.

Oleg Dneprov.


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