“I’ve smoked two packs of cigarettes a day for 40 years—what’s the use of quitting now? Will I even be able to quit after all this time?”
No matter your age, quitting smoking improves your health. If you quit smoking, you are likely to add years to your life, breathe more easily, have more energy, and save money. You will also:
Smoking shortens your life. It causes about 1 of every 5 deaths in the United States each year. Smoking makes millions of Americans sick by causing:
Nicotine is the drug in tobacco that makes cigarettes so addictive. It’s one reason why the first few weeks after quitting are the hardest. Although some people who give up smoking have no withdrawal symptoms, many people continue to have strong cravings for cigarettes. They also may feel grumpy, hungry, or tired . Some people have headaches, feel depressed , or have problems sleeping  or concentrating. These symptoms fade over time.
Many people say the first step to quitting smoking successfully is to make a firm decision to quit and pick a definite date to stop. Then, you’ll need to make a clear plan for how you will stick to it. You may need to try many approaches to find what works best for you. For example, you might:
If at first you don’t succeed, you are not a failure. You can try again and be successful. If you were able to quit smoking for just 24 hours in the past few months or weeks, you have doubled your chances of quitting for good in the coming year!
When you quit smoking, you may need support to cope with your body’s desire for nicotine. Nicotine replacement products help some smokers quit. You can buy gum, patches, or lozenges over the counter.
There are also products that require a doctor’s prescription. A nicotine nasal spray or inhaler can reduce withdrawal symptoms and make it easier for you to quit smoking.
Other drugs may also help with withdrawal symptoms. Talk with your doctor about which medicines  might be best for you.
Some people think smokeless tobacco (chewing tobacco and snuff), pipes, and cigars are safe alternatives to cigarettes. They are not. Smokeless tobacco causes cancer of the mouth and pancreas. It also causes precancerous lesions (known as oral leukoplakia), gum problems , and nicotine addiction. Pipe and cigar smokers may develop cancer of the mouth, lip, larynx, esophagus, and bladder. Those who inhale when smoking are also at increased risk of getting lung cancer.
Secondhand smoke created by cigarettes, cigars, and pipes can cause serious health problems for family, friends, and even pets of smokers. Secondhand smoke is especially dangerous for people who already have lung or heart disease. In adults, secondhand smoke can cause heart disease and lung cancer. In babies, it can increase the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), which is the unexplained death of a baby younger than 1 year of age. Children are also more likely to have lung problems, ear infections, and severe asthma if they are around secondhand smoke.
The good news is that after you quit:
No matter how old you are, all of these health benefits are important reasons to make a plan to stop smoking.
National Library of Medicine
MedlinePlus: Quitting Smoking
For more information about health and aging, contact:
National Institute on Aging
P.O. Box 8057
Gaithersburg, MD 20898-8057
email@example.com  (email)
Visit www.nihseniorhealth.gov , a senior-friendly website from the National Institute on Aging and the National Library of Medicine. This website has health and wellness information for older adults, including information about quitting smoking for older adults . Special features make it simple to use. For example, you can click on a button to make the type larger.
National Institute on Aging
National Institutes of Health
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services