Quit Smoking at 85? Why Not?
Here’s an unexpected finding from the Archives of Internal Medicine: quitting smoking can help you live longer, no matter how long you’ve been smoking, and no matter when you quit. This flies in the face of most conventional wisdom, which holds that you will see diminishing returns from quitting the longer you wait. In fact a great number of lifelong smokers resist change for precisely this reason, assuming the damage has already been done.
Even older people who smoked for a lifetime without negative health consequences should be encouraged and supported to quit smoking,” say the researchers, led by Dr. Hermann Brenner of the German Cancer Research Center in Heidelberg.
They found that smokers 60 years and older were 83 percent more likely to die at any given age compared with people who never smoked. While the link was weaker in the oldest people, it remained considerable even in those aged 80 and over.
Now there is one important thing to point out: epidemiology is an uncertain field at best, and studies like these often indicate “results” that would not hold up under clinical conditions. In this case, for instance, it’s possible that the kind of person who quits at a later age is simply different from the kind of person who smokes until the day she dies. One group may behave differently from the other in important ways, and take better care of themselves overall. Still, it is an encouraging data point.
My Los Angeles sinus surgery practice spends a lot of time discussing the dangers of smoking with patients – both as an issue of post-surgical care, and as a general lifestyle issue. Less smoking will unquestionably lead to fewer cancers and early deaths, so of course I strongly recommend quitting at any age.