Does it matter how long I've smoked?
You bet it does, but there are a couple of variables to consider. First of all, know that the longer you smoke, the higher your risk of cancer, says Jason Turowski, MD, a pulmonologist at the Cleveland Clinic.
Another important factor? How old you are when when you first start getting your nicotine fix. As Turowski explains, your lungs are still forming up until your mid-20s; if you start reaching for cigarettes on the reg before, say, age 25, you’re stunting your lungs’ growth so that they’re never able to reach peak performance.
Your age when you quit smoking also matters. “The younger you quit, the better off you are,” says Apar Kishor Ganti, MD, MS, FACP, an associate professor at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. In fact, research suggests cutting yourself off before you hit 35 could lead to a mortality rate similar to people who’ve never touched cigs. Another study finds that quitting before you turn 40 slashes your risk of death related to continued smoking by a whopping 90%. Sooo… if you absolutely must, only smoke until you’re 35! Or 40, max! But either way, you’re better of quitting it, not hitting it.
Don’t fret if you’re a middle-aged smoker, because the health benefits of quitting aren’t exclusive to the younger age bracket. Even older adults lower their risk for hospitalization after they’ve ditched the habit, according to a recent study.
The key here is that no matter how old you are when you quit, doing so is “the best decision you can make,” according to Turowski.