Return to Index
Smoking Cessation for Older Adults: It's Not Too Late!
Gaining Health Benefits
- Blood circulation increases
- Carbon monoxide levels in the blood decrease
- Heart rate and blood pressure decrease
- Sense of taste and smell improves
- Lung capacity increases
- Breathing becomes easier
- Energy level increases
- Lungs become cleaner and more functional
- Colds and other respiratory tract infections become less common
- Sinus congestion decreases
- Shortness of breath decreases
- Risk of heart disease, heart attack, and lung cancer decreases (risk can eventually be similar to that of a lifelong nonsmoker)
- Risk of cancers of the mouth, esophagus, larynx, bladder, pancreas, and kidney decreases
- Risk of dying decreases
Gaining Even More Benefits
Preparing to Quit
- List all the reasons you want to quit smoking and look at your list often.
- Get help from your doctor, a smoking cessation specialist, or a group cessation program. Discuss using nicotine replacement products (patch, chewing gum, or nasal spray), or medications, along with a behavior change program.
- One week before you quit, keep a journal of when and where you smoke each cigarette. Record how you are feeling each time (happy, anxious, relaxed, angry, sad, or lonely). This will help you be more aware of your smoking patterns.
- Choose a method of quitting, such as gradually cutting back or quitting all at once. Quitting all at once tends to be most effective.
- Set a quit date on your calendar.
Using Helpful Strategies
- On quit day, throw out all your cigarettes and ashtrays.
- Review your smoking journal and identify your smoking patterns. If you regularly smoke in certain places at certain times (in the kitchen after a meal, for example), change your routine (get up from the table after eating). Identify other high-risk situations such as stress, depression, and being around other smokers. Have a plan for every situation.
- Create a list of ways to distract yourself from a cigarette craving. Examples include calling a friend, taking a walk, chewing gum, or taking a warm bath.
- Reward yourself with a treat (not food) for every week you do not smoke. Put the money you save in a jar and watch it grow.
- Have a supportive "buddy" (preferably an ex-smoker) you can call during the rough times.
- To avoid weight gain, eat low-fat meals and snacks with lots of fruit, vegetables, and whole grains. Drink lots of water. Exercise daily. Consult a nutritionist if weight gain becomes a problem.
- Withdrawal symptoms should go away in a few days. Nicotine replacement products and medicaitions like bupropion can help. Try to get more rest and relaxation.
Learning How to Handle Stress
American Lung Association http://www.lungusa.org
Tobacco Information and Prevention Source US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco
Canadian Lung Association http://www.lung.ca
Health Canada http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca
Bupropion for smoking cessation. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated June 21, 2013. Accessed August 8, 2014.
Gellert C, Schottker B, et al. Impact of smoking and quitting on cardiovascular outcomes and risk advancement periods among older adults. Eur J Epidemiol. 2013;28(8):649-658.
Guide to quitting smoking. American Cancer Society website. Available at: http://www.cancer.org/acs/groups/cid/documents/webcontent/002971-pdf.pdf. Accessed August 8, 2014.
Smoking and older adults. American Lung Association website. Available at: http://www.lung.org/stop-smoking/about-smoking/facts-figures/smoking-and-older-adults.html. Published February 2010. Accessed August 8, 2014.
The real rewards of quitting. Smoke Free website. Available at: http://smokefree.gov/rewards-of-quitting. Accessed August 8, 2014.
Whitson HE, Heflin MT, Burchett BM. Patterns and predictors of smoking cessation in an elderly cohort. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2006;54:466-471.
12/30/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Cao Y, Kenfield S, Song Y, et al. Cigarette smoking cessation and total and cause-specific mortality: a 22-year follow-up study among US male physicians. Arch Intern Med. 2011;171(21):1956-1959.
- Reviewer: Michael Woods, MD
- Review Date: 08/2014
- Update Date: 00/80/2018