You’re never too old to quit smoking

Tobacco use remains a concerning and costly challenge to the health, quality of life and economic development in Indiana. As stated in the Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health “Report on the Tobacco Epidemic in Indiana,” the state’s smoking rate of 23 percent means that it is ranked 44th among all states in terms of smoking. High rates of tobacco use translate to poor health and premature death. In Indiana, tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death – more than 11,000 Indiana residents die prematurely each year because of smoking and 5,700 children under 18 begin smoking, making this a cycle that is set to continue.

Nicotine addiction in seniors

Much of the coverage regarding addictions tends to concentrate on the youth, yet seniors are just as vulnerable to the problems of addiction as anyone else. Nicotine addiction is a widespread problem amongst the elderly in Indiana. Because most elderly smokers have been smoking for many years, their addiction to cigarettes would have formed much earlier in life. Although older adults who smoke are highly nicotine-dependent, they are less likely to believe that smoking harms their health. However, the harmful effects of smoking are massively more damaging in old age than in young smokers due to the much longer exposure period to the habit. Cigarette addiction is linked to heart disease, lung disorders, stroke, cancers and even mental illness. In the elderly, smoking is likely to lead to a poor quality of life and can decrease lifespan by about 10 years – lung cancer and heart disease are the leading causes of mortality.

Importance of smoking cessation

Cessation remains the most effective way of altering smoking-induced disease risks at all ages, including those over the age of 60 years. Quitting smoking, at any age, increases life expectancy and promises significant health benefits. Older smokers who quit have a reduced risk of death compared with current smokers within one to two years after quitting. Their overall risk of death approaches that of those who never smoked after 15 to 20 years of abstinence. The effects of quitting are more immediate on cardiovascular diseases. For example, independence and quality of life improve after just a few months; and on average, smokers who stop at age 65 add two years onto their expectancy.

Benefits

Seniors of any age can reap numerous benefits from tobacco cessation and add years to their lives in the process. No matter what age you may be when you decide to quit, you can still experience improvements in your overall health and well-being. Quitting smoking can reduce your chances of a heart attack and according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI) it can also reduce the risk of cancer and diseases such as COPD. Those who decide to quit at age 50 can decrease the risk of dying prematurely by 50 percent compared to those who never quit. Those who quit at age 60 can benefit from living longer and reducing the risk of heart disease. Other immediate benefits include improved lung function and lowered heart rate and blood pressure. A review by A. Z. LaCroix and G. S. Omenn echoes the benefits of smoking cessation in older adults. Their review shows that the prospects are excellent and that smoking cessation can extend both the number of years of life and the quality of life.

Fairbanks offers a tobacco cessation program to help anyone who wants to quit smoking and maintain a tobacco-free lifestyle. This outpatient program offers step-by-step plans tailored to each individual’s needs. For more information, call 317-579-9369 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Wednesdays to speak with a tobacco cessation educator, or visit Fairbanks’ website at http://www.fairbankscd.org/program/fairbanks-nicotine-dependence-program/.

Given the prevalence of nicotine addiction in Indiana, it is important that individuals are encouraged and supported to quit smoking. This would improve the vitality of Indiana’s residents, communities and economy.