Friday, July 25, 2014

I just turned 50, had a physical and my doctor says I'm in great health. Why should I quit?

It is common to believe that you are one of the "lucky" ones who can smoke without it doing any physical damage, especially when hearing something like this from your doctor. Or believing that when your doctor listens to your chest and says, "Your lungs sound fine", thinking this means smoking has done no damage. This is called having an "optimistic bias".

The average life expectancy for men is 76 and for women 80. Smokers die about 10 years earlier than non-smokers. But since we all have to die of something, it might as well be something you enjoy -right?

Age 45 to 50 seems to be the tipping point. What your doctor should say is, "How do you want to live the last 20 years of your life? If you stop now, you will probably stay healthy and be able to continue doing the activities you enjoy most. However, if you keep smoking, you will probably end up disabled from heart disease, cancer, stroke, or emphysema."

Here is a graph that shows the progression of lung function decline of smokers, non-smokers and quitters leading to disability and ultimately death.

The truth is that no one who smokes is healthy. Fifty percent of all smokers will die from their addiction but almost all will develop some type of disability from smoking. The problem isn't that you will die too young from smoking but you will live too long suffering from a horrible debilitating disease. So quit now while there is still time to stay healthy. Turn your optimistic bias into believing that if you do quit, you will continue to be healthy but if you continue to smoke, you will suffer the disabling effects.

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