Health Team

Study: Quitting can have major benefits for long-time smokers

Posted May 6, 2008

Smoking can lead to a host of life-threatening diseases, but if you've smoked for a long time, how much does quitting actually accomplish?

A new study of women who kicked the habit shows dramatic improvements in a short amount of time.

Liz Riley started smoking when she was 15 years old.

“I smoked for 30 years, and I knew that if I continued to smoke that I probably would die,” she said.

Researchers studied about 100,000 women from 1980 to 2004. They compared death rates for various diseases among current and former smokers with the rates for women who had never smoked.

The risk of dying dropped significantly once women in the study stopped smoking.

“Within the first five years of quitting smoking, we saw a reduction in the risk of dying of lung cancer and a 50 percent reduction in the risk of dying of cardiovascular disease – specifically coronary heart disease,” said Stacey Kenfield with the Harvard School of Public Health.

Within 20 years after quitting, the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease dropped even further, comparable to the level of women who never smoked.

“Once you remove the carcinogens from tobacco smoke from your body, your body is able to repair itself,” Kenfield said.

Riley said that's what she experienced. An addiction counselor helped her quit smoking in 2002.

“Immediately, I noticed the effects even within the first few days. I noticed that I could breathe better,” she said.

Researchers said they hope the findings prompt other women to follow Riley’s example.

Researchers found that 64 percent of deaths among current smokers are linked to their own smoking. In the U.S., tobacco use remains the most common preventable cause of death.


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  • PlanetX May 8, 2008

    "Thats why I call them cancer sticks!! Boston"

    Yep - I call mine "coffin nails".

  • ncsudan May 8, 2008

    I an now 8 months smoke free. I used Chantix and it worked GREAT for me. I now run every other day and feel much much much better. By blood pressure went from 140/95 to 117/75 in just 3 months and my heart rate dropped about 20 BPM (probably due to the running). I encourage everyone to QUIT. If you fail, don't beat yourself up, just quit again, and again and again. Every day you don't smoke helps. Stay positive!

  • legal_immigrant May 8, 2008

    If you really want to quit, you can, just like that. Cold turkey. You just have to have the will power and self discipline to do it. I did, after smoking for 15 years of one to two packs a day.

  • legal_immigrant May 8, 2008

    Everyone already knows that quitting smoking is good for you. Why waste more money on an already known fact?

  • LPE May 7, 2008

    "chris234" I was hoping to have it licked. I quit smoking 08/2005. Your message wasn't that encouraging to me. This was my second attempt at quitting. I stopped one time for about six months. I plan to make it this time. Strange though, no matter how long it's been; the thought/desire somehow creeps back in at times. It's sad to think it will always be that way. The ones who never started are the lucky ones. You don't miss what you haven't had.

  • misschris234 May 7, 2008

    dmtmom, good luck!!! It's not easy!! I quit once for 2 years, then for 3 years, then a year and recently quit again. Just keep at it, you can do it!!! You will immediately start to feel better!!

  • teck May 7, 2008

    whatelseisnew; I'd like to see this study, and don't call me Shirly... From Airplane... get it LOL

  • Grandaddy May 7, 2008

    I just quit 2 weeks ago...after smoking consistently for 11 years YAY love to hear good news
    You GO GIRL. You know all my life (and I'm pretty old) I have yet to hear anyone say "I wish I could start smoking" but you know I've heard alot of people say "I wish I could stop smoking". You'll find out that quiting was one of the best things you have ever done. I'm proud of you. (I quit july 31 1991)

  • Subdivisions May 7, 2008

    Glad I read about this study, I had no idea quitting smoking was good for you.

  • dmtmom May 7, 2008

    I just quit 2 weeks ago...after smoking consistently for 11 years YAY love to hear good news