When Dr. Nathan Cobb’s patients ask him for reasons to stop smoking cigarettes, the pulmonologist tells the story of his grandmother, who smoked her entire life.
“But in her late 60s, she and Grandfather moved into a new house with new drapes. Overnight she quit because there was no way that she would get nicotine stains on her new drapes,” says Cobb, a research investigator at the Schroeder Institute of the American Legacy Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to preventing smoking, especially among young people.
As Cobb’s story illustrates, the only reason to quit smoking that matters—or works—is the one that matters to you.
One reason might be to save your life. One in five deaths in the United States is smoking related, and more deaths are caused each year by tobacco use than from HIV, illegal drug and alcohol use, motor vehicle injuries, suicides and murders combined, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“Cigarettes and cigarette smoke contribute to many diseases, namely coronary heart disease, lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease [COPD],” says Dr. Thomas Yadegar, a pulmonary critical care physician and medical director of the intensive care unit at Providence Tarzana Medical Center in Los Angeles. COPD is a lung disease that encompasses chronic bronchitis and emphysema.
Ironically, consequences such as death, or others that seem far off or abstract, sometimes aren’t persuasive, Cobb says. With that in mind, here are other good reasons to quit smoking that may work for you:
Savoring summertime. “When the [temperature] gets above 90 or 100 degrees, a patient with COPD will have a difficult time with any level of activity,” Yadegar says. “And with smog and wind, he can continue to have a hard time. Even if you have COPD, that will improve if you stop smoking. It’s never a bad time to stop.”
Avoiding wheelchair retirement. “It’s one thing to drop dead,” says Cobb, who also is an assistant professor of oncology at Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, D.C. “But it’s another to be stuck in a chair breathing with an oxygen tank because you have emphysema. The reason to quit isn’t just about dying but about what your retirement years might look like.”
Keeping your family healthy. Second-hand smoke, which contains at least 250 toxic chemicals, causes lung cancer and heart disease in nonsmokers and breathing problems like asthma in children, according to the CDC. “It can harm humans or animals—anyone who’s breathing,” Yadegar says. And smoking around your kids can make smoking your legacy. A 2009 Harvard School of Public Health study found that children who were 12 or younger when their parents were smoking were nearly four times more likely to smoke than children of nonsmokers. Get into shape after you quit with these tips from our sister magazine Spry.
Smelling sweeter. Yadegar says it’s common to have a patient bent on quitting because a grandchild has said, “I don’t want to hug you because you smell like an ashtray.”
Saving money. The average price of a pack of cigarettes nationwide is $5.51, according to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, and that doesn’t include local cigarette or sales taxes. Add those, and in a state like New York, you’ll pay $11 per pack. Even at the base price of $5.51, a pack-a-day smoker spends more than $2,000 a year that otherwise could be a down payment on a car.