How Does Smoking Affect Your Lifespan

You probably don’t even notice the warnings anymore when you buy a pack of cigarettes or any other tobacco product. Even though they are big and bold, making statements about smokers getting cancer, heart disease, lung disease, and causing birth defects when pregnant women smoke, you likely look right past them as you tap your pack and light up. Lets explore how does smoking affect your lifespan.

They are in our faces all the time, but they are not specific enough to paint the picture we need to understand the real impact that cigarettes have on our lives. When we do not have direct experience with lung cancer and heart disease, they are abstract concepts. It’s a challenge to picture what that means for us. 

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This is probably why the FDA recently released new proposed warning labels that are more specific. Instead of the general, “smoking may cause cancer,” they plan to shift requirements to labels containing pictures and statements like, “smoking causes bladder cancer, which causes bloody urine.” These warnings are intended to inspire a more visceral reaction, hopefully being more difficult to overlook.

The labels may deter you from buying your first pack, but if you are already addicted by the time you are on the second. One thing that the FDA’s warning labels do not do is offer suggestions on ways to quit. It is just as important to acknowledge how addictive cigarettes are and to make sure people know that there are options for kicking the habit.

Alternatives to Buying Another Pack of Cigarettes

If you are early into your smoking habit, you are lucky enough just to be addicted to nicotine. Unfortunately, those who have been smoking for a while have integrated cigarettes into their lives in ways that are challenging to separate. Smoking becomes a routine, and the ritual of smoking is as important as the nicotine rush itself.

Fortunately, however, there are so many different methods available to help smokers quit so that most people can find something helpful. Nicotine replacement therapies like patches, gums, prescription medications, and inhalers are a popular choice. 

Tobacco alternatives are typically a less expensive option, though there is some controversy about the safety of vaping. Some people are using tobacco-free dip to keep the ritual and the nicotine without the tobacco. Others are choosing to use a reduction method or go cold turkey with the assistance of cognitive-behavior therapy or hypnosis.

How Much Does Smoking Affect Your Lifespan?

The answer to this question depends on several different factors, but the consensus is that smoking takes an average of ten years off of your life. So if you would have lived until you were 80 with all things considered, you will likely die at 70 if you are a smoker.

The numbers paint an even more dismal picture if you have a separate substance abuse problem or a substance abuse problem combined with a mental illness. Forty percent of all cigarettes smoked in the United States are smoked by people with a mental illness, and tobacco-related deaths are between 16 and 23 percent higher among those with substance abuse problems and mental illnesses. 

If that is not enough to motivate you to quit smoking, think about the people you may be affecting. Secondhand smoke causes more than 7,000 deaths due to lung cancer and nearly 40,000 deaths due to heart disease. Even if you confine your smoking to one room or just the basement, you are exposing the people in your household to secondhand smoke.

First Steps to Quitting

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An essential element in your plan to quit smoking is the belief that you can do it. While it may take 30 or more tries to finally quit for good, more than three in five adults who try to quit this year will succeed

In addition to your own beliefs that you can do this, it is essential to have a support system in place. People who have others to cheer them on when performing a difficult task are almost always more successful than those who try to go it alone. 

If you do not have friends and family, you feel comfortable asking for support; you can search for smoking cessation support groups either in your area or online. There are also apps and texting programs that can help you build a plan that is right for you, and they will offer you encouragement and guidance whenever you need it.

Do your research to make sure you feel comfortable with the plan you set up for yourself, and make sure you know what to expect. The first couple of weeks are the hardest, and it is helpful to have some comforts at the ready to help you get through your most intense cravings. Activities that increase your dopamine levels—like exercise, meditation, laughing with a friend, and massages—are great ways to get your mind off.

Final Thoughts

Smoking can shave ten or more years off of your life, and it can shorten the lives of those around you. The FDA is proposing precise warning labels that will create more of a deterrent to starting the habit in the first place, but once you start, you are almost immediately addicted. 

You can kick the habit, starting today, with a wider variety of smoking cessation aids and methods than there ever were, and you do not have to go it alone. The sooner you start quitting, the sooner you step onto a path to a healthier you.