Is it ever too late to stop smoking?

Ajay K. Sahajpal, MD
Transplant Surgery
To put it simply, no. Smoking cessation prior to elective surgery of any type, even days before, is better than not quitting at all. Also, in the setting of smoking related diseases such as lung cancer, quitting is still beneficial while one undergoes treatment.
Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
When you are on your way to 6 feet under, that is when you are on the way to being buried, it is too late.  Other than that it is not too late.  You do permanent damage to your lungs though, and so lung disease, while reversible in the early phases, that is before age 35 and 20 pack years, starts to become irreversible progressively as you get older.
Robert S. Kaufmann, MD
Internal Medicine

It's never too late. At any moment you quit then you're helping your lungs. It is not a question of what happened in the past, you only look for the future, so quitting smoking will definitely improve your lungs ability to work and your overall health.

Irwin Isaacs
No, it is never too late to stop smoking.
Joanne M. Foody, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
It’s never too late to stop smoking! Your health risks start decreasing quickly after you stop smoking, and they continue dropping over time. You’ll see big benefits after you quit, no matter how long you’ve been smoking – even if you’ve already developed some smoking-related problems.

Look at the health improvements you can expect within the first year:

• 20 minutes after quitting: Your blood pressure and heart rate will drop.
• 12 hours after quitting: The carbon monoxide level in your blood will return to normal.
• 2 weeks to 3 months after quitting: Your circulation and lung function will improve.
• 1 to 9 months after quitting: You’ll cough less and you’ll have less shortness of breath. Your lungs will be more able to handle mucus, clean themselves, and reduce your risk of infection.
• 1 year after quitting: Your excess risk of heart disease will be half that of a smoker.

And the benefits don’t stop there! Within several years your stroke and heart disease risk can equal that of a non-smoker’s and your risk of cancer will be dramatically reduced as well. You’ll also see immediate benefits in your everyday life:

• Your breath will smell better.
• Your teeth will get whiter.
• Your clothes and hair will stop smelling of cigarette smoke.
• Your yellow fingers and fingernails will disappear.
• Your senses of smell and taste will improve.
• Everyday activities – like climbing stairs or doing light housework – won’t leave you out of breath.

There’s one more important benefit to stopping smoking: You’ll save money! Smoking is expensive. When you stop buying cigarettes, the payoff is big.

Social Smoking
It is never too late. Quitting smoking will likely lead to an over-all improvement in your health even if you already have smoking-related illnesses. 
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Your health begins to improve rapidly when you quit smoking, so it's never too late to quit. For instance, studies show that people who stop using tobacco at age 65 tack on two to four years to their life expectancy.

The health benefits of quitting smoking begin almost immediately. Within 20 minutes of your last cigarette, your blood pressure and heart rate drop. Within half a day, your blood levels of tobacco toxins are reduced too. In the months to come, your lung function will improve, so you'll have more energy to enjoy life. And at the one-year anniversary, your risk for heart attacks will be slashed in half.

The benefits of quitting continue to accrue over time, as your risk for deadly cancers and other diseases drops with each passing year. Quitting smoking today is an investment in your future, no matter what your age.
Imran K. Niazi, MD
Clinical Cardiac Electrophysiology

It is never too late to stop smoking and reap the benefits. The sooner you stop, the better chance you will have of reducing your risk of heart attack and stroke, lowering your cholesterol level and blood pressure, and lessening your chances of getting throat and lung cancer. Stopping smoking will give you more energy, clear your complexion and improve your sex life.

It isn’t too late even AFTER a heart attack. Smoking cessation is the single most effective step you can take to prevent a second heart attack. It is far more important to stop smoking than to lose weight, exercise, reduce stress, reduce cholesterol, etc. All of these are helpful, but stopping smoking is the most important of them all.

The longer you smoke, the more you damage your lungs and the rest of your body. You can improve your health by stopping smoking at any age.

Continue Learning about Smoking Treatment

New Info About Risks of Smoking Anything
New Info About Risks of Smoking Anything
We weren’t blowin’ smoke when we warned (over and over) about the health risks of smoking—anything! We know you want to kick the habit: Over 80 percen...
Read More
What habits should I change if I want to quit smoking?
Dr. Michael Roizen, MDDr. Michael Roizen, MD
It helps to avoid not just the cigarettes, but anything you associate with smoking. For some peo...
More Answers
What's the hardest part of quitting smoking?
Dr. Jeanne Morrison, PhDDr. Jeanne Morrison, PhD
Quitting smoking may cause short-term problems, especially for those who have smoked a large number ...
More Answers
The Best Time to Quit Smoking
The Best Time to Quit Smoking

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.