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Thank You for Not Smoking

It's never too late to kick the habit

Broken cigarette-Quit smoking ESP

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It's never too late to quit smoking.

En español | In the early 1970s, when cigarettes still evoked images of Hollywood and glamour, U.S. Surgeon General Jesse Steinfeld warned that smoking could cost people their lives.

While the antismoking message has become far more accepted since then, 42 million adult Americans still undermine their health with cigarettes, and that is far too many. AARP believes that government, the private sector and individuals all have a role to play in promoting health and containing health care costs — and smoking is a perfect example.

Tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the United States, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. It kills more than 480,000 Americans a year. For each smoker who dies, 30 others suffer a tobacco-related illness.

Direct costs to the health care system are estimated at $133 billion a year, but the real cost is even higher. Smoking drains an additional $156 billion from the economy through lost productivity.

On top of that, researchers have found that some cigarettes deliver nicotine more effectively than ever, which makes them more addictive, increases cancer risks and poses a threat to young people who may think it's cool to try one.

Maybe you have a loved one who wants to quit smoking. Or maybe you struggle with that same goal. Here are a few things to keep in mind.

  • No matter how old you are, quitting is good for you. Research shows that people 60 or older still get significant health advantages from kicking the habit.

  • Ex-smokers save money in medical bills — potentially thousands of dollars. (Check AARP's Health Care Costs Calculator.)

  • Medicare helps cover up to eight counseling sessions a year to help you stop smoking. This is a benefit under the Affordable Care Act.

Jesse Steinfeld, who was the father of a close friend, died last August at 87. Yet his warnings remain as relevant as ever. We'll all benefit if more people quit smoking.

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