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recent ex smoker
An_241328 posted:
Dr. Foulds:

Well, I am one of those idiots who decided to start smoking in college at 20. I am now 36 and have been a heavy smoker the last 16 years. All in all, I am in good health, other than the smoking habit, and recently during a physical I had a bit of a scare as my doctor decided to share more details with me than my old physician ever had. I.E. some lung scaring (that could be caused from smoking or other things). Still it was enough to really get my attention as my father died of cancer at 61 which started in a scar, and my grandfather died of cancer at 67 which started in a scar. I'm going to guess I was a 28-32 pack year smoker.

So as I am a bit of a hypochondriac I went to an ear nose and throat specialist just to get checked out. As I really wish I would have quit at 26 (when I tried) or at 30 (when I tried again), I had a discussion with not only my GP, but my Ear, Nose, and Throat doctor and they both said one thing. Quit now, we never see anyone come back in with cancer if you quit now. Typically, we see a lot of people in their 50's who are chronic smokers in our offices a great deal.

Obviously, quitting will be a great thing, and as my family has not had a history of other cancers (just lung due to smoking), what are the opportunities for my body to heal and avoid cancer. There is one definitive fact in my family history, both my father and grandfather smoked when diagnosed, they smoked when sick, they died smoking. So, If I quit at 36 for good, what are the chances of my body recovering to that of a never smoker. I've been beating myself up for ever smoking in lieu of accepting the good news received from my doctor if I quit and being positive about the possibility of a longer life.

We know I am genetically predisposed to lung cancer if I smoke with my family history, but if a smoker stops in his 30's what are my chances of avoiding cancer if cessation occured at 36. I don't know a lot of old existing smokers, but I do know a great deal of old ex smokers who quit at my age or even in their 40's.

I am intending on eating right, exercising regularly, and most importantly not smoking. While I ask this question I know anything medically can happen due to genetics, etc. but what do you think about what I have mentioned on my family history, and quitting at 36. I just want to move forward quitting looking at a positive future, not beating myself up for a past I cannot change. What can I say, marriage is in my near future and I want to be around for sometime.

I am asking this question here, as many of the websites out there will have you convinced that you will die young either way, which is somewhat depressing!
Jonathan Foulds, PhD responded:
Hi, As I am sure you understand, I cannot say anything about you personally, but I can answer your question by commenting on what the research evidence suggests about the risks of smoking and for people with your general history. So, the vast majority of smokers who quit at age 36 and never smoke again will avoid most of the serious long term health risks from smoking. Clearly your family history and comments from your doctors imply you are not the average 36 year-old smoker. However, within a few years of quitting, cardiovascular risks will have almost returned to those of a never smoker and within 15 years half of the excess lung cancer risks due to smoking will have gone. By quitting at age 36 a smoker will likely avoid the excess risk of COPD due to smoking. Every single additional cigarette smoked causes the lungs to be coated with over 50 carcinogens. So your doctors are correct. Quitting smoking now is the single best thing you can do for your health.
An_241328 replied to Jonathan Foulds, PhD's response:
Dr. Foulds:

I appreciate your response. I have quit smoking and know that the best thing to do is to simply stay quit. It is clear I obvioulsy can't change the past, but what do you recommend for someone during cessation who is really beating themselves up for ever starting. In short, in lieu of focusing on the negative aspects of ever smoking, focusing on the positive impacts of quitting. What helps?
Jonathan Foulds, PhD replied to An_241328's response:
I would suggest getting some additional help and support for your quit. Some of the websites already discussed on the forum are very helpful: and for example. Also get some extra encouragement from the quitline on 1-800 QUITNOW.

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