Dear Lifehacker, I've been a smoker since I was 14. I'm now 22 and I consider myself to be smoking hot (pun intended). I've heard that smoking cigarettes can age you prematurely. However, judging by the before-and-after photos I've seen, most of these people were pretty rough to begin with! Will smoking really ruin my good looks, or will I just go from a 9 to an 8.5? (I whiten my teeth professionally, so that's not a problem.)
Also, I fully realise that smoking is bad for me. I've tried halfheartedly to quit a few times but it just hasn't taken. The problem is my friends: most of them are smokers too, so it's always around me socially! Can you recommend an easy, inexpensive way to quit? Thanks, Miss Marlboro
Attractive smoker image from Shutterstock
I'm not going to sugarcoat it - smoking is a stupid, filthy, expensive and dangerous habit that puts everyone around you at risk. To think we used to allow smoking in enclosed public spaces less than a decade ago boggles the mind. Thankfully, federal law now puts the health of hospitality workers and patrons above the convenience of smokers: exactly as it should be.
[Dismounts high horse.]
It's good that you want to quit. As stated above, smoking is a self-destructive waste of money. The only conceivable benefit is the aforementioned "social" aspect - and even that has been compromised by tough anti-smoking legislation.
In addition to improving your overall health and reducing the risk of cancer, giving up smoking will definitely help to maintain your good looks. This isn't conjecture: a recent study compared the appearance of 79 identical twins who did and didn't smoke. Each individual was graded for wrinkles using the Lemperle Assessment Scale.
To confirm that the twins' environmental aging factors were properly controlled for, a Mann-Whitney test was performed on their sunscreen use, alcohol intake and perceived work stress. Surprise, surprise: the smoking twins looked significantly older despite having identical genetic makeup. Explains the report:
"Smoking twins compared with their nonsmoking counterparts had worse scores for upper eyelid skin redundancy, lower lid bags, malar bags, nasolabial folds, upper lip wrinkles, lower lip vermillion wrinkles, and jowls." "Lower lid hyperpigmentation in the smoking group fell just short of statistical significance. Transverse forehead wrinkles, glabellar wrinkles, crow’s feet, and lower lip lines accentuated by puckering did not have a statistically significant differences in scores." "Among twins with greater than 5 years’ difference in smoking duration, twins who had smoked longer had worse scores for lower lid bags, malar bags, and lower lip vermillion wrinkles."
TLDR version: smoking affects the middle and lower thirds of the face and can cause noticeable differences in facial ageing. It will make you look old before your time.
With all that said, beauty and youthfulness are not intrinsically linked -- if you truly are "smoking hot", a few extra wrinkles around the eyes probably won't change that. But wouldn't you rather look younger?
In any event, there's also your health to consider. Tobacco smoke contains a potpourri of toxic chemicals including Carbon Monoxide, Cyanide, and Carcinogens. This makes smoking one of the leading causes of preventable death globally.
It is estimated that female smokers lose an average 14.5 years of total life expectancy compared to non-smokers. In addition to lung, throat and mouth cancer, it has been linked to heart attacks, strokes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, emphysema and a bunch of other horribly fatal diseases. Regardless of what the rest of your friends do, quitting is a smart choice.
Attempting to go "cold turkey" is a surefire path to failure: while some people can do it, the majority of us lack the required discipline and willpower. Instead, try to cut down in a consistent, limited way. As we've advised in the past when it comes to bad habits:
"Whatever it is you shouldn’t be doing, you don’t have to stop yet. (Doesn’t that sound nice?) Don’t try to reduce the habit, reduce the variability in the habit. In other words, don’t even try to quit smoking; try to smoke the exact same number of cigarettes each day. This tiny effort toward self-control can lead to a decrease in bad habits over time, unconsciously."
In your case, I'd recommend limiting cigarettes to weekends and social situations. Eventually, try moving exclusively to electronic cigarettes (AKA e-cigarettes). These have proven effective in helping people quit; more importantly, they'll allow you to remain part of your tight-knit smoking group when they head outside for a ciggy. While the jury is still out on how safe these products are, they certainly beat filling your lungs with tobacco smoke.
There's no shortage of apps that can help you to quit smoking. We recommend Quitbuddy which was developed by the Australian National Preventive Health Agency. It lets you set goals, highlight 'danger times' and read messages of encouragement from friends and family. It's available on Android and iOS.
There are also left-of-field options that could be worth trying. One of my ex-colleagues attempted to kick her smoking habit by enlisting the services of a hypnotherapist. You can read her experiences here. For more conventional quitting tips, check out our in-depth guide.
We're also going to throw this one over to our readers. How did you (or someone you know) successfully give up smoking? Let MM know in the comments section below.
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The story has been updated since its original publication.