You've been thinking about it. You want to do it. You've just been waiting for the right time. Well, your moment has arrived: what better time to quit smoking than the New Year?

The New Year gives you a chance to start over in any area of your life. Setting resolutions is about creating a clean slate for yourself and exchanging bad habits for good ones. It's about intentions and making plans to follow through with them.

Take advantage of the changing calendar to change your life for the better. Need an extra incentive to take the plunge? Consider these reasons to start off the New Year smoke-free.

Tobacco Kills

According to the American Cancer Society, smokers are more likely to develop disease and die earlier than non-smokers. Smokers also are at greater risk for a number of health conditions, including (ACS, 2012) :

  • lung cancer and other cancers
  • heart attack
  • high blood pressure (hypertension)
  • stroke
  • emphysema
  • chronic bronchitis
  • gingivitis and periodontal disease
  • premature aging

ACS also reports that people who quit smoking before age 50 have half the risk of dying in the next 15 years, compared with those who continue smoking.

Nicotine Is Addictive

The highly addictive nature of cigarettes can make it difficult to kick the habit. The toxic effects of nicotine and other substances in tobacco cause "nicotine dependence." Because of this, many people will attempt to quit more than once before they become smoke-free for good. That's all the more reason that setting a stop date like New Years can be a powerful strategy in your decision to quit smoking.

Smoking Causes Wrinkles

With each new year, you'll become another year older. But you can age more gracefully if you stop smoking. Dr. Lowell Dale from the Mayo Clinic says smoking can speed up the normal aging process of your skin, leading to wrinkles on your face and other parts of your body (Mayo, 2011) .

Nicotine causes narrowing of blood vessels in your skin, impairing blood flow and nutrients to your skin. The more than 4,000 chemicals in tobacco smoke also damage collagen and elastin, which are needed to provide your skin with elasticity.

Smoking Hurts Mental Health

It's not just your physical health that suffers from smoking. A study in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that smoking in middle age can lead to memory and reasoning problems, too (JAMA, 2008). Additional studies have shown that:

  • elderly smokers face an increased risk of dementia and cognitive decline compared with lifelong non-smokers
  • smokers with mild cognitive impairment at midlife develop dementia at an accelerated rate
  • smoking hastened cognitive decline in dementia-free elderly smokers, bringing the disease on several times faster than in non-smokers of the same age

Quitting Smoking Has Immediate Health Benefits

According to ACS, the health benefits of stopping smoking are far greater than any physical or emotional difficulties that you may experience from quitting, regardless of your age (ACS, 2012). When you quit, major health benefits kick in right away, whether you already have a smoking-related disease or not.

You reduce the risk of developing lung cancer and other smoking-related illnesses by quitting. Those who quit when they are younger reap the most benefit from quitting, but even smokers who stop smoking after age 50 reduce their risk of dying early. It's never too late to choose better health and longevity by quitting--and New Year is a great time to make it happen.