How Tobacco Use Affects Health Insurance

How Tobacco Use Affects Health Insurance text overlaying image of a cigarette Insurance companies can’t change your premiums based on your medical history or turn you down for any pre-existing conditions. However, they can change your premiums based on other things, such as whether or not you smoke. If you regularly smoke, vape, or even chew tobacco, your health insurance can cost up to 50% more. Companies use this “tobacco surcharge” to try to keep policyholders from smoking, since chronic conditions like COPD that are caused by smoking lead to high medical costs. However, even if you’re a smoker you can still find great health insurance. 

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What Counts As Tobacco Use?

All tobacco products, like vape juice, cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco, snuff, e-cigarettes, and pipes, are charged a tobacco fee by insurance companies. If you used any of these items four times a week or more in the last six months, that is considered tobacco use. Only people who use tobacco for religious or spiritual reasons, like Native Americans, are exempt from this surcharge. At the moment, insurance companies depend on people to tell the truth. When you ask for health insurance, you have to tell the company if you smoke or not. “Have you used tobacco in the last six months?” is a question that insurance companies often ask.


If you lie about how much you smoke, it could be called insurance fraud. Depending on where you live, giving a false answer to this question could be a felony that could cost you thousands of dollars in fines, jail time, and court fees, as well as a felony charge. If you get health insurance through your job, a regular medical exam could be used to check that your answers are true. During this test, a blood or urine sample can be used to check for nicotine use.

The Cost of Tobacco Use

Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), health insurance rates are based on the type of plan, the number of people covered by it, their age, where they live, and whether or not they smoke. Many insurance companies can use the fact that a person smokes to raise their health insurance rates. This is called a “tobacco rating”. Subsidies are also affected. The full cost of the tobacco fee falls on people who smoke. The insurance company changes the premium based on age and location, but tobacco use is taken into account before that.


The tax credit isn’t used to pay for any of the tobacco fees. Through a “tobacco surcharge,” the Affordable Care Act (ACA) lets insurance companies charge users up to 50% more (or 1.5 times more) than they charge non-smokers. Even though this is legal, not all states have chosen to adopt this charge.  Surcharges on tobacco can be different in each state.

States that charge 50%

The States that charge less than 50%

States That Prohibit Tobacco Ratings Entirely

How Tobacco Affects Your Health

Smoking causes illness and disability, and it hurts almost all of your body’s organs. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that more than 16 million Americans have a disease caused by smoking. At least 30 people live with a serious disease caused by smoking for every person who dies because of it. About 41,000 nonsmoking adults and 400 babies die each year because they were around people who were smoking. Adults who are around people who smoke can get a stroke, lung cancer, and arterial heart disease. Children who are exposed to secondhand smoke are more likely to have Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, acute respiratory infections, middle ear disease, more serious asthma, respiratory symptoms, and slower lung growth. Smoking leads to:


When you smoke, you can get cancer and then your body can’t fight it. Toxins in cigarette smoke can damage the body’s immune system, making it harder to kill cancer cells. When this happens, the growth of cancer cells can’t be stopped. Tobacco smoke contains poisons that can damage or change the DNA of a cell. DNA is the “instruction manual” of a cell. It controls how a cell grows and works. When DNA is broken, a cell can start to grow out of control, which can lead to cancer. Cancer can form almost anywhere in your body if you smoke, including:


  • Blood (acute myeloid leukemia)
  • Bladder
  • Cervix
  • Colon and rectum
  • Esophagus
  • Kidney and renal pelvis
  • Larynx
  • Liver
  • Lungs, trachea, and bronchus
  • Mouth and throat
  • Pancreas
  • Stomach


Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, is a group of illnesses that block airflow and make it hard to breathe. Emphysema and chronic asthma are both parts of COPD. COPD is usually caused by smoking, but long-term exposure to other lung toxins, like secondhand smoke, can also lead to COPD. One out of every four Americans with COPD has never smoked. However,up to 8 out of 10 COPD-related deaths are caused by smoking, and 38% of the nearly 16 million U.S. people with COPD who are still smoking. When a child or teen smokes or is exposed to secondhand smoke, it can slow the growth and development of the lungs. This can make it more likely that they will develop COPD as an adult.


Diabetes is a long-term illness that changes the way your body turns food into energy. Most of the food a person eats is turned into glucose, a type of sugar that gives energy to the body’s cells. The pancreas is an organ near the gut that makes insulin. This hormone helps glucose get into the cells of the body. When you have diabetes, your body either doesn’t make enough insulin or can’t use it very well. Too much sugar stays in your system when there isn’t enough insulin or when your cells stop responding to insulin. Over time, this can lead to major health problems like heart disease, vision loss, and kidney disease. 


We now know that one thing that can lead to type 2 diabetes is smoking. In fact, people who smoke cigarettes are 30%–40% more likely to get type 2 diabetes than people who don’t smoke. People with diabetes who smoke are more likely to have trouble taking insulin and taking care of their health than people with diabetes who don’t smoke. If you smoke a lot, you are more likely to get type 2 diabetes.

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Gum Disease

Gum disease, also called periodontal disease, is an infection of the gums that can affect the bones that hold your teeth in place. In the worst cases, it can make you lose your teeth. Bacteria (germs) on your teeth get under your gums and cause gum disease. If the germs stay on your teeth for too long, they build up into layers of plaque and tartar. This buildup can lead to gingivitis, which is an early form of gum disease. When gum disease gets worse, your gums can pull away from your teeth and leave places that can get infected.


The bone and muscle that hold your teeth in place can break down, and your teeth may become loose and need to be pulled out. In the United States, smoking is a major cause of gum disease. Your immune system, which fights off sickness, gets weaker when you smoke. This makes it harder to get rid of an infection in the gums. If your gums are already damaged, smoking makes it harder for them to get better.

Heart Disease and Stroke

Cardiovascular illnesses (CVDs) include heart disease and stroke. In the U.S., coronary heart disease, also called coronary artery disease, is the most common type. Coronary heart disease happens when plaque builds up on the walls of the arteries that bring blood to the heart. A stroke happens when the brain doesn’t get enough blood or when a blood vessel in the brain breaks, damaging or killing parts of the brain. A stroke can cause death or injury, such as paralysis, weakened muscles, trouble speaking, or loss of memory. One out of every four deaths from cardiovascular disease (CVD) is caused by smoking.

How To Quit

Now is a great time to talk to your doctor if you smoke or use any other kind of tobacco. Under the Affordable Care Act, your health insurance plan can help you stop smoking by giving you the tools you need. One of the best things you can do for your health is to stop smoking or using any kind of tobacco. The faster your body can start to heal, the sooner you should stop. This is what happens after you’ve quit smoking:


  • 20 minutes – blood pressure and heart rate lowers
  • 12 hours – the amount of carbon monoxide in your bloodstream reduces
  • 3 months – your lung functions and circulation improve
  • 9 months – coughing and shortness of breath are less common
  • 1 year – your risk for a heart attack drops
  • 5 years – your risk of throat, mouth, bladder, and esophagus cancer severely drops
  • 10 years – lung cancer risk drops
  • 15 years – coronary heart disease risk reduces

Coverage for Quitting

Quitting doesn’t just improve your health it also improves your finances. Pack-a-day smokers can save between $1,380 and $2,540 annually, depending on where you live and the brand you smoke. Most health care plans, including all plans bought through the Marketplace, cover a screening for tobacco use. During this screening, your doctor will ask if you smoke or use tobacco and give you information about how it affects your health and why you might want to stop. Your health insurance may now cover free services that can help you stop smoking. This could include, depending on your plan:


  • Cessation counseling
  • Medication to help you quit
  • Nicotine replacements such as gum, lozenges, patches, inhalers, and nasal sprays

Keep in mind that grandfathered health plans, which are those that were in place before the Affordable Care Act was passed and haven’t changed much, are not required to give preventive care like help to quit smoking. Find out if you’re in a grandfathered plan by asking your insurance company or HR department. Also, short-term health plans don’t have to cover any preventative care including smoking cessation. 

EZ Can Help

No matter if you use tobacco products now, just quit, or are on your way to stopping, it is important to have health insurance. Many health problems can be caused by tobacco products, so it’s better to have insurance than to not have it and risk having medical bills pile up. If you smoke and want health insurance, but are worried about how much it will cost, EZ.Insure can help. We’ll look at the prices, compare plans in your area in minutes, and find you a plan that will save you money. Enter your zip code in the bar below to compare free quotes right away, or call 877-670-3557 to talk to a qualified agent.

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4 Healthy Habits to Help You Qualify for a Million Dollar Life Insurance Policy

One million dollars sounds like a lot of money, right? But in terms of a life insurance policy, it really isn’t a crazy amount when you think about all the debt, like mortgage and car payments, as well as other monthly and daily expenses, that your family would be left with if you were to pass away. Money will go quickly when paying off these debts, which is why it’s important to look into million-dollar policies for your family.

Think about it this way: if you’re married and bought a new home that costs $400,000, and you were to pass away, how would your spouse be able to afford your mortgage payments without your income? Having a large policy, such as a million dollar policy, will give you peace of mind knowing that your children and partner would be able to afford these mortgage payments, while also having enough money to help pay for other expenses your income would have covered. This type of large policy would mean that your family would be financially secure if the unexpected were to happen.

While million dollar policies are a good idea for a lot of people, you should know that there are some requirements you must meet in order to get one. So what can you do to qualify for one? Try adopting the following 4 healthy habits that will help you qualify for a million dollar policy. 

1. Quit Smoking

no smoking sign
Cigarette smoking is linked to 80 to 90% of cases of lung cancer, which is a red flag for insurance companies.

One of the first questions that most life insurance companies will ask when you apply for a policy is if you use tobacco products. This is because insurers always try to assess what kind of risk an applicant will be at before providing them with a policy. And because cigarette smoking is linked to 80 to 90% of cases of lung cancer, insurance companies see this as a huge red flag. So if you are a smoker, consider quitting and then waiting before you reapply for a life insurance policy. If you do this, you might qualify for lower premiums on a million-dollar life insurance policy.

2. Lose Weight

Your weight  is another thing that insurers take into consideration when determining both your premiums and how much coverage you qualify for. Their view is that if you are overweight or are considered obese, you will be more likely to develop health conditions, such as diabetes, high cholesterol, heart disease, and stroke. So losing weight will not only improve your health overall, it will also make you more likely to be able to purchase a million-dollar life insurance policy at a reasonable price.

3. Eat Healthy & Exercise

Eating healthy and exercising are important parts of living a healthy life. Choosing to eat better and getting at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week can help you lower your cholesterol, maintain a healthy weight, and reduce the risk of heart issues. Not only that, but these habits will make you look better to life insurance companies, and could help you get your million dollar policy.

4. Avoid a High-Risk Lifestyle2 people skydiving

If you are into scuba diving, jumping out of planes, or any other high-risk activities, this is generally a red flag for life insurance companies. And not only is your lifestyle important in determining your eligibility, but so is your profession. If you have a high-risk job such as a logger,  you will also be considered a bigger risk for a life insurance company to take on. Consider avoiding high-risk activities that will result in higher premiums, as well as a lower benefit amount. 

How To Find The Best Policy

There are many great affordable life insurance options to choose from that will provide enough money for your family, for a low monthly price. The best way to find the right life insurance policy for you and your specific needs is by working with an agent who specializes in life insurance. We have provided the top life insurance companies in the nation below; each offers hassle-free assistance and the most competitive rates. Always check multiple sites to make sure you have bargaining power and know the advantages of each company. Make sure a hard time isn’t made harder by a financial burden, check life insurance rates today.

‘Tis the Season…For Illness! How Seniors Can Boost Their Immune Systems

These days, we’re all thinking about our health and immune systems, and if you’re an older adult, that probably goes double for you. But even before people of all ages were wondering whether they should be disinfecting their groceries, you’d probably been noticing that your immune system just wasn’t what it used to be. And now maybe you feel like you get sick more often than you did when you were younger, or that it takes longer for you to get back on your feet again – so is that all in your head? And what can you do to give your immune system the boost it needs as the cold and flu season hits us?

Is Your Immune System Not Quite What It Used to Be?

red blood cells with virus pathogens floating around
As you age, your immune system gets weaker, making it harder for it to fight off viruses.

The answer to whether you’re just imagining a decline in your immune system is no, you’re not just imagining it. Your immune system – your body’s natural defense against illness and infection – does tend to get weaker with age. That’s actually the ironic thing about our increasing life expectancies: as we live longer and longer, we see more and more how our bodies decline with age, and our immune systems are no different. They take a hit with age, allowing more infections, diseases, and cancer to take hold; this tendency to lose some of our immunity as we age is known as “immune senescence.” 

“Just as you probably can’t run as fast as you used to in your 20s, your immune system doesn’t work as well as it used to,” says Aaron E. Glatt, MD, chairman of the department of medicine at South Nassau Communities Hospitals.

While scientists aren’t quite sure why this happens, they have observed that the increased risk of infections (and of dying of respiratory illnesses like the flu, pneumonia, and Covid-19) for older adults is linked with a decrease in T cells (which attack other, illness-causing cells). This is possibly due to the normal atrophying of the thymus gland with age, which leads to it producing fewer T cells to fight off infection. There is also some speculation that our bone marrow becomes less efficient at producing the stem cells that help create the cells of the immune system, or that inflammation and infections chip away at our immune systems over time.

Whatever the reason, it’s clear that the following three things happen as you age:

  • Your body doesn’t respond as well to vaccines – Again, when you’re older, you don’t make as many T cells, and most vaccines need new ones to work. But that doesn’t mean you should skip your vaccines! Despite the reduction in efficacy, vaccinations for influenza and S. pneumoniae have significantly lowered the rates of sickness and death in older people when compared with no vaccination.
  • You become more susceptible to illness – Not only do you have fewer cells that fight infection, the ones you do have also don’t communicate as effectively with each other, meaning they might not be as quick on the uptake when it comes to reacting to germs (hey, it happens to the best of us!)
  • You recover from illness, injury, and infection more slowly – You also produce fewer white blood cells as you age, which can slow down recovery from illness.

What Can You Do?

While all of the above is true, and can mean a bit more worry as we approach the germy winter season, you don’t have to take it all lying down (in bed, with a box of tissues at hand). While there is no magic cure-all, you can try the following things to keep your aging immune system as strong as possible for as long as possible:

Get Your Z’s

woman sleeping in a big bed

Getting enough sleep is important at every age, but as you get older, it becomes even more important since it helps improve brain function, concentration, and memory. But sleep is also important for keeping your immune system strong: according to Gisele Wolf-Klein, MD, ““Research clearly shows that too little sleep – or poor-quality sleep – lowers immunity, even in young healthy people.” Aim for at least 7-9 hours of sleep a night; remember to keep your bedroom dark, cool, and screen-free, try not to take excessive naps, and limit caffeine consumption to get your optimal amount of sleep. 

Work on Your Stress Levels

A bit of short-term stress probably isn’t going to affect your body, but chronic stress can actually take a toll on your immune system. When under stress, your body increases the production of the stress hormone, cortisol, which has the side effect of limiting bodily functions that aren’t essential in a fight-or-flight situation. That means that constantly producing extra cortisol could lower your immune system response, and make you more susceptible to illness; not only that, but you might find yourself sleeping and eating poorly if you’re under constant stress, which can also work against you. Try to find ways to relax that you enjoy, or add meditation, breathing, or yoga into your life, and remember to set limitations and say “no” when you need to focus on you.

Eat Healthy, Including Immune-Boosting Foods

There isn’t one single food you can eat, or diet you can follow, to improve your immunity, but it is important to eat a healthy, varied diet full of vitamin and mineral-rich foods, like fresh fruits and veggies. You should especially look for dark, leafy greens and anything in the red, yellow or orange family, which are loaded with immune-boosting vitamin C and antioxidants. Some researchers do suggest trying to incorporate the following immune-boosting foods:

different kinds of citrus fruits
Citrus fruits can help boost your immune system.
  • Citrus fruits
  • Watermelon
  • Ginger
  • Spinach
  • Greek yogurt
  • Chicken

Exercise and Maintain a Healthy Weight

Some researchers believe that excess weight – especially abdominal fat – triggers inflammation, which not only increases your risk of heart disease and diabetes, but also puts stress on your immune system. Eating a healthy, varied diet as discussed above can also go a long way toward maintaining a healthy weight, as can moving your body more, helping to keep your immune system working at its best. Research also suggests that exercise helps cells move more freely, which helps them do their job better.

Quit Smoking

The chemicals in cigarettes are known to damage lung tissue and increase the risk for cancer, but they can also cause respiratory illnesses such as the flu, bronchitis, and pneumonia. There are so many good reasons for quitting, so if you smoke, talk to your doctor about the best way for you, whether it’s a gum, a patch, a prescription medication, counselling, or a combination of these methods.

Get Outsidetwo older people sitting on a boat in the sun

Spending a little time out in the sunshine can help to boost your vitamin D levels, which can help strengthen your immune system; if your vitamin D levels are really low, your doctor can prescribe supplements or recommend an over-the-counter supplement. Just remember not to spend too much time in the strong sun, so you can avoid sunburns and excessive amounts of UV radiation, which can cause cancer. 

Stay on Top of Your Health

If you’re living with chronic conditions like diabetes or arthritis that affect your overall functioning and make you feel less than tip-top, make sure to follow all of your doctor’s recommendations for keeping these conditions under control. Again according to Dr. Glatt, “Keeping illnesses like diabetes well-controlled takes less of a toll on your immune system.”

Get Vaccinated!hand with a blue glove on it holding a needle.

Yes, we did point out that vaccines are not as effective for older adults, but they are still an extremely important way to lower your risk of illnesses that can be much more serious for seniors, like flu and pneumonia – not to mention Covid-19. And they have been proven to significantly lower risks of infections in older adults when compared to taking no vaccine at all. Talk to your doctor about all of the vaccines that you should be getting, and find out how many doses you need of each one, as well as whether they are a one-off or an annual necessity.  

There’s no denying that aging takes a toll on your body, and your immune system can feel like just another casualty as you get older. But, while you can’t reverse the aging process, you can take steps to keep your immune system as strong as possible – so, when prepping for the winter months ahead, don’t forget to include boosting your immune system on your list of things to do!

Things You Can Do To Prevent Premature Birth

In the U.S., 1 in 10 births is premature. Full-term pregnancies last from 39 to 40 weeks. “Preterm labor” is when labor begins earlier than 37 weeks of pregnancy, and can lead to premature birth. A baby needs 40 weeks in the womb in order to fully develop. Until 39 weeks, the brain, lungs, ears, eyes, and liver are still growing. So, when a baby is born earlier than 37 weeks, there can be serious health concerns. Sleep apnea, heart problems, breathing problems, and mental retardation, to name a few, can occur at birth, and continue later in life. In order to shed light on how often premature birth occurs, why it does, and how to prevent it, November was named Prematurity

Woman's pregnant belly being held with both hands.
Being pregnant with twins is a risk for premature birth.

Awareness Month. 

What Causes Preterm Birth

Premature birth can be caused by a number of different factors. Your risk factors are greater if you:

  • Already had a premature baby
  • Were a premature baby yourself
  • Are pregnant with twins
  • Are overweight or underweight
  • Have uterus or cervix issues/abnormalities
  • Have gum infections- Pregnant women are more susceptible to periodontal disease which gets into the bloodstream and to the fetus.
  • Smoke
  • Have uterine or vaginal infections such as bacterial vaginosis, STI’s, and UTI’s
  • Get pregnant too soon after having a baby
  • Have high blood pressure
  • Are diabetic
  • Have stress caused by a traumatic experience
  • Are younger than 17 or older than 35. Women between these ages are considered to have a “high-risk” pregnancy. 

How To Prevent Premature Birth

Even though there are risk factors that cannot be changed, there are ways that you can reduce your risk of early labor. You can take control by:

  • Managing your weight– It is important to get to a healthy weight before pregnancy and gain a healthy amount of weight during pregnancy. Obese women are more likely to have preterm pregnancies. Talk to your doctor about how much weight is normal to gain, and where you should be weight-wise throughout your pregnancy. 
  • Having a Healthy Diet- When you are pregnant, it is extremely important to get all of your daily nutrients within your diet. Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to reduce premature birth, which can be found in foods such as cooked salmon, eggs, and walnuts. Add foods that are high in vitamin C, such as broccoli, oranges, and Brussels sprouts, because vitamin C has also been shown to reduce premature birth risks. 
  • Cigarettes piled on top of each other with a red no sign over them.
    Smoking increases the chances of having premture labor.

    Staying Hydrated– Drink water and stay hydrated. Dehydration can lead to premature contractions. 

  • Getting Checked– Make sure any health conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and other issues are under control. 
  • Staying Active– Being active throughout your pregnancy will reduce your risk of conditions like preeclampsia and diabetes. 
  • Quitting Smoking– If it is hard to quit cold turkey, then nicotine replacement therapy can help. Although they aren’t the best option, it is better than smoking. 
  • Taking Prenatal Vitamins– Prenatal supplements will improve your odds of carrying full term. The folic acid in prenatals lower the risk of the placenta separating from the uterine wall and preeclampsia. 
  • Staying On Top Of Dental Care– Visit your dentist and make sure you are taking the proper measures to avoid gum disease. Brush and floss twice every day and see your dentist if you have any issues. 


Experiencing contractions or period-like cramps could be signs of premature labor. Change in vaginal discharge and fluid leaking from your vagina, similar to your water breaking, are also warning signs. If you experience any of these before the 37 weeks, then go to the hospital immediately. You will be hooked up to a fetal monitor to make sure the baby is not in distress, and an ultrasound will be given. If the tests show it is not time to give birth, then you will go 

Caucasian woman with a light blur robe ontouching a baby in a NICU basket
Babies born before 34 weeks will need to stay in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) for anywhere from days to months.

home and possibly be on bed rest. 

Babies born before 34 weeks will need to stay in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) for anywhere from days to months. If born between 34-37 weeks, there might be health conditions such as cerebral palsy or learning difficulties, but not necessarily. 

In order to prevent premature birth, you have to stay on top of any health conditions you have, eat a healthy diet, and maintain a healthy weight throughout pregnancy. Get checked often, and make sure to stay on track for both you and your baby’s health. If at any point you have fluid leaking or contractions before 40 weeks, go to the hospital.

Is It Too Late To Quit Smoking?

Many people, especially older people think to themselves “why should I stop smoking? It has already been so long, why quit now.” A lot of times, seniors will think that it is too late to quit smoking, but it is actually the opposite. There are many benefits and reasons to stop smoking, even in your 60’s. Research has shown that seniors who quit smoking lowered their chances of dying.

It is never too late to quit smoking.
Seniors are known to smoke more cigarettes with a higher nicotine content than newer smokers.

Cigarette smoking leads to about 30% of cancer deaths in the U.S. According to the CDC, more than 16 million Americans have a disease caused by smoking, and that smokers die on average 10 years earlier than nonsmokers.

Did you know that people who quit smoking get colds and flus less than those who still smoke? You also reduce your risk of a heart attack, stroke, chronic lung disease, and cancer when you quit smoking. Smoking has been linked as a major risk factor in 6 out of 14 causes of death.

Research shows that older smokers tend to smoke more than younger ones, and the cigarettes they do smoke contain higher nicotine. The studies also show that people who quit within their 60’s reduced their risk of death by 23%. This may not seem like a lot, but as we age and get older, the more susceptible we are to getting sick, hurt, or dying. A 23% chance to continue living is better than nothing.

While the best solution is to never begin smoking, there are just as many benefits to stopping. It only takes 20 minutes from the moment you decide to stop smoking, to feel better because your blood pressure immediately starts to drop. Within 12 hours, you will feel as if you can breathe a little better since the carbon monoxide levels in your body drop back to normal. The health benefits and good feelings only intensify within the next few weeks when your levels return to near pre-smoking levels.

The number of cigarettes the average smokers smokes increases as they age.
It is never too late to quit smoking.

Quitting smoking can be hard at times, and many smokers have tried to quit multiple times in their life. There is no doubt that there will be challenges, but there are some things you can do to quit. Voice your decision to your doctor and they can suggest the different options that can help you to quit. There are local programs you can go to for support, and you can seek nicotine replacement packs or medication.

Some people smoke out of habit, while others do it to destress. Take up a hobby or new activity to replace smoking and relieve stress. Yoga and other forms of exercise may help you find peace and take your mind off what is going on, plus you get the added benefits of exercising!

We all have our flaws where we say we will start to do better for ourselves tomorrow, or next week, or the beginning of the month. But there is not better moment than right now to quit smoking.