I think sometimes people don't get around to quitting smoking because they think it's too late.
My husband is one of these people. Actually he's never said that to me at all, or even given me that impression in any active way... but I dunno, I just reckon he is. Never mind that although he's been smoking much much longer than me, we've probably actually smoked the same number of cigarettes in our lives due to how much more heavily I've smoked.
This probably puts me in a similar risk category for the really big baddies.
I'm not really under any illusions about that, though. (This is a lie; I'm just not in as much denial as I could be.) Part of me understands that after seventeen years of self-abuse, an eventual terminal illness as a result of it is not an unlikely scenario. Even if I stop very soon, and for good.
You can't undo that damage. Not completely.
To be honest though, I don't think this changes anything about wanting - or needing - to quit. In fact, it makes my desire to stop stronger.
I think of it this way: If I found out I had lung cancer - ten, twenty, thirty years into the future, the way I would feel about it knowing I had quit smoking would be entirely different to the way I would feel about it knowing I was still a smoker; that I had never stopped.
It's the difference between regret and not-regret. It's knowing you did the best thing for yourself in the end. Even if you made mistakes that have cost you your life ultimately, it's knowing that you tried to rectify them in the best way you could when you had the opportunity.
Anything beyond that can't be helped.