You’re only as old as you look, and if you smoke you look older

As if we needed any more proof to encourage us to avoid the destructiveness of smoking, a friend on Facebook just linked me to a website comparing identical twins: One twin smoked for a number of years, and the other did not.

No need to read the identifying legend underneath … just observe the facial wrinkles, the thinner lips, the sagging cheeks and the drooping eyes.

This website is for those who smoke because they think it makes them look cool. The photographic comparison underscores that smoking makes you look older faster. For folks like me who do not smoke just looking at the pictures I say, “give yourself a pat on the back; you may not eat right, exercise at all, but at least you do one thing to retain your youthful features.”

One set of twins especially struck me: The non-smoker with her fresh young looks reminds me of a teenage model with her warm eyes, white teeth and fresh young look. Really, she looks about 16. Her identical twin sister, a smoker, appears to be 20 years older with deeply, etched wrinkles, discolored teeth and a sallow skin tone.

Other sets of twins show how much even a modest smoking habit can affect one’s looks. In one case the writer noted that the older-looking twin smoked half a pack a day for 14 years. In another case, the smoker purportedly smoked only three cigarettes a day. I read it twice to be sure I got it right. Even those few cigarettes each day and the smoking hot sister had a fine mesh of wrinkles around her thinner lips and deeper wrinkles across her forehead.

Even the length of time a person smokes makes a difference. Two sets of photographs compared twins where one twin had a more than a decade of smoking before the other began. The sister who had smoked 17 years longer had skin that sagged from loss of collagen, more lines around her mouth and larger bags under her eyes. The brother who had smoked 14 years longer looked older with his deeper wrinkles. I wonder why the non-smoking twin started smoking? Did they want to catch up in the aging process?

Perhaps the most dramatic differences show when the smoking twin also loves to lay in the sun for that healthy tan. In both cases where sunbathing was noted, the skin paid the price for that tan. Literally the twin sister’s fun in the sun cost her 20 years in appearance. She looks like her sister’s mother.

Not even greying hair aged the non-smoker as fast as did the cool menthol of a cigarette for senior smokers.

None of this is new information to me. I have family members who smoke, some who smoked and stopped and others who never began.

A few months ago I was looking at some pictures with a grandson. We observed one person who is younger than me, but looks old enough to be my parent. “They used to smoke a lot,” I observed.

He looked at me, astonished. “They did,” I assured him. “You can tell. Smoking ages the body.”

Without having seen this website and its contrasting pictures, without having read the lengthy explanation about how the free radicals associated with smoking destroys the body, I had simply observed the smokers and non-smokers in our family. For some, smoking and living with a smoker had literally tanned their hides.

It is a habit, an addictive habit that I am sure many wish they had never begun. Unfortunately, smoking is a habit that even when it is stopped, leaves its stamp of increased age on the face long after the effects on the lungs have dissipated.

(Joan Hershberger is a staff writer at the News-Times from the El Dorado News-Times.” Email her at