Close to 50 million Americans can dramatically reduce their death risk by making one simple change right now -- and it won't cost a cent. In fact, it'll save you thousands of dollars a year. Despite that fact, most people can't (or won't) make that one simple change.

You may have guessed by now that I'm talking about smoking -- more specifically, quitting smoking.

That might sound obvious to you -- but what's not as obvious is how quickly you could see those benefits.

According to a recent study in the Lancet, quitting today could actually slash your risk of dying in just six months.

Those benefits aren't just for the smokers. The researchers also found that the public bans on lighting up can also help protect entire communities in that same six-month window.

In Scotland, for example, in the six months after a smoking ban took effect in 2006, there was a 17-percent drop in hospital admissions for acute coronary syndrome and a 6-percent drop in cardiac deaths outside of hospitals.

Closer to home, a smoking ban in Helena, Montana, a few years back led to a 40-percent drop in admissions for acute coronary syndrome at one hospital within six months. Then, when that ban was suspended by a series of court cases, the
numbers shot right back up.

So the bottom line is that when people smoke, people die...and when they're forced to cut back, they live. And all it takes is six months.

Since the benefits of dietary and lifestyle changes can take between one and three years to kick in, kicking butts is actually one of the fastest ways to boost your health.

The latest numbers from Ohio point in the same direction. The state's health department says there was a 26-percent drop in ER visits for heart attacks after a public smoking ban took effect in 2007.

And in 2009, U.S., Canadian, and European cities saw 17 percent fewer heart attacks in the year following a smoking ban, along with drops of between 26 percent and 36 percent over three years. (Read more here.)

If all that inspires you to quit, be sure to do it without the help of antismoking meds. Those things can be even worse for you than smoking itself.

The most commonly used med, Chantix, has been linked to violence, aggression, and suicide. In fact, one recent study found that the number of suicides among people who've taken it might be double what we've been led to believe.

Chantix has even been found to up the odds of a heart attack.

That's not how you save lives -- that's how you end them.

Speaking of bad habits, keep reading for the latest numbers on soda.