Willie Nelson has given up smoking pot after breathing became "a little more difficult".

The 86-year-old country music legend says he stopped smoking joints for good.

Nelson says smoking almost killed him so he recently decided to start looking after himself as he feels "lucky" to be alive.

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Willie Nelson

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"I have abused my lungs quite a bit in the past, so breathing is a little more difficult these days and I have to be careful," he told San Antonio TV station KSAT.

"I started smoking cedar bark, went from that to cigarettes to whatever. And that almost killed me. I don't smoke anymore - take better care of myself. I'm here, I'm glad to be here. I'm lucky to be here."

Willie also cited touring as the key to his health and happiness and says he will never retire from performing for his fans.

Willie Nelson performs The Rainbow Connection at the 53rd annual CMA Awards in Nashville. Photo / AP.
Willie Nelson performs The Rainbow Connection at the 53rd annual CMA Awards in Nashville. Photo / AP.

"I love the bus. This is my home. [Performing] is an energy exchange. They give me a lot of positive energy and I hope to give them a lot of positive energy," he said.

"For an hour they get away from everything they don't like."

Nelson has been performing recently in his home state of Texas, after he was forced to postpone 30 dates on his Club Luck Tour back in August, due to a "breathing problem".

Willie has suffered with ill-health in recent years, with the singer also axing several concerts in January 2018 due to difficulty with breathing.

The Always On My Mind hitmaker reportedly rushed off stage after appearing to struggle with his breathing and having a coughing fit whilst midway through his show at the Harrah's Resort SoCal casino, in San Diego.

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His son Lukas Autry Nelson later issued a statement updating fans on his father's condition.

He wrote: "Apologies all, Dad has the flu so we cancelled this week's gigs in Cali and Vegas.

"If you have tickets, please contact the venue for a refund and we hope to see you on the road again soon (sic)"

In 2017, he was forced to axe his Salt Lake City show due to suffering with respiratory issues, caused by the altitude.

"This is Willie. I am very sorry to have to cut the Salt Lake City performance short tonight," he said.

"The altitude just got to me. I am feeling a lot better now and headed for lower ground."

And earlier that year, the Whiskey River star missed out on a number of concerts due to illness.