Smokers Die About a Decade Earlier on Average
Smokers Who Stop Early Gain Years
In a second analysis, researchers determined that people who smoke into middle age lose about a decade of life to the habit, but smokers who stop before the age of 40 regain most of these lost years.
The researchers examined data on about 200,000 men and women over age 25 interviewed between 1997 and 2004, and identified about 16,000 who had died several years later.
They found that:
- Smokers who quit in their mid-30s to mid-40s gained about nine years of life. Those who quit from their mid-40s to mid-50s gained about six. Those who quit later than this, but before age 65, gained about four additional years.
- Smokers between the ages of 25 to 79 were three times as likely to die as non-smokers in the same age group.
- People who never smoke are about twice as likely as smokers to live to age 80.
Researcher Prabhat Jha, MD, of the Center for Global Health Research at Toronto’s St. Michael’s Hospital, says a key message from this study is that it is never too early or too late for smokers to get health benefits from quitting.
“Quitting smoking before age 40, and preferably well before 40, gives back almost all the decade of lost life from continued smoking,” he says. “That’s not to say, however, that it is safe to smoke until you are 40 and then stop.”
"That’s because former smokers continue to have a greater risk of dying than people who never smoked, but the risk is small compared to the huge risk of continuing the habit,” Jha says.
COPD Deaths Rising, ‘Light’ Cigarettes to Blame?
One particularly disturbing new finding involved trends in deaths from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in both men and women who smoked.
COPD deaths continue to rise among smokers at a high rate, and the disease is killing younger smokers in their 50s and 60s, as well as older ones.
Thun says the popularity of so-called “light” and “low-tar” cigarettes, which were marketed as less harmful alternatives to regular cigarettes, may be largely to blame.