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Smokers Die About a Decade Earlier on Average

Smokers Who Stop Early Gain Years continued...

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.

The cigarettes were manufactured to make it harder to inhale tobacco smoke into the lungs, but smokers simply breathed harder and deeper to get their nicotine fix from the diluted smoke.

“These brands may be partly or even wholly responsible for the fact that the death rate from COPD is so high among smokers,” Thun says. “There is no safe cigarette.”

Both studies were supported by the National Institutes of Health. The American Cancer Institute, Canadian Institutes of Health, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation also contributed funding.

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