Longtime smokers lose a decade of life

by Maureen Salamon, Healthday Reporter
Longtime smokers lose a decade of life
Large study of U.S. smokers found quitting by age 35 reduces effect most, but it's never too late.

(HealthDay)—Adding to the arsenal of evidence that smoking is bad for you, a large new study indicates that lifetime smokers cut 10 years off their life expectancy—a decade they can gain back if they quit before age 35.

Using data from more than 200,000 Americans, researchers also found that the death rate for current smokers is three times as high as those who never smoked, with most of the extra deaths caused by smoking-related conditions such as cancer, heart disease, stroke and .

Experts hailed the study as landmark, noting that similar studies in the United States were done decades ago or on groups of people who didn't represent the general population. Because smoking among women didn't peak until the 1980s, the research is apparently also the first to examine the true impact of tobacco use among both genders.

"This is really striking—a combination of good news for nonsmokers, but much higher death rates among smokers," said study author Dr. Prabhat Jha, founding director of the Center for Global Health Research at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto. "We found a tripling of the mortality rate, and men and women are now very similar. Women smoke like men and die like men."

The study is published in the Jan. 24 issue of the .

According to the U.S. , accounts for nearly 200,000 deaths annually in the United States—more than , drug or alcohol use, , suicides and murders combined.

American, Canadian and British scientists examined data on smoking status from nearly 217,000 adults from the U.S. National between 1997 and 2004 to determine the hazards of smoking and benefits of quitting.

are twice as likely to live to age 80 compared to smokers—indicating that smoking isn't just killing people in old age, but in middle age, the study said. Another startling find was that adult smokers who quit at ages 25 to 34, ages 35 to 44 or ages 45 to 54 gain about 10, nine and six years back, respectively, compared to those who continue to smoke.

Even quitting after age 55 should net former smokers extra years, Jha said.

"It's never too late to quit," he said. "Even if you quit by age 60, you get four years back. That's a fair proposition—and four good years of life is probably worth it."

Dr. Norman Edelman, chief medical officer of the American Lung Association, praised the study for sharply demonstrating the dangers of smoking and benefits of quitting.

"They used a very large database, so the chance that this is accurate is really high . . . and the way they present it is very easy to understand," Edelman said. "The numbers are very, very compelling, and it points out that smoking prevention and cessation is still the most important public health challenge we have in the United States."

Efforts to eliminate smoking in public places and place higher taxes on cigarettes have all helped cut the prevalence of , Edelman noted, but more research is still needed to help understand the science behind nicotine addiction and steer adolescents away from tobacco.

More information: Full Text (subscription or payment may be required)
Editorial

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers a fact sheet about the health risks of smoking.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Blending faith and science to combat obesity

57 minutes ago

Science and religion may seem like uneasy partners at times, but when it comes to promoting healthy lifestyles, one UConn Health researcher has shown they can be an effective combination.

Research project puts stroke patients back on their feet

1 hour ago

Finding the will to exercise routinely can be challenging enough for most people, but a stroke presents even more obstacles. Yet aerobic exercise may be crucial for recovery and reducing the risk of another ...

Air quality and unconventional oil and gas sites

4 hours ago

Research suggesting air pollutants released by unconventional oil and gas production are well over recommended levels in the US is published today in the open access journal Environmental Health. High levels of benzene, hydrog ...

FDA cautions against 'undeclared' food allergens

15 hours ago

(HealthDay)—Some food labels may not reliably list all possible food allergens, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The agency added that these "undeclared allergens" are the leading cause ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.