Longtime smokers lose a decade of life

January 24, 2013 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.

Explore further: Women smokers who quit before 40 gain nine years in lifespan

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

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

Related Stories

Women smokers who quit before 40 gain nine years in lifespan

October 27, 2012
Women can add nine years to their lives by quitting smoking before the age of 40 but still face a 20-percent higher death rate than those who never smoked, a study said Saturday.

Smokers who quit before age 40 have lifespan almost as long as people who never smoked

January 24, 2013
(Medical Xpress)—Smokers who quit when they are young adults can live almost as long as people who never smoked, groundbreaking new research has found.

Risk of lung cancer death has risen dramatically among women smokers in recent decades

January 23, 2013
Female smokers have a much greater risk of death from lung cancer and chronic obstructive lung disease (COLD) in recent years than did female smokers 20 or 40 years ago, reflecting changes in smoking behavior according to ...

Stopping smoking is hard despite success of smoke-free legislation

April 20, 2012
The successful implementation of smokefree legislation in Hong Kong has led to an overall decrease in the total number of smokers but the remaining smokers who are finding it difficult to quit are going on to become "hardcore" ...

Recommended for you

To combat teen smoking, health experts recommend R ratings for movies that depict tobacco use

July 21, 2017
Public health experts have an unusual suggestion for reducing teen smoking: Give just about any movie that depicts tobacco use an automatic R rating.

Aging Americans enjoy longer life, better health when avoiding three risky behaviors

July 20, 2017
We've heard it before from our doctors and other health experts: Keep your weight down, don't smoke and cut back on the alcohol if you want to live longer.

Opioids and obesity, not 'despair deaths,' raising mortality rates for white Americans

July 20, 2017
Drug-related deaths among middle-aged white men increased more than 25-fold between 1980 and 2014, with the bulk of that spike occurring since the mid-1990s when addictive prescription opioids became broadly available, according ...

Parents have critical role in preventing teen drinking

July 20, 2017
Fewer teenagers are drinking alcohol but more needs to be done to curb the drinking habits of Australian school students, based on the findings of the latest study by Adelaide researchers.

Fresh fish oil lowers diabetes risk in rat offspring

July 19, 2017
Fresh fish oil given to overweight pregnant rats prevented their offspring from developing a major diabetes risk factor, Auckland researchers have found.

High-dose vitamin D doesn't appear to reduce the winter sniffles for children

July 18, 2017
Giving children high doses of vitamin D doesn't appear to reduce the winter sniffles, a new study has found.


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.