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

January 24, 2013 by Leslie Shepherd, St. Michael's Hospital

(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.

cuts at least 10 years off a person's . But a comprehensive analysis of health and death records in the found that people who quit smoking before they turn 40 regain almost all of those lost years.

" before age 40, and preferably well before 40, gives back almost all of the decade of lost life from continued smoking," said Dr. Prabhat Jha, head of the Centre for Research at St. Michael's Hospital and a professor in the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto.

"That's not to say, however, that it is safe to smoke until you are 40 and then stop," said Dr. Jha. "Former smokers still have a greater risk of dying sooner than people who never smoked. But the risk is small compared to the huge risk for those who continue to smoke."

His findings were published today in the .

Dr. Jha's team found that people who quit smoking between ages 35 and 44 gained about nine years and those who quit between ages 45-54 and 55-64 gained six and four years of life, respectively.

The study is unique as it examines the risks of smoking and the benefits of stopping among a of Americans. Earlier studies had examined specific groups such as nurses or volunteers who are healthier than average Americans overall. Importantly, the study is among the first to document the generation of women who started smoking when they were young and kept smoking through their adult lives.

"Women who smoke like men, die like men," Dr. Jha said. For women, the risks of dying from smoking-related causes are 50 per cent greater than found in the studies conducted in the 1980s.

Women and men who smoke both lost a decade of life. Current male or ages 25-79 had a mortality rate three times higher than people who had never smoked. Never smokers were about twice more likely to live to age 80 than were smokers.

This study adds to recent evidence from Britain, Japan and the United States that smoking risks involve about a decade of life lost worldwide. This includes a review of 50 years of smoking mortality in the United States published in the same issue of the New England Journal of Medicine and led by Dr. Michael J. Thun and other researchers from the American Cancer Society.

While about 40 million Americans and 4 million Canadians smoke, most of the world's estimated 1.3 billion smokers live in low- and middle-income countries. Worldwide about 30 million begin smoking each year (about half of all young men and 10 per cent of young women) and most do not stop.

In many high-income countries more than half of people who ever smoked have quit, cessation remains uncommon in most low- and middle-income people. On current trends, smoking will kill about 1 billion people in the 21st century as opposed to 'only' 100 million in the 20th century.

Professor Amartya Sen, the noted Harvard University economist who won the 1998 Nobel Prize in economics, said "the inability to develop an appropriate public policy about smoking has been one of the bigger failures of public action in India, China and most other developing countries, in contrast to strong tobacco control in most western countries.

"This study brings out how great the threat actually is, and shows that risks of death from smoking are even larger than previously thought," said Professor Sen, who was not involved in the study. "The result is of great global significance."

Dr. Jha noted that smoking rates in the United States, China and India would decline much faster if their governments levied high taxes on tobacco, as seen in Canada and France. Taxation is the single most effective step to get adults to quit and to prevent children from starting, he said.

Dr. Jha's research used data from the U.S. National Health Interview Survey in which a representative cross-section of the population is surveyed every year about a broad range of health topics. More than 200,000 survey participants were linked to the National Death Index, which includes death certificate information for all Americans since 1986. The researchers related about deaths of about 16,000 people to their past reported smoking.

Dr. Jha advises various governments around the world on disease control strategies. He is the principal investigator of the Million Death Study in India, one of the largest studies of premature deaths in the world.

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

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.

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" ...

Smoking takes 10 years off life expectancy in Japan, not 4 as previously thought, experts warn

October 26, 2012
Smoking reduces life expectancy by ten years in Japan, but much of the risk can be avoided by giving up smoking, a paper published on bmj.com today shows.

Smoking may increase risk of prostate cancer recurrence, death

June 21, 2011
A new study from Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) and University of California, San Francisco, researchers suggests that men with prostate cancer who smoke increase their risk of prostate cancer recurrence and of dying ...

Recommended for you

Who uses phone apps to track sleep habits? Mostly the healthy and wealthy in US

January 16, 2018
The profile of most Americans who use popular mobile phone apps that track sleep habits is that they are relatively affluent, claim to eat well, and say they are in good health, even if some of them tend to smoke.

Improvements in mortality rates are slowed by rise in obesity in the United States

January 15, 2018
With countless medical advances and efforts to curb smoking, one might expect that life expectancy in the United States would improve. Yet according to recent studies, there's been a reduction in the rate of improvement in ...

Teens likely to crave junk food after watching TV ads

January 15, 2018
Teenagers who watch more than three hours of commercial TV a day are more likely to eat hundreds of extra junk food snacks, according to a report by Cancer Research UK.

Can muesli help against arthritis?

January 15, 2018
It is well known that healthy eating increases a general sense of wellbeing. Researchers at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) have now discovered that a fibre-rich diet can have a positive influence ...

Your dishwasher is not as sterile as you think

January 13, 2018
(HealthDay)—Your dishwasher may get those plates spotless, but it is also probably teeming with bacteria and fungus, a new study suggests.

Study reveals what sleep talkers have to say

January 12, 2018
A team of researchers with members from several institutions in France has conducted a study regarding sleep talking and has found that most sleep talking is not only negative in nature, but involves a large amount of swearing. ...

0 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.