Smokers who quit when they are young adults can live almost as long as people who never smoked, groundbreaking new research has found.
Smoking cuts at least 10 years off a person's lifespan. But a comprehensive analysis of health and death records in the United States found that people who quit smoking before they turn 40 regain almost all of those lost years.
"Quitting smoking 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 Global Health 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."
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.
Women Just as Likely as Men to Die from Smoking
The study is also 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 female smokers 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.
The above story is based on the January 23, 2013 news release by St. Michael's Hospital.
Dr Jha’s findings were published January 24 in the New England Journal of Medicine:
Jha P, Ramasundarahettige C, Landsman V, Rostron B, Thun M, Anderson RN, McAfee, T, Peto R. 21st-Century Hazards of Smoking and Benefits of Cessation in the United States. N Engl J Med 2013; 368:341-350January 24, 2013DOI: 10.1056/NEJMsa1211128
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