Elderly Smokers Should Quit Too

Quitting smoking never stops being a good idea no matter how old

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) Most smoking cessation studies are done on middle-aged subject’s statistical data. Recent evidence suggests that quitting smoking even in a person’s 80s can extend and improve life.

A worldwide study looks at data from seven countries with follow-ups that range 50 years looks at health data from nearly one million people.

The research shows that it’s never too late to quit smoking.

"Get help quitting smoking today!"

Carolin Gellert from the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) in Heidelberg, Germany, along with contributors from around the world, compiled data from 17 studies on smokers over the age of 60 from seven countries.

These studies provide information on the health patterns of smokers from the US, China, Australia, Japan, England, Spain and France from 1987-2011. Some of the studies had follow-up data that went as far as 50 years. Participants from all studies totaled 877,243.

According to Gellert: “We provide a thorough review and meta-analysis of studies assessing the impact of smoking on all-cause mortality in people 60 years and older, paying particular attention to the strength of the association by age, the impact of smoking cessation on older age, and factors that might specifically affect results of epidemiological [health patterns] studies on the impact of smoking in an older population.”

Overall from the 17 studies, the increased relative mortality for smokers was 83 percent compared to 34 percent for former or never smokers.

Authors note: “In this review and meta-analysis on the association of smoking and all-cause mortality at older age, current and former smokers showed an approximately 2-fold and 1.3-fold risk for mortality, respectively. This review and meta-analysis demonstrates that the relative risk for death notably decreases with time since smoking cessation even at older age.”

The conclusion of the study led authors to state: “If you have helped two smokers quit, you have saved (at least) one life.”

“Benefits of smoking cessation were evident in all age groups, including subjects 80 years and older.”

The length of time a person had been quit from smoking contributed to a lowered risk of mortality.

Dr. Tai Hing Lam, MD, from the University of Hong Kong, was asked to provide commentary about the study and stated: “Most smokers grossly underestimate their own risks. Many older smokers misbelieve that they are too old to quit or too old to benefit from quitting.”

“Because of reverse causality and from seeing deaths of old friends who had quit recently, some misbelieve that quitting could be harmful. A simple, direct, strong and evidence-based warning is needed.”

This study was published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, June 2012. Funding for the study was provided by the European Commission and the Hellenic Health Foundation in Athens, Greece; no conflicts of interest were found.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
June 15, 2012
Last Updated:
October 24, 2012