Smoking Might Be Worse Than Thought

Smokers death risk significant even with light smoking

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Smoking is unhealthy — no doubt about it. And new research is suggesting that the habit might be even worse than previously thought.

The research, out of Australia, looked at data from an ongoing, long-term study of adults over the age of 45.

The study found that current smokers had a risk of death three times higher than that of their peers who had never smoked. Even light smokers had a higher risk of death.

"Quit smoking for healthier lungs."

This new study used data from the Sax Institute's 45 and Up Study, an ongoing study following 250,000 Australians as they age. The Sax Institute is a research and health policy group based in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.

Led by Freddy Sitas, MSc, PhD, Director of the New South Wales Cancer Council's Cancer Research Division, this study followed 200,000 adults from the 45 and Up Study for four years. 

Dr. Sitas and colleagues found that during the four year study, current smokers were three times more likely to die than their peers who had never smoked. The risk of dying increased as the number of cigarettes smoked each day increased.

However, the risk of death wasn't only significant in heavy smokers; lighter smokers put themselves at risk as well.

“Even among less heavy smokers — those smoking an average of 10 cigarettes per day — the risk of death was more than doubled,” explained Dr. Sitas in a Sax Institute news release.

“People don’t realise how damaging even light smoking is for your health — for cancer, heart disease, lung disease and a range of other conditions,” said Dr. Sitas.

In the news release, Sax Institute noted that current international estimates attribute around half of deaths among current smokers directly to smoking. However, this new study placed the estimate at about two-thirds of deaths in current Australian smokers.

Furthermore, this study estimated that current smokers were reducing their lifespan by about 10 years.

There is good news in all of this, according to Dr. Sitas, which is that people can decide to kick the habit.

“The good news is that stopping smoking at any age reduces the risk; the younger you are when you quit, the better,” said Dr. Sitas.

These findings were presented October 11 at the 10th Annual 45 and Up Study Collaborators’ Meeting. It is important to note that studies presented at conferences are considered preliminary until published in a peer reviewed journal.

Review Date: 
October 11, 2013
Last Updated:
October 15, 2013