Quit Smoking to Save Your Life

Smoking leads to shorter life spans in massive study

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

(RxWiki News) In case you haven't heard, smoking is bad for your health. The evidence keeps piling up that smoking can kill you. The good news is that quitting means a longer life.

A recent study confirmed that smoking leads to a shorter life span. In fact, it shaves off at least 10 years from your life. And if you continue to smoke, you're more likely going to die of a smoking-related disease.

The research authors determined that two-thirds of all the smokers who died in their 50s, 60s and 70s had died from diseases caused by smoking.

So, the earlier you quit, the longer you will live.

"Quit smoking."

The study, led by Kirstin Pirie, MSc, of the Cancer Epidemiology Unit at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, tracked over a million women in the United Kingdom to determine the long-term outcomes of smoking.

The 1.3 million women in the study were recruited between 1996 and 2001 and asked whether they were current or ex-smokers and how many cigarettes they currently smoked. While 52 percent had never smoked, 20 percent were current smokers and 28 percent were ex-smokers.

Then the women were surveyed three years and eight years after their original recruitment and asked again about their smoking status. The researchers tracked the women through January 1, 2011 using mortality records. In doing their analysis, the researchers excluded the women who already had a disease when the study started, leaving 1.2 million women with an average age of 55.

During the course of the study, 6 percent of the women died. Those who were smokers at the start of the study were 2.7 times more likely to die than the never-smokers. The death rate was three times higher for those who still smoked at the 3-year follow-up compared to those who never smoked.

Being a light smoker only helped a little. The women who smoked fewer than 10 cigarettes a day at the start of the study still had a death rate twice as high as those who didn't smoked.

The additional deaths among the smokers were, unsurprisingly, usually from diseases caused by smoking, such as lung cancer.

The researchers considered the 30 most common causes of death among all the women and found that 23 causes occurred at significantly higher rates among the smokers.

Ex-smokers were a bit better off if they quit while young. Women who had quit smoking between ages 25 and 34 had about the same death rate as those who never smoked, though they were still almost twice as likely to die from lung cancer.

Those who didn't quit until ages 35 to 44 were 20 percent more likely to die younger and a little more than three times more likely to die from lung cancer.

"Stopping before age 40 years (and preferably well before age 40 years) avoids more than 90 percent of the excess mortality caused by continuing smoking," the authors wrote. "Stopping before age 30 years avoids more than 97 percent of it."

The study was published October 27 in The Lancet. The research was funded by Cancer Research UK and the Medical Research Council. The authors declared no conflicts of interest.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
November 5, 2012
Last Updated:
November 9, 2012