Shorter Lifespan With Cigarettes

Smoking reduced lifespan by an average of four years in older men

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

(RxWiki News) Smoking can shave years off a person’s life and lead to an early death. Even if a man lives into his 70s, smoking can still steal several years of life.

In a recent study, researchers followed a large group of older men for 15 years to see how smoking habits altered people's lifespans.

The results of the study showed that smokers who lived to see 70 still lost an average of four years of life compared with non-smokers.

"Live longer — quit smoking."

Jonathan Emberson, PhD, from the department of cardiovascular science at the University of Oxford in the UK, presented these research findings on years of life lost from smoking at the 2013 European Society of Cardiology Congress.

Based on data from the Whitehall study, the researchers followed 7,000 men, ages 66 to 97, from 1997 to 2012. The Whitehall study is a large, ongoing investigation into the health of civil servants in London.

Over the course of 15 years, 5,000 of the 7,000 men died. The death risk was 50 percent higher in current smokers compared to men who had never been smokers.

Among smokers, the risk of cancer was about 74 percent higher, the risk of vascular disease was about 34 percent higher and the risk of respiratory disease was about 139 percent higher than the risks among never smokers.

Vascular disease can include blood clots, problems with blood circulation or aneurysm — an abnormal, and potentially deadly, pocket of blood along the lining of a blood vessel.

Respiratory disease can include chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, emphysema and/or cystic fibrosis.

Compared with never smokers, deaths in former smokers were 15 percent higher. Among former smokers, 24 percent died from cancer, and 58 percent died from respiratory disease.

Men who quit smoking at some point in the previous 25 years had a 28 percent higher death risk than never smokers. But men who had quit smoking more than 25 years previously had only a 5 percent higher death risk compared with never smokers.

On average, men who had never been regular smokers were expected to live 18 years past the age of 70. Men who had quit smoking before turning 70 were expected to live an additional 16 years, on average.

Men who were still smoking at the age of 70 were expected to only live an average of 14 additional years.

Among never smokers, 65 percent lived to see 85, but only 48 percent of current smokers reached 85.

“Our results clearly show that active smoking continues to increase the risk of death in old age,” Dr. Emberson said in a press statement.

“We have shown that even if a smoker is fortunate enough to survive to age 70 they still lose, on average, about 4 years of subsequent lifespan compared with men who do not smoke,” Dr. Robert Clarke, who was also involved in this study, said in a press statement.

“Quitting is beneficial at any age and it really is never too late to stop,” Dr. Clarke said.

These findings were presented at the annual European Society of Cardiology Congress held in Amsterdam, The Netherlands from August 31 to September 4, 2013. This study has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Review Date: 
September 5, 2013
Last Updated:
September 5, 2013