A new study from researchers at the National Cancer Institute and the National Institute on Aging finds that even smokers in their 60s who quit can reduce their chances of dying early.
In 1995, 160,000 people age 50-71 years were enrolled in the study; data on their smoking and quitting was collected in 2004-2005. Researchers documented causes of death and calculated rates through 2011 among never, current and former smokers, with adjustment for other risk factors. The study appears in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine (abstract here).
Current smokers were three times as likely to die during the study as never smokers. Compared with current smokers, former smokers had significantly lower death rates; the magnitude of the reduction correlated with the age when they quit. For example, smokers who quit in their 30s had a death rate that was 57% lower, while those who quit in their 50s had a 36% lower rate. Even smokers who quit in their 60s had a 23% lower rate.
This study should give hope to smokers of all ages, but this is not new information. In 1996, Dr. Philip Cole and I published similar research in the journal Epidemiology (here). We estimated how long never and current smokers of various ages would live on average. In addition, we estimated remaining years for quitters and switchers. Here are our results:
|Average Years of Life Remaining According to Tobacco Use and Age|
|Sex and Age (years)||Never Smoker||Continuing Smoker||Quitter||Switcher|
The good news: No matter what age, smokers can improve their life expectancy if they quit or switch. It’s never too late to move to a smoke-free substitute.