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Quitting smoking at any age returns immediate health benefits, study finds

Quitting smoking at any age returns immediate health benefits, study finds
Quitting smoking at any age returns immediate health benefits, study finds


The study involved 1.5 million adults across the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, and Norway over a span of 15 years. (CREDIT: Creative Commons)

Published in NEJM Evidence, the study reveals that individuals who kick the habit before the age of 40 can expect to live nearly as long as those who have never smoked. The findings emphasize the rapidity with which one can reap the rewards of quitting, with significant gains seen within just a few years.

Lead author of the study, Prabhat Jha, who is also a professor at U of T’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health and Temerty Faculty of Medicine, highlighted the effectiveness of smoking cessation in reducing the risk of death.

He stated, “Quitting smoking is ridiculously effective in reducing the risk of death, and people can reap those rewards remarkably quickly.”

The study, which involved 1.5 million adults across the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, and Norway over a span of 15 years, underscored the stark difference in life expectancy between smokers and non-smokers.

Smokers between the ages of 40 and 79 faced nearly three times the risk of dying compared to non-smokers, resulting in an average loss of 12 to 13 years of life.

However, the research also offered hope, revealing that former smokers significantly lowered their risk of death compared to current smokers, approaching levels similar to those who never smoked. Even those who quit for less than three years experienced notable gains in life expectancy, with up to six additional years added to their lifespan.

Professor Prabhat Jha. (CREDIT: Centre for Global Health Research)

Contrary to common belief, the study found that it’s never too late to quit smoking, with quitting at any age associated with longer survival. Jha emphasized, “Many people think it’s too late to quit smoking, especially in middle age, but these results counter that line of thought. It’s never too late, the impact is fast, and you can reduce risk across major diseases, meaning a longer and better quality of life.”

Moreover, the benefits of smoking cessation extended beyond just increasing life expectancy. Former smokers demonstrated a reduced risk of dying from vascular disease and cancer, although the risk of death from respiratory disease was slightly less impacted, likely due to residual lung damage.

Among 1.48 million adults followed for 15 years, 122,697 deaths occurred. Adjusting for age, education, alcohol use, and obesity, current smokers had higher hazard ratios for death compared with never smokers (2.8 for women, 2.7 for men). (CREDIT: NEJM Evidence)

Despite global efforts to reduce smoking rates, tobacco remains a leading cause of preventable death, with approximately 60 million smokers in the four countries examined in the study and over a billion worldwide. Jha stressed the importance of governmental support in aiding smoking cessation efforts, advocating for measures such as raising taxes on cigarettes and enhancing cessation support systems.

In particular, Jha highlighted the need for increased federal excise taxes on cigarettes in Canada, as well as similar actions in other countries to curb smoking rates. Additionally, he emphasized the role of healthcare professionals in encouraging smokers to quit, promoting cessation resources and guidelines without judgment or stigma.

The findings underscore the importance of comprehensive strategies to support smoking cessation efforts and reduce the global burden of tobacco-related diseases.



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