February 10, 2024: A study on smoking carried out by the University of Toronto says that people who quit smoking at any age see improvement in quality and expectancy of life comparable to non-smokers.
The observational study followed 1.5 million adults in four the U.S., UK, Canada and Norway for over 15 years. The researchers found that older smokers between the ages of 40 and 79 had an almost three-fold risk of dying (loss of 12-13 years)compared to those who never smoked.
People who quit smoking lower their risk of death by 30 percent. Even if you resume the habit after three years, your life expectancy can improve twofold by six years.
Those who quit smoking before 40 have a life expectancy similar to non-smokers, though the changes kick in fully 10 years after quitting. People can start seeing the benefits of quitting just three years after quitting.
“Quitting smoking is ridiculously effective in reducing the risk of death, and people can reap those rewards remarkably quickly,” said Prabhat Jha, a professor at U of T’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health and Temerty Faculty of Medicine.
“Many people think it’s too late to quit smoking, especially in middle age,” said Jha. “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.”
Risk of disease
The researchers found that quitting smoking reduced the risk of dying from vascular disease, cancer, and respiratory disease. However, lung damage does reduce the chances of survival somewhat in people with respiratory problems.
There are currently over a billion smokers worldwide. Figures show that smoking has fallen by 25 percent since 1990, but tobacco is still a leading cause of death worldwide.
The global rate of smoking has fallen by more than 25 percent since 1990, but tobacco is still a leading cause of preventable death. According to the latest WHO report trends in 2022 show a continued decline in tobacco use rates globally, with about 1 in 5 adults worldwide consuming tobacco compared to 1 in 3 in 2000.
Jha said the findings should add urgency to efforts by governments to support people who want to stop smoking. “Helping smokers quit is one of the most effective ways to substantially improve health. And we know how to do that, by raising taxes on cigarettes and improving cessation supports.”
“Good progress has been made in tobacco control in recent years, but there is no time for complacency. I’m astounded at the depths the tobacco industry will go to pursue profits at the expense of countless lives. We see that the minute a government thinks they have won the fight against tobacco the tobacco industry seizes the opportunity to manipulate health policies and sell their deadly products,” says Dr Ruediger Krech, Director of the WHO Department of Health Promotion.
The study is available in NEJM Evidence