Quitting smoking at any age brings significant and rapid health benefits: study

Quitting smoking at any age brings significant and rapid health benefits: study

People who quit smoking see significant gains in life expectancy after just a few years, according to a new study by University of Toronto researchers at Unity Health Toronto.

The study published in neg recordsIt shows that smokers who quit before the age of 40 can expect to live almost the same lifespan as those who never smoked. Those who quit smoking at any age return to approximately half their survival 10 years after quitting, and about half of this benefit occurs within just three years.

“Quitting smoking is ridiculously effective at reducing the risk of death, and people can reap those rewards remarkably quickly,” he said. Prabhat Jhaa professor at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health and Temerty University Faculty of Medicine, is executive director of the Center for Global Health Research at Unity Health Toronto.

The observational study included 1.5 million adults in four countries (the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and Norway) and was followed over 15 years. Smokers aged 40 to 79 had almost three times the risk of death than those who had never smoked, meaning they lost on average 12 to 13 years of their lives.

Ex-smokers reduced their risk of death to 1.3 times (or 30 percent higher) than those who had never smoked. Stopping smoking at any age was associated with longer survival, and even those who quit smoking for less than three years gained up to six years in life expectancy.

“A lot of people think it’s too late to quit smoking, especially in middle age,” Jha said. “But these results go against that line of thinking. It’s never too late, the effect is quick and you can reduce your risk of major diseases, which means a longer and better life.”

The researchers found that quitting smoking reduces the risk of death from vascular diseases and cancer in particular. Ex-smokers also had a reduced risk of death from respiratory disease, but slightly less, likely due to residual lung damage.

There are currently about 60 million smokers in the four countries participating in the study, and more than a billion smokers worldwide. The global smoking rate has declined by more than 25 percent since 1990, but tobacco remains a major cause of preventable deaths.

Jha said the findings should increase the urgency of governments’ efforts to support people who want to stop smoking. “Helping smokers to quit is one of the most effective ways to significantly improve health. We know how to do this, by increasing taxes on cigarettes and improving smoking cessation support.

Jha said Canada is long overdue for an increase in the federal tax on cigarettes, and many other countries could reduce smoking rates by increasing taxes. Smoking cessation support can include clinical guidance, patient resources such as helplines, and also a comprehensive health system approach.

“When smokers interact with the health care system in any way, doctors and health professionals can encourage them to quit smoking, noting how successful the quitting has been,” Jha said. “This can be done with concern, without judgment or stigma, and with the understanding that cigarettes are designed to be highly addictive.”

The study was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

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