Longtime smokers die a decade earlier, study finds

Paula Wolfson, wtop.com

WASHINGTON – A new study shows that longtime smokers lose about 10 years of lives, but smokers who quit early enough can get almost all of those years back.

Researchers tracked government health data on more than 200,000 Americans that was compiled between 1997 and 2004.

They then studied death records in 2006 and found that almost 16,000 of the participants had died, and that smokers were roughly three times more likely to have died than non-smokers.

The researchers then took all these numbers and calculated the impact smoking has on mortality over time.

The study, which was published in the New England Journal of Medicine, also has good news for smokers for quit.

The study shows that smokers who kick the habit between the ages of 25 and 34 reclaim almost all of the 10 years they might have lost. Those who stopped between 35 and 44 regained nine years. And those who quit much later, between 45 and 64, got back between four and six years of their lives.

The authors of the study included Dr. Tim McAfee, who is director of the Office on Smoking and Public Health at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

CDC statistics show smoking is the leading preventable cause of death in the U.S., and is responsible for about one in five deaths annually.

Nearly one-fifth (19 percent) of American adults smoke, according to CDC statistics. The overwhelming majority (69 percent) of those surveyed by the CDC say they want to quit.

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