Old Smokers Still Die Earlier Than Non-Smokers
September 2, 2013

Old Smokers Still Die Earlier Than Non-Smokers

Michael Harper for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

That some smokers end up outliving their non-smoking peers has long been a preferred argument by those who choose to ignore all health warnings and light up every day.

Now, a new study presented this week at the European Society of Cardiology Congress 2013 has found even those smokers who live to be 70 could have lived four years longer if they had just snuffed the habit in their earlier years. Though this result makes sense, given the amount of information about the dangers of smoking doctors and scientists have produced in the past 30 years, scientists Dr. Jonathan Emberson, Oxford University, and Dr. Robert Clarke, University of Manchester, say proper research into the life expectancy of older smokers had never been conducted.

The duo examined the habits and lifestyles of men between 66 and 97 years old. After accounting for other factors, such as diet, employment and other health conditions, Dr. Clark and Dr. Emberson found smoking continues to take years off a person’s life, even if they’re living a long life.

“Previous studies had demonstrated that prolonged cigarette smoking from early adult life was associated with about 10 years loss of life expectancy, with about one quarter of smokers killed by their habit before the age of 70. Stopping at ages 60, 50, 40 or 30 years gained back about 3, 6, 9 or the full 10 years. However, the hazards of continuing to smoke and the benefits of stopping in older people had not been widely studied,” explained Dr. Emberson in a statement.

“Despite recent declines in the numbers of people smoking and tar yields of cigarettes, smoking remains the leading preventable cause of death in Europe,” he added.

Part of the data was sourced from a fifteen year study that examined the health habits and lifestyles of 7,000 of London’s male civil servants.

Overall, 5,000 of the 7,000 men had died at the end of the study. The smokers of the group were fifty percent more likely to have died by the end of the study, either due to cardiovascular and respiratory issues or cancer.

The study also examined how quitting can affect overall health. Unfortunately for those who spent much of their life smoking or those looking to quit after several years of puffing, the doctors say it can take quite a while to repair one’s heart after years of smoking.

According to Las Vegas Guardian Express, participants in the study who had snuffed the habit within the last 25 years of their life were still 28 percent more likely to die before their non-smoking counterparts. Those who hadn’t smoked for more than 25 years saw no significant risk impact.

This, says Dr. Emberson, is yet another reason for smokers to kick the habit as soon as they can and stick with it for the rest of their lives.

While those who never had a habit of smoking had the highest life expectancy in this study, subjects who had given up the habit were able to gain some years of their life back. The doctors broke it down this way: Those who had never smoked had an extra 18 years of their life past 70 years. Participants who had given up smoking before 70 could expect to live another 16 years. Finally, those who continued to smoke could live another 14 years past their 70th birthday, losing four years on those who never picked up the habit.

“This study shows that even if you were to ignore all the deaths caused by smoking before the age of 70, older smokers still do considerably worse than older non-smokers, losing a considerable amount of subsequent lifespan,” summarized Dr. Emberson.

Those looking to kick the habit could do well to replace cigarettes with fresh fruits and veggies. A 2012 study found those who were most successful in kicking the habit were also more likely to eat regular servings of fruits and vegetables. The researchers suggest this could be because these foods don’t improve the flavor of cigarettes like alcohol and coffee do.

More recently, it’s been suggested the absence of a specific kind of bacteria introduced into the intestines by nicotine may be responsible for the weight gain experienced by those who give up smoking. It’s likely sticking to fruits and vegetables could help both kicking the habit and keeping off the pounds.