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Study Shows Quitting Smoking Boosts Life Expectancy

man holding cigarette in hand

After just a few years, people who stop smoking have significant increases in life expectancy, as per a recent study conducted by Unity Health Toronto researchers from the University of Toronto. According to a study that was published in NEJM Evidence, smokers who give up before the age of 40 can anticipate living as long as non-smokers. People who stop smoking at any age experience a 10-year survival rate that is identical to that of never smokers, with half of that benefit happening in just three years.  

“People can reap those rewards remarkably quickly by quitting smoking, which is ridiculously effective in reducing the risk of death,” stated Prabhat Jha, executive director of the Centre for Global Health Research at Unity Health Toronto and professor at the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health and Temerty Faculty of Medicine. 

The observational study monitored 1.5 million adults over a 15-year period in four countries: the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Norway. Individuals who smoked between the ages of 40 and 79 lost an average of 12 to 13 years of life, as their risk of dying was nearly three times higher than that of non-smokers. 
In comparison to never smokers, former smokers reduced their risk of death to 1.3-fold, or 30% greater. Giving up smoking was linked to a longer lifespan at any age; in fact, individuals who gave up within the first three years saw a six-year increase in life expectancy.  

“Many people think it’s too late to quit smoking, especially in middle age,” Jha stated. However, those findings are opposed to that theory. You may live a longer and higher-quality life by lowering your risk of major diseases, and it’s never too late. The impact is also swift.”The researchers discovered that giving up smoking lowered mortality from cancer and vascular disease in particular. But not as much as nonsmokers, probably because of lingering lung damage, they nevertheless had a lower chance of dying from respiratory diseases.  

Approximately 60 million people (about twice the population of Texas) smoke in the four research countries, and over a billion people smoke globally. Despite a greater than 25% decrease in smoking rates worldwide since 1990, tobacco use remains a major cause of avoidable mortality.  

According to Jha, the results underscore the need for governments to step up their support for individuals who choose to give up smoking. Assisting smokers in quitting is among the best strategies to significantly enhance one’s health. And we know how to achieve that: by increasing cigarette taxes and enhancing resources for quitting.”  
According to Jha, many other nations might reduce smoking rates by boosting costs on cigarettes, and Canada is long overdue for one. Clinical guidelines, patient services like helplines, and a systemic approach to health care can all be considered forms of cessation assistance.  
“When smokers interact with the health care system in any way, physicians and health professionals can encourage them to quit, pointing out how well quitting works,” Jha stated. “This can be done with concern, and without judgment or stigma, recognizing that cigarettes are engineered to be highly addictive.” 

Journal References 

Eo Rin Cho et al, Smoking Cessation and Short- and Longer-Term Mortality, NEJM Evidence (2024). DOI: 10.1056/EVIDoa2300272.  

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