Ex-smokers live longer than those who have not kicked the habit, no matter what age group you look at, according to a new report.
“This fact calls for effective smoking cessation programs, which may have significant preventive effects, even for smokers aged 60 years and over,” the German researchers write in the Archives of Internal Medicine.
Their report, which summarizes the results of 17 earlier studies, is the first to examine the link between smoking and death of the elderly in particular.
“Even older people who smoke throughout their lives without adverse health effects should be encouraged and supported to quit smoking,” say researchers led by Dr. Hermann Brenner of the German Cancer Research Center in Heidelberg.
They found that smokers are 60 years or older were 83 percent more likely to die at any age compared with those who never smoked. While the association was weaker than older people, it remained significant even at the age of 80 years and older.
Smoking researcher Dr. Prabhat Jha of St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, pointed to the British study, for example, doctors who were followed for half a century, and found 59 percent of non-smokers were alive at the age of 80 years compared with 26 percent of smokers.
The commentary to the German analysis, Dr. Tai Hing Lam of the University of Hong Kong said that the results show, one of the two older smokers die from tobacco.
“Most smokers greatly underestimate their risks,” he wrote. “Many older smokers are misled, they are too old to quit smoking or too old to benefit from quitting.”
Studies in this review ranged from three to 50 years and was somewhere between several hundred and more than 877,000 participants. All are based on observations of differences between current, former and never smokers for a long time, so there is no assurance that the tobacco itself is responsible for the difference in mortality.
But the German researchers believe that this is plausible, because the chemicals in tobacco are known to cause cell damage and people who smoke more than their life expectancy is shorter than those who smoke less.
Jha, who heads the Center for Global Health Research St. Michael, said the new report may overestimate the risk as a former smoker and underestimate the benefits of quitting.
That’s because former smokers participating in the study may leave due to illness, thereby increasing their chances of premature death, Jha told Reuters Health via e-mail.
“Refusal to work at any age,” he said, “but it is especially effective if people do not go to the disease.”
According to the British doctors’ study, he said, those who left before age 40 were almost the same mortality rate of those who never smoked.