Saturday 25 March 2023 \


Quitters still end up as winners

Long-term smokers who quit later in life can still reap the health benefits, according to new research.

A study published this month, based on nearly 5,000 male smokers who were tracked for more than 40 years, found those who stop or cut back on cigarette use in middle age are significantly more likely to live beyond their 80th birthday. 

Quitters have a 33 per cent greater chance of being alive than those who keep on puffing, while those who cut back increase their likelihood of becoming an octogenarian by 22 per cent.

This is the first research to show a survival advantage for those who cut back rather than quit.

Smoking is responsible for one in every five deaths in adults aged over 35 in England, and half of all long-term smokers will die prematurely due to a smoking-related disease, including lung cancer, stroke, heart disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

But despite the proven links with ill health and death, one in five adults still smokes. And while the number of smokers has fallen ? one in three smoked 30 years ago ? there have been concerns about the numbers who remain at risk.

Quitting is the best way for smokers to improve their health and research suggests around 65 per cent of smokers want to stop smoking but a large number are unable to. Twelve-month success rates among people using cessation aids available on the NHS are estimated at 13 to 15 per cent but for people who try unaided, they are as low as three per cent.

In the new study, researchers looked at the long-term health and longevity of quitting and also of cutting down at the same age.

Of the 10,000 men recruited for the study in the Sixties, half were smokers at the start. The researchers looked for changes in their smoking habits around the age of 50 and links with health and death.

The researchers, from Israel's Tel Aviv University, say the findings show the benefits of quitting at an older age and also offer hope to those who cut back in an attempt to improve their health.

Dr Yariv Gerber, who led the study, says: 'Although smoking cessation should always be the preferred goal, reducing smoking intensity may be viewed as a ?rst step toward cessation for those who cannot quit instantaneously. Individuals who reduced their smoking intensity had lower mortality risk and higher odds of surviving to 80. Reducing smoking intensity may be advised for heavy smokers who cannot quit abruptly.'

Dr Nicholas Hopkinson, respiratory consultant and senior lecturer at London's Royal Brompton Hospital, said: 'This large, long-term study provides further clear evidence of the health benefits of stopping smoking, even in middle age. People in their 50s who quit were significantly more likely to be alive at the age of 80. There is also good evidence that people who stop smoking enjoy better health in old age.

'We run smoking cessation clinics at Royal Brompton and Harefield Hospitals and our extensive research into respiratory conditions suggest it is never too late to quit, so people should never give up on giving up.'



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