Quitting Smoking Adds Years to Your Life, Regardless of Age

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  • of the prevalence of health risk behaviorsamong high school students.

    The CDC report shows that the percentageof these students who have ever tried tobaccowas stable throughout much of the 1990s, thenfell from 70.4 percent in 1999 to about 63.9percent in 2001.

    The percentage of high school students whosmoked on one or more days in the 30 daysbefore the survey dropped from 36.4 percent in1997 to 28.5 percent in 2001. In 1999, 16.8percent of high school students describedthemselves as frequent smokers (smoking on 20out of the 30 days before the survey), but thatfell to 13.8 percent in 2001.

    When the tobacco companies lost thelawsuit that made them pay for the diseasetobacco has caused, they passed the costs oftheir legal problems onto smokers, raising thecost of cigarettes out of the reach of manyyoung people, said Ron Todd, MSEd, Directorof Tobacco Control for the American CancerSociety. And some states have raised tobaccotaxes in recent years, said Todd.

    Some states have used the money they gotfrom the tobacco settlement to expandprograms to educate young people on thedangers of tobacco and to prevent their using it,said Todd, and that has also helped.



    People who stop smoking can live a lotlonger, regardless of the age at which they quit,according to a report in the American Journal ofPublic Health (2002;92:990-996). The studyfound that younger people benefit the most,but even those who are 65 can add years totheir life by quitting.

    Whats unique about this study is that itgives some hope even to 65-year-olds whosmoke, said Donald Taylor Jr., PhD, at DukeUniversity in Durham, NC.A man would addbetween 1.4 and 2 years to his life. Thats a

    tangible benefit you can get even late in lifefrom stopping smoking.

    According to the study, women who were65 years old added between 2.7 and 3.7 years totheir lives when they quit compared withcontinuing smokers. But the greatest benefitswere seen by the youngest people in the study.Male smokers who quit at age 35 could expectto live between 6.9 and 8.5 years longer thancontinuing smokers. The benefit for 35-year-old women was between 6.1 and 7.7 years.

    Largest Study of Its Kind

    In order to calculate the benefits of quitting,researchers from Duke University and theAmerican Cancer Society analyzed data from877,243 respondents in the ACS CancerPrevention Study II, an ongoing prospectivemortality study begun in 1982.They compareddata on smokers, former smokers, and thosewho had never smoked.The national scope andlarge sample size of the Cancer PreventionStudy II permitted use of modeling techniquesthat could estimate the benefits of cessationmore accurately than had been done before.

    With 47 million smokers in the UnitedStates, the message that its never too late to quitis an important one, said Michael Thun, MD,ACS Vice President for Epidemiology andSurveillance Research. Quitting is the onlyproven approach by which a smoker can avoidmuch of the increased risk of lung and othercancers, heart disease, stroke, chronicobstructive lung disease, and other disorderscaused by smoking. The benefits of quittingsmoking are much larger than the benefits fromtreating these diseases, once they occur.

    Quitting is difficult, but it is possible. Formost smokers, tobacco dependence is com-parable in severity to the dependence caused byopiates, amphetamines, or cocaine. Researchclearly shows that clinicians can help theirpatients quit, but these counseling andpharmacological interventions are, unfor-tunately, underutilized.

    Volume 52 Number 6 November/December 2002 319

    CA Cancer J Clin 2002;52:316-319


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