Smoking Cessation at any Age May Reduce Mortality Risk

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Smoking cessation improves all-cause mortality, regardless of the age at which one quits.
Smoking cessation improves all-cause mortality, regardless of the age at which one quits.

Smoking cessation improves all-cause mortality, regardless of the age at which one quits, according to a study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.1

A 2014 report estimated that there are almost half a million tobacco-related deaths annually in the US alone. Most previous studies, however, focused on middle-aged people, and little research attention has been given to elderly populations. For this questionnaire-based study, researchers evaluated data from 160,113 participants aged at least 70 at baseline.

All participants filled out a questionnaire between 2004 and 2005 indicating their smoking habits, including year of initiation and year of cessation; follow-up continued through the end of 2011.

Of all evaluated patients, 60,973 were never-smokers, 81,137 quit smoking when younger than 60 years, 8412 quit at 60 or older, and 9591 were “current” smokers.

“Current” smokers were 3 times as likely to have died during the follow-up period as never smokers; the pattern of risk, furthermore, was consistent with age of cessation: quitting earlier always carried a lower mortality risk.

The consistently lower rate of mortality held even though participants who quit between 60 and 70 years were at least as likely to have hypertension, cancer, heart attack, or stroke as “current” smokers.

Mortality risk was higher among male smokers than females, which may be linked to males smoking greater quantities than female smokers.

RELATED: New Prognostic Index for Lung Cancer With Brain Metastases Includes Genetic Markers

These findings suggest that physicians should encourage patients to quit smoking, regardless of age and several comorbidities, as cessation at any age significantly improved mortality risk in this study.


  1. Nash SH, Liao LM, Harris TB, Freedman ND. Cigarette smoking and mortality in adults aged 70 years and older: results from the NIH-AARP Cohort. Am J Prev Med. 2016 Nov 30. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2016.09.036 [Epub ahead of print]

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