HEALTHY LIVING
01/26/2013 10:37 am ET

Smokers Who Quit Before Age 40 Could Live As Long As Non-Smokers, Study Finds

Here's yet another good reason to kick a cigarette habit: A new study shows that people who quit smoking before age 40 could live just as long as people who've never smoked before.

“Quitting smoking before age 40, and preferably well before 40, gives back almost all of the decade of lost life from continued smoking," study researcher Dr. Prabhat Jha, a professor in the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto and head of the Centre for Global Health Research at St. Michael’s Hospital, said in a statement.

“That’s not to say, however, that it is safe to smoke until you are 40 and then stop,” Jha said in the statement. “Former smokers still have a greater risk of dying sooner than people who never smoked. But the risk is small compared to the huge risk for those who continue to smoke.”

The researchers found that smoking was linked with living 10 fewer years than nonsmokers. And people who had never smoked before were twice as likely to reach age 80 than their cigarette-smoking counterparts.

They also found that people who stopped smoking between the ages of 35 and 44 lived about nine years longer than they would have if they didn't quit smoking. And people who quit smoking between the ages of 45 and 54 lived six years longer, and people who quit smoking between ages 55 and 64 lived four years longer, the researchers found.

The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, included 122,810 women and 94,107 men who were all 25 or older, who participated in the U.S. National Health Interview Survey.

Jha's study differs from previous research on the subject because he focused on the dangers of smoking and the benefits of stopping in "a representative sample of Americans." Previous research had included healthier-than-average people, such as nurses or volunteers.

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