A new study involving men ages 66-97 shows that smokers who make it to age 70 still lose an average of four years of life, researchers in Britain say.
Researchers Dr. Jonathan Emberson and Dr. Robert Clarke said they examined information on 7,000 older men -- mean age 77 -- from 1997-2012. They found that 5,000 of the 7,000 men died, but that deaths in current smokers were about 50 percent higher than in those who never smoked due primarily to vascular disease, cancer and respiratory diseases.
Hazard ratios for overall mortality and various causes of death in relation to smoking habits were determined after considering other factors such as age, employment and health concerns.
"Despite recent declines in the numbers of people smoking and tar yields of cigarettes, smoking remains the leading preventable cause of death in Europe," Emberson said in a press release.
He added: "Previous studies had demonstrated that prolonged cigarette smoking from early adult life was associated with about 10 years loss of life expectancy, with about one quarter of smokers killed by their habit before the age of 70. Stopping at ages 60, 50, 40 or 30 years gained back about three, six, nine or the full 10 years. However, the hazards of continuing to smoke and the benefits of stopping in older people had not been widely studied."
Emberson said the study shows that active smoking continues to increase the risk of death in old age.
Average life expectancy from age 70 was about 18 years in men who had never regularly smoked, 16 years for men who gave up smoking before age 70 but only about 14 years in men still smoking at age 70.
"This study shows that even if you were to ignore all the deaths caused by smoking before the age of 70, older smokers still do considerably worse than older non-smokers, losing a considerable amount of subsequent lifespan," Emberson said.
"We have shown that even if a smoker is fortunate enough to survive to age 70 they still lose, on average, about four years of subsequent lifespan compared with men who do not smoke," Clarke said in a press release. "Quitting is beneficial at any age and it really is never too late to stop."
Meanwhile, a study earlier this year found that people who quit smoking before age 40 could live just as long as people who've never smoked before.