Smokers Who “Survive to 70” Lose Many Years of Life

Cigarette Smoking and its effects on health

According to a recent press release at the European Society of Cardiology (ESC), individuals who smoke are at considerable risk of mortality, regardless of their age. Until recently, thorough epidemiological studies had not been conducted to determine the relationship between smoking in older generations and mortality risks. However, researchers claim that individuals who survive to 70 years of age are still at risk, and will lose many years of life.

Two research scientists, Dr. Jonathan Emberson and Dr. Robert Clark seized the opportunity to track the health and lifestyles of elderly males, between the age of 66 and 97; 7,000 of these individuals were taken from a population of subjects that took part in a Whitehall study of civil servants from London.

The study calculated what it classified as hazard ratios for each member of the studied population, and factored into the equation the degree to which smoking impacted a subject’s mortality. These results were adjusted to reflect a variety of factors, including an individual’s age, employment status and clinical history of cancer and vascular disease.

Overall, more than 70% of the participants died during the study, which lasted a duration of 15 years, representing a figure of 5,000 men. The two researchers found a hazard ratio of 1.5 for smokers, which denotes a 50% higher death rate in smokers, relative to their non-smoking counterparts.

The main health pathologies that led to these deaths included vascular disease, cancer and respiratory dysfunction, which had hazard ratios of 1.34, 1.74 and 2.39, respectively.

The Impact of Cigarette Smoking

Smoking is thought to harm virtually every organ of the body, elevating a smoker’s mortality risk considerably. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cigarette smoking accounts for over 440,000 deaths, annually, in the United States alone.

The harmful effects of smoking have been well-documented. The following is a narrow list of just a small selection of pathologies that plague smokers:

  • Coronary heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Cancer
  • Chronic obstructive lung disease
  • Infertility and reproductive issues
  • Lower bone density

Adverse Health Effects of Smoking

Smoking, Cancer and the Cardiovascular System

In terms of cardiovascular disease, the constituents of cigarette smoke can cause unfavorable change in lipid metabolism, an increase in inflammatory markers within the bloodstream, spur thrombotic events, causeendothelial damage to the lining of blood vessels and disrupt the ability of red blood cells to transport oxygen.

Smoking also placed many of the body’s organs at risk from various forms of cancer. Those organs in direct, sustained contact with cigarette smoke are at greater risk, however, particularly the oesophagus and lungs. Suffice to say, cigarettes contain vast numbers of carcinogens, increasing a smoker’s chances of developing numerous cancers. Meanwhile, tar clogs up the airways, coating the delicate cilia of the respiratory epithelium, whilst nicotine constricts the arteries and provides that addictive property that keeps a smoker coming back for more.

A Smoker’s Recovery Time

Even in reformed smokers the researchers found death rate appeared higher than non-smokers, with deaths caused primarily by cancer and respiratory illness. One of the most startling findings involves the length of time it Constituents of Cigarettestakes a smoker to fully recover from their prior habits; participants who had stopped smoking during the last 25 years still encountered a 28% increased mortality rate, compared to men who had never smoked. Comparatively, people who had broken the habit for more than 25 years, prior, were seen to have no significant risk impact.

Dr. Emberson offers some insight into the results of his work, suggesting that smoking is always a risk-determining factor, even in the elderly. He maintains, the sooner an individual quits, and the longer they abstain from their smoking practices, the better the outcome and the greater the reduction in risk.

Smokers Who Reach 70 Lose Four Years

The study draws the ultimate conclusion that smokers who continue their practices beyond 70 years of age are likely to lose an average of four years, when comparing the life expectancy of those who had never smoked. From the age of 70, here is the average life expectancy for each of the different categories of subjects:

  • Never smoked: +18 years
  • Smokers who gave up before reaching 70: +16 years
  • Smokers who did not give up before reaching 70: +14 years

In essence, people who had never smoked reached to an average age of 88; comparatively, persistent smokers survived to an average age of 84, four years shorter. Dr. Robert Clark neatly summarizes these conclusions, claiming that even under the circumstances a smoker reaches 70 years of age, their risk of mortality remains substantial.

Ultimately, Clark points out, the sooner one stops the better. Smokers surviving to 70 years of age may still experience a potential four year cut in their life expectancy, but this should not be seen as a sign for people of this age category to throw in the towel and not attempt to break these long-term habits. As the old saying goes, every little helps.

By: James Fenner

ESC Press Release

NCBI: Health Consequences of Smoking

NCBI: Cardiovascular Disease and Smoking

NCBI Journal: Smoking and Cancer

The National Cancer Institute

CDC: Basic of Smoking

15 Responses to "Smokers Who “Survive to 70” Lose Many Years of Life"

  1. jenny   September 2, 2013 at 8:22 pm

    Smoking is so bad for my health,I can physically feel the diffrence after one day of not smoking.My issue is having no alternatives.Traditional ways aren’t helping me.

  2. Joseph Weston   September 2, 2013 at 1:35 pm

    We ALL face a 100% mortality rate. Period. Get over it.

  3. daz   September 1, 2013 at 10:21 pm


  4. Rich Sequest   September 1, 2013 at 10:17 pm

    This article focused on the life expectancy of smokers vs non-smokers. But an earlier death is not the only bad scenario for smokers. Years of related symptoms, such as coughing and shortness of breath, not to mention accelerated aging (e.g., wrinkles), means smokers are likely to have a much lower quality of life than non-smokers, notwithstanding how many fewer years they live than non smokers.

  5. Mike   September 1, 2013 at 10:16 pm

    But what about quality of life? I’d rather live to 84 doing what I want then 88 withholding something I enjoy. But face it, at that age you’re a vegetable either way.

  6. oldswordfighter   September 1, 2013 at 9:26 pm

    My 97 year old grandmother is a chainsmoker who has smoked one to two packs a day since she was 13. She recovered from colon cancer at 91 and still lives alone in her own home. She also has a high grease diet and drinks a coffee cup of brandy every day. I bet she lives to 100

    • Paul F. Walters   September 1, 2013 at 10:03 pm

      And I won $3000 on the slots yesterday, but that does not make it probable.

    • Moatsad   September 1, 2013 at 10:05 pm

      The point being , however, is that she may have seen 104.

  7. tgh   September 1, 2013 at 9:21 pm



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