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What is the best age to stop smoking?

Jan 18, 2023

Smoking is a major cause of preventable illness and death, with over 8 million deaths attributed to tobacco each year worldwide1. Tobacco kills over half its users. It is well established that quitting smoking at any age can significantly improve health outcomes and reduce the risk of smoking-related diseases. However, the age at which the benefits of quitting smoking are greatest is not well understood.

One study published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) found that the risk of dying from smoking-related causes decreases significantly after age 35 in both men and women who quit smoking. However, the risk of dying from smoking-related causes remained elevated even in those who quit smoking at age 65 or older, compared to those who never smoked2. The NEJM also published an article in 2014 where it was found that quitting smoking before 40 years of age reduces the risk of death from a tobacco-related disease by approximately 90%3.

A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) found that quitting smoking before age 44 years was associated with a reduction in mortality that was 21% higher than that associated with never smoking, and this was consistent across all sociodemographic groups studied4. For smokers who quit between ages 45 and 54 years, the smoking-associated mortality rate was 47% higher than that among never smokers. Finally, smokers who quit before they reach 35 years of age have mortality rates that are not different than those of never smokers5.

Despite the evidence that quitting smoking at a younger age is associated with greater health benefits, it is important to note that quitting smoking at any age can have significant health benefits. The benefits of quitting smoking include reduced risk of lung cancer, heart attack, stroke, and other smoking-related diseases, as well as improved lung function and increased life expectancy.

In conclusion, the best age to stop smoking is likely to be earlier rather than later. Quitting smoking at a younger age is associated with greater health benefits and a more rapid decrease in the risk of smoking-related diseases. However, quitting smoking at any age can have significant health benefits and is an important step towards improving overall health and well-being.

References

  1. World Health Organization, Tobacco fact sheet, 24 May 2022 https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/tobacco
  2. Jha P, Ramasundarahettige C, Landsman V, Rostron B, Thun M, Anderson RN, McAfee T, Peto R. 21st-century hazards of smoking and benefits of cessation in the United States. N Engl J Med. 2013 Jan 24;368(4):341-50.
  3. Jha P, Peto R. Global effects of smoking, of quitting, and of taxing tobacco. N Engl J Med 2014;370:60-68.
  4. Thomson B, Emberson J, Lacey B, et al. Association between smoking, smoking cessation, and mortality by race, ethnicity, and sex among US adults. JAMA Netw Open. 2022;5(10):e2231480.
  5. Pierce JP. Quitting Smoking by Age 35 Years—A Goal for Reducing Mortality. JAMA Netw Open.2022;5(10):e2231487. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2022.31487

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