Quitting Smoking Before This Age Can Make Your Health Risks Comparable to People Who Have Never Smoked

Are you a cigarette smoker under the age of 35? If you quit now, your health risks could be comparable to those of someone who has never smoked, new research suggests.

A study published in the medical journal JAMA Network Open explored the benefits of smoking cessation among a survey pool of 551,000 U.S. adults. Participants included current smokers, former smokers, and “never smokers,” meaning people who had smoked less than 100 cigarettes in their lifetime. Researchers noted participants’ race, age, ethnicity, and sex when analyzing data.

Across the board, they found that quitting smoking was associated with “a reduction in excess mortality” versus continuing to smoke. “Among men and women from diverse racial and ethnic groups, current smoking was associated with at least twice the all-cause mortality rate of never smoking,” the team wrote.

Interestingly enough, researchers also noted “larger reductions” in excess mortality rates among people who stopped smoking earlier in life. In particular, ex-smokers who quit before age 35 showed mortality rates very similar to never smokers.

Those who stopped by 45 also exhibited decreased mortality rates compared to current smokers. However, their death rates were still observably higher (21 percent) than non-smokers. Ditto with people who quit between the ages of 45 and 64, whose rates were diminished overall but 47 percent higher than non-smokers.

“It has been known for a long time that the earlier a smoker quits, the better,” John P. Pierce, a professor emeritus at University of California, San Diego, wrote in a commentary on the study. “However, it is now possible to be more specific with respect to the age that a smoker quits. … Health professionals and public health campaigns could incorporate this target age for quitting in their efforts to motivate young smokers to try to quit.”

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