Crunching the Smoking Numbers (Article)

I know, I’m obsessed with cigarette smoking. I write about it all the time because it was such a pervasive part of my childhood. It seemed like everyone around me smoked and enjoyed it, but I certainly didn’t. Choking, coughing, and an occasional burn were this child’s view of cigarettes. It’s no wonder that articles about smoking catch my attention even to this day.

Recently, the statisticians and epidemiologists have been busy crunching numbers that compare health problems of smokers and non-smokers over the past six decades. The results are another reminder of how terrible cigarette smoke affects a person’s health. Here is a quick summary of their findings:

  • While smoking-related health problems used to be found mostly in men, now female smokers die at equal rates to male smokers.
  • A man who has never smoked has a 61% chance of living to the age of 80 while a smoker only has a 26% chance of such longevity.
  • A woman who has never smoked has a 70% chance of living to the age of 80 while her smoking friend only has a 38% chance of reaching such an age.
  • Quitting smoking has benefits that can be quantified: quitting between the ages of 25 and 34, on average, added 10 years of life expectancy. Quitting between ages 35-44 added 9 years, quitting between 45-54 added 6 years, and quitting between 55-64 added 4 years.
  • Lung cancer deaths now exceed breast cancer deaths among women.

Smoking rates continue to fall in the US; now about 20% of adults smoke compared to 50% during my formative years. Let’s hope that when your children have my job and are writing articles about health and lifestyle, smoking will be something they have just read about and never witnessed. “A cigarette, what’s that?” Your comments are welcome at my blog, www.docsmo.com. Until next time.

Smo Notes:

1. http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMe1213751

2. http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMsa1211127

3. http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMsa1211128

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