Majority give up smoking around the age of forty

31/05/2007 15:00

In 2006, young people picked up the habit of smoking on average before their fifteenth birthday. Three quarters of all ex-smokers gave up smoking prior to their 43rd birthday. The average ex-smoker has smoked for nearly 18 years before kicking the habit. The average ex-smoker is heavier than the average smoker.

Early starters

Nearly three in ten Dutch residents in the age category 12 years and older smoked in 2006. Four in ten have never smoked and 30 percent gave up smoking. Today’s average smoker or ex-smoker in the 16-25 age bracket started smoking when they were 14.9 years old, as against 15.5 years in 1989. The starting age of smoking is gender-indifferent.

Nearly half of today’s non-smokers have smoked at one time in their lives. The average age of men who give up smoking is 36. Their smoking period covers more than 19 years. Female ex-smokers give up smoking around the age of 33 and by the time she kicks the habit, the average female smoker has smoked for nearly 16 years.

Average age young people start smoking

Average age young people start smoking

Cessation-induced weight gain

Lung cancer as a result of smoking is still the most frequent cause of cancer death, so giving up smoking has a positive effect on health, but there are also unwelcome side effects. In most cases, people who stop smoking easily gain weight. People who give up smoking easily gain weight.

The Health Survey shows that former smokers are on average heavier than people who have never smoked. The average difference in weight is 3.6 kilo. With 4.0 kilo, the average weight difference in women is larger than in men (3.4 kilo). It appears that age and the duration of the non-smoking period hardly affect weight differences between ex-smokers and smokers.

Body weight men by age, 2001/2006

Body weight men by age, 2001/2006

Body weight women by age, 2001/2006

Body weight women by age, 2001/2006

Ex-smokers suffer from overweight nearly 1.4 times as often as smokers. Sixty percent of former male smokers are overweight, as opposed to about 45 percent of smokers and never-smokers. The corresponding figures for women are 45 and 35 percent respectively. Obesity is also more common in ex-smokers than in smokers and non-smokers.

Overweight by gender, 2001/2006

Overweight by gender, 2001/2006

Frans Frenken