Heavy smokers cut their lifespan by 13 years on average

15/09/2017 15:00
One in four heavy smokers die before their 65th birthday. The average lifespan of heavy smokers (smoking more than twenty cigarettes per day) is 13 years shorter than that of non-smokers. This is the outcome of a new study by Statistics Netherlands (CBS) and the Netherlands Institute of Mental Health and Addiction (the Trimbos Institute) on the relationship between smoking and mortality.

The study is based on the survey data and data on the deaths of nearly 40 thousand respondents aged between 20 and 80 who participated in the Health Survey held from 2001 up to and including 2006. Research focused on whether and when smokers and non-smokers who took part in this health survey had passed away.
The study shows that smokers die relatively young. An estimated 23 percent of consistent heavy smokers never reach the age of 65. This is 11 percent among light smokers and 7 percent among non-smokers. Life expectancy decreases by 13 years on average for heavy smokers compared to people who have never smoked. Moderate smokers (fewer than twenty cigarettes a day) lose an estimated 9 years, while light (intermittent) smokers lose 5 years.

Cancer is the leading cause of premature death

The study indicates that smokers relatively often die from cancer, especially lung cancer. In addition, cardiovascular and respiratory diseases were more prevalent causes among the smokers. For example, an estimated 11 percent of heavy smokers died from cancer before they turned 65 and 5 percent from lung cancer. Another 5 percent of deaths were due to cardiovascular diseases. Among those who never smoked, 3 percent of deaths before age 65 are related to cancer and 1 percent to cardiovascular disease.

Quitting pays off

It pays to stop smoking, at any age. People who quit before they reach the age of 35 achieve the same life expectancy as people who never smoked. The risk of premature death is halved among ex-smokers who quit around their 50th birthday.

Four in ten deaths under age 80 linked to tobacco

The study shows that in recent years, 4 out of 10 people who die before the age of 80 were killed by the effects of tobacco.
The number of smokers is declining steadily, however. Around fifteen years ago, 10 percent of the Dutch population smoked at least twenty cigarettes a day; nowadays, 4 percent of the population are heavy smokers. In the same period, the number of moderate smokers has decreased substantially, from 18 to 14 percent. The share of occasional smokers has been 5 to 6 percent for years.