Even smokers 60 and over can live longer if they quit, according to a 2012 study published in JAMA Internal Medicine. Three experts from the German Cancer Research Center, in Heidelberg, analyzed 17 studies from the United States, Australia, China, England, France, Japan and Spain that followed groups of between 863 and 877,243 people for periods ranging from three to 50 years. Findings showed that the longer a person had been classified as a former, rather than current, smoker, the more their risk of premature death decreased. The researchers also observed that current smokers showed the highest absolute mortality rates in all the studies.
Dr. Tai Hing Lam, of the University of Hong Kong, observes that for people in their 60s, quitting was linked to a 21 percent decrease in the risk of premature death. The risk was reduced by 27 percent for those in their 70s and by 24 percent for individuals in their 80s. Lam added that the World Health Organization’s statistic that one out of every two smokers will die from their habit should be printed on all cigarette packages, “…so that all smokers know they are betting their lives on the toss of a coin.”