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Can't stop smoking? Live longer by cutting back

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
First study shows health benefits for cutting down smoking.

If you’ve been trying to quit smoking and failed, take heart. New research suggests just cutting down on the number of cigarettes you smoke each day can significantly lower your risks for poor health.

Researchers at American friends Tel Aviv University looked in survival rates among people who smoke but reduced their number of cigarettes because they couldn’t entirely quit.

The study took place over a 40 year span and the researchers for the study looked at survival rates and life expectancy.

People who reduced cigarette consumption had a 15% lower risk of dying compared to people who stop smoking altogether whose risk of early death went down 22%.

Vicki Myers, a researcher at Tel Aviv University's Sackler Faculty of Medicine said in a press release that smoking fewer cigarettes is a valid health risk reduction strategy, though stopping altogether is still best.

The investigation included 4, 623 Israeli males who smoked at baseline, with an average age of 51. The men were part of the Israeli Ischemic Heart Disease Study.

The men took part in two interviews – one in 1963 and a second in 1965 to assess their smoking habits. The researchers looked at how many died over a 40 year period.

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The first interview allowed the investigators to categorize the men according to how man cigarettes they smoked each day. In the second interview the researchers noted whether the men had decreased or increased their consumption or stayed the same.

Cutting down on smoking lowered the chances of dying from any cause by 15% and reduced the risk of death from heart disease by 23%.

If you smoke and quit completely, your chances of living to age 80 go up by 33%; from the study finding. Participants who curbed smoking saw a 22% increased chance of living to age 80.

Myers explained in a media release that it’s never too late to try to quit smoking or at least cut down. In the study, people whose average age was 50 were able to either quit or reduce the number of cigarettes they smoke.

Myers says though the message that cutting down on smoking has benefits for health might be controversial because it is better to quit, there are long-term benefits from smoking less.

If you do smoke, be thoughtful toward others. Limit your cigarette consumption so you don't expose others to second-hand smoke; especially children. If you're trying to quit, change your daily habits to improve your chances of success.

The study looked at the health benefits over a long period of time, making it a first, notes Myers, who also says cutting back on cigarettes is better than not taking any action to curb health risks that come from smoking. Make it a goal to quit smoking, which is shown to help reduce symptoms of cough after just two weeks.

American Friends
Tel Aviv University
November 19, 2012

Image credit: Morguefile