Ex-smokers live longer than those who haven't kicked the habit, no matter what age group you look at, according to a new report.
"This fact calls for effective smoking cessation programs that are likely to have major preventive effects even for smokers aged 60 years and older," German researchers write in Archives of Internal Medicine.
Their report, which summarizes the findings of 17 earlier studies, is the first to review the link between smoking and death in seniors in particular.
"Even older people who smoked for a lifetime without negative health consequences should be encouraged and supported to quit smoking," say the researchers, led by Dr. Hermann Brenner of the German Cancer Research Center in Heidelberg.
They found that smokers 60 years and older were 83 percent more likely to die at any given age compared with people who never smoked. While the link was weaker in the oldest people, it remained considerable even in those aged 80 and over.
Smoking researcher Dr. Prabhat Jha from St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto pointed to a British study, for instance, that followed doctors for half a century and found 59 percent of non-smokers were alive at age 80 compared to 26 percent of smokers.
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