If you're old enough to use tobacco products you most likely are aware of some of the health hazards associated with cigarette smoking, but the association between cigarette smoking and reduced life span has never been clearer and the clarion call for all smokers to quit smoking has never been louder until the release of newly revealed scientific research information in January 2013.

That all important information was published in the January 24, 2013 edition of the New England Journal of Medicine, an authoritative medical journal read by many physicians throughout the United States. Scientific data within the published article was based on a study of 216,917 adult participants throughout United States from 1997 through 2004. The study participants filled out the US National Health Interview Survey and the results of the survey were matched with The National Death Index and the death certificates of the 13,700 who participants expired during the study.

Participants in the study were categorized as either smokers, former smokers or never smoked. Participants were classified as former smokers if they smoked at least 100 cigarettes in their adult life but had quit smoking for at least five years. The participants were categorized as having never smoked if they smoked fewer than 100 cigarettes in their adult life.

Following statistical analysis of the 13,700 deaths which occurred during the study with adjustments for other factors which influence death such as alcohol consumption, obesity, and ethnicity, the results showed conclusively that the death rate of the participants who smoked was triple that of the participants who did not smoke and that those who never smoked were approximately twice as likely to live to the age of 80 compared to the smokers.

The study also showed that the males between the ages of 25 and 79 lost an average of 12 years of life and that the female participants lost an average of 11 years of life compared to the participants who had never smoked. Adjusted statistical calculations also showed that the estimated likelihood of surviving to the age of 80 years was 38% for the women participants in the study who smoked compared to 70% for the women participants who had never smoked. The statistics for the male participants were 26% and 61% respectively.

Although previous studies including a British study between 1900 and 1930, a large UK study between 1930 and 1950, a Japanese study between 1920 and 1945 and a meta-analysis of several prior US studies have similarly shown a tripling of the relative death rate of smokers compared to non-smokers and the loss of approximately 10 years of life on the average among smokers, this study is the first to show as large an absolute death rate for smokers, which is the difference in the percent chance of survival to age 80 between smokers and non-smokers.

As gloomy as the statistics regarding smoking and premature death are, the study provides some positive insight with respect to the benefits of quitting smoking. It showed that smokers who quit between the ages of 25 and 34 years lived almost as long as the participants who had never smoked, thus meaning they gained approximately 10 years of life. Individuals who quit between the ages of 35 and 44 years still had shortened life spans compared to the individuals who never smoked, but gained approximately 8 years of life on the average. Participants who quit smoking between the ages of 35 and 54 and those who quit between the ages of 55 and 64 gained approximately 6 and 4 years of life respectively.

The absolute death rate in this study is the difference in living until to the age of 80 between smokers and non-smokers. It was calculated by subtracting the percent chance of living to the age of 80 for smokers from the percent chance of living to the age of 80 for non-smokers and found to be in excess of 30 percent for both males and females. Since absolute death rate among non-smokers has been decreasing over the years and death rate among smokers increasing the absolute differences in survival to the age of 80 (the absolute death rate) between the two groups has widened and now exceeds 30% for both sexes based on the findings of this study.

Despite the sobering reality of the link between smoking and shortening of life span which this study proved, hopefully the silver lining with respect to the benefits of quitting smoking means the glass is half full, not half empty and will cause many to quit smoking.

This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be legal advice or a substitute for medical consultation with a qualified professional. If you are seeking legal advice or are unsure about your medical condition you should consult an attorney and/or physician.

Author's Bio: 

Victor E. Battles, M.D. is a board-certified internist with 30 + years of patient contact including treatment and evaluation of diseases related to smoking. He is also the founder of Proactive Health Outlet, a resource providing self-help for improving health. For more information on the importance of quitting smoking and to find resources to help quit smoking visit Proactive Health Outlet