(CBS ATLANTA) — Light smokers are not safe from the large life expectancy cuts that come from mild cigarette use.
A new tracking study of health and smoking levels from 200,000 people finds that not only does smoking cut 10 years from a smoker’s life expectancy, but that even mild smokers will double their risk of an early death by continuing cigarette use.
“The international rule of thumb is that half of all smoker deaths are directly caused by tobacco,” Professor Emily Banks of the Australian National University study told ABC News.
“We found that [over the four years] people who are current smokers were three times more likely to die than people who had never smoked, and their life expectancy within that four-year period was diminished by 10 years compared to the never-smokers.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Tobacco use is the single most preventable cause of disease, disability, and death in the United States. Each year, an estimated 443,000 people die prematurely from smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke, and another 8.6 million live with a serious illness caused by smoking.”
Despite these risks, approximately 46.6 million U.S. adults smoke cigarettes. Smokeless tobacco, cigars, and pipes also have deadly consequences, including lung, larynx, esophageal, and oral cancers, reports the CDC.
The study echoes previous research that quitting smoking at any age still reduces the risk of smoking-related death.
The CDC reports: “Each year, primarily because of exposure to secondhand smoke, an estimated 3,000 nonsmoking Americans die of lung cancer, more than 46,000 die of heart disease, and about 150,000–300,000 children younger than 18 months have lower respiratory tract infections.”