Can't quit smoking? While giving up tobacco entirely is the best course of action, from a health perspective, smokers should at least try to cut down on lighting up.
That’s the latest word from Tel Aviv University researchers who examined survival and life expectancy among smokers who reduced their cigarette consumption instead of quitting completely over a 40-year period.
This study, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, found that while quitters had the biggest improvement in mortality rates — a 22 percent reduced risk of premature death, compared to smokers — those who at least reduced the number of cigarettes they smoked had a 15 percent reduced risk.
Lead researcher Vicki Myers, with Tel Aviv's Sackler Faculty of Medicine, noted many doctors have patients who can’t or won’t quit. For them, the new study’s results suggest smoking less is a valid risk reduction strategy — particularly for formerly heavy smokers, who gain the most from cutting back.
For the study, researchers examined the medical charts of 4,633 current and former Israeli smokers. The men were interviewed about their smoking habits in 1963 and again in 1965, and were placed in categories based on daily cigarette consumption — no cigarettes, 1-10 cigarettes, 11-20 cigarettes, and more than 21. Their mortality status was then followed for a period of up to 40 years.
The results showed men who quit smoking fared the best in the long run, but those who reduced their smoking by at least one category also had a lesser, but still moderate decrease in overall mortality risk. In addition, the researchers found quitters had a 33 percent increased chance of surviving to 80 years of age, while those who cut back on smoking had a 22 percent increased chance.
Numerous studies have confirmed the benefits of complete smoking cessation, including a lowered risk of disease, increased life expectancy, and an improved quality of life. But Myers said the study shows that reduction is certainly better than doing nothing at all. She also said the finding suggest it is never too late to quit or cut back.