Stop smoking and live - if you're under 35
SMOKERS must give up by the age of 35 to have the best chance of beating a cigarette-related death, according to the world's foremost researcher into lung cancer.
Professor Sir Richard Doll says that Britain has the biggest decrease in deaths from lung cancer in the world because of its pioneering role in persuading people to stop.
Sir Richard, who was, in 1950, the first to link smoking with lung cancer, says in his most important paper on lung cancer since then that smokers must try their utmost to give up before 35. If they do they almost eliminate the risk of dying from the disease. Even quitting at the age of 50 reduces the chance of dying from lung cancer by almost two thirds. Those who continue to smoke past that age will have a one in six chance of being killed by the disease.
The figures show that smoking is at least three times as dangerous as predicted at the time of Professor Doll's first study and suggests that far greater numbers of people will die from the habit than previously thought.
Lung cancer itself, although it kills more than any other cancer, accounts for only about a third of smoking-related deaths. There are 12 million smokers in Britain and half of them will die prematurely, often through heart attacks and strokes. In other words, smoking will kill one in six British adults. "What we have found is that giving up has a benefit at any age and more than 90 per cent of the risks are avoided by giving up before middle age."
Sir Richard, whose findings are published in the British Medical Journal, reports that among women the risk of contracting lung cancer from smoking has gone up enormously. That is partly because they have not given up in the same numbers as men and are smoking more.
He says that the Government should target adult smokers more aggressively. "Even in 1951 the tobacco industry were saying that we should ignore adults and tell children how wicked it is, which in fact only encourages them."
Clive Bates, director of Action on Smoking and Health, said that young people should not imagine that they had the all-clear to smoke until they were in their thirties. "The great danger about smoking in your twenties and hoping to give up later is that you might not be able to do so."