A decade of quitting can strongly improve health in former smokers

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New research published in JAMA Internal Medicine sheds light on the remarkable health improvements experienced by former smokers within the first decade after quitting.

The study, led by scientists from the American Cancer Society, explored the relationship between the duration of smoking cessation and mortality rates.

Their findings show that former smokers manage to avoid a substantial portion of the excess mortality risks associated with current smoking, particularly in cardiovascular, cancer, and respiratory health.

Study Overview

The study analyzed data from 438,015 adults aged 25 to 89 years. Participants were categorized into three groups: current smokers, never smokers, and former smokers.

Former smokers were further divided based on the number of years since they had quit smoking (one to nine years, 10 to 19 years, 20 to 29 years, or 30 or more years).

During the study’s 5.0 million person-years of follow-up, researchers identified 11,860 cardiovascular deaths, 10,935 cancer deaths, and 2,060 respiratory deaths.

The findings showed that current smokers faced significantly higher mortality rates compared to never smokers, with rate ratios of 2.30 for cardiovascular mortality, 3.38 for cancer mortality, and a staggering 13.31 for respiratory mortality.

Benefits of Quitting Smoking

Former smokers experienced substantial benefits in terms of mortality risk reduction.

Within the first decade after quitting, former smokers managed to avoid approximately 64% of excess cardiovascular mortality, 53% of excess cancer mortality, and 57% of excess respiratory mortality associated with current smoking. These improvements continued to accrue over time.

Long-Term Health Gains

Notably, former smokers who had refrained from smoking for 20 to 29 years exhibited little to no excess cardiovascular mortality.

For those who had successfully quit smoking for 30 or more years, the study found that they avoided an astounding 100% of the excess cardiovascular mortality, 93% of the excess cancer mortality, and 97% of the excess respiratory mortality linked to continued smoking.


This research underscores the remarkable health benefits of quitting smoking. Within a decade of quitting, former smokers significantly reduce their excess mortality risks, particularly in cardiovascular, cancer, and respiratory health.

The study’s findings emphasize the long-term advantages of smoking cessation, ultimately allowing former smokers to approach mortality rates similar to those of never smokers.

This highlights the importance of quitting smoking for improving overall health and well-being.

If you care about heart health, please read studies about Scientists find a new cause of heart rhythm disorders and findings of Eating just one cup of nitrate-rich vegetables daily can reduce heart disease risk.

For more information about smoking, please read studies about why some non-smokers get lung disease and some heavy smokers do not, and smoking cessation drug may help treat Parkinson’s disease.

The research findings can be found in JAMA Internal Medicine.

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