23 June 2004

Smokers, Please Quit While You Still Can

"I can only advise people that if they enjoy life, if they think life is worth living, then it is damned silly to smoke because you are just not going to have as much of it to live."
Those are the words of Professor Sir Richard Doll, the world-famous researcher who first established a link between tobacco and lung cancer. Since 1951, Sir Richard has followed the lives of nearly 35,000 doctors and found that those who smoked were much more likely to die of the disease. Today, just 5,900 of the doctors in the study are alive and only 134 of those still smoke, prompting him to decide to publish one, final paper on his life's work. A total of 34,439 male British doctors, who were quizzed about their smoking habits and health at intervals thereafter - in 1957, 1966, 1971, 1978, 1991 and 2001.

Yes, you read that right --- doctors --- smoking doctors, to be more precise, were the subjects studied in this longest study ever conducted to look into the effects of smoking. This landmark study is due to appear in the June 26 issue of the British Medical Journal, 50 years to the day after the first landmark results from the same study, which confirmed the said link between lung cancer and smoking.

The most remarkable finding of this study show that half of all people who start smoking in their teens and do not give up will eventually be killed by their habit. While non-smokers have enjoyed progressively longer lives, the lives of smokers have shortened. Among men born after 1920 who are persistent smokers, the risks are even greater, with two-thirds either already dead or predicted to die as a result of their addiction.

I still can not fathom why smokers would not quit.

Here's another good soundbite from another Richard, Sir Richard Peto, professor of medical statistics and epidemiology at the University of Oxford,
"I think we have sometimes emphasized whether kids start almost to the detriment of whether adults stop. By the time you are 30, you've got some understanding of life and death, and when you are 40 you have substantial understanding of life and death; it is for people old enough to know that death is real. If you stop smoking then, you will probably get away with it. There is some risk left over, but it's really small in comparison with other things in life.

There are risks in life, but you don't have many things that kill half of those that do them. The key emphasis for practical purposes is how big the risk is if you smoke, and how big the benefit when you stop. Smoking kills half. Stopping works.
Read the full report here.

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