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Why you need to bag the fag: TWO in THREE Australian smokers will die 10 years early… (but if you give up before you turn 45 you can repair the damage)

  • Two thirds of Australia’s 2.7m smokers are likely to die 10 years earlier
  • Those who smoke 10-a-day are about twice as likely to die early, while a habit of 25-a-day raises the risk by up to fivefold
  • The Sax Institute’s study was published in the journal BMC Medicine
  • Researchers followed 200,000 Australians aged 45 and over for four years

Two thirds of Australia’s 2.7 million smokers are likely to die ten years earlier due to their habit, a new study has revealed.

However smokers who quit by the age of 45 wipe away most of their increased death risk, the first large-scale, direct evidence on smoking and mortality in Australia has shown.

Researchers from Sydney’s Sax Institute followed 200,000 Australians aged 45 and over for four years, finding death rates among smokers were about three times higher than in non-smokers.

Those who smoked 10-a-day were about twice as likely to die early, while a habit of 25-a-day raised the risk by up to fivefold.

‘If you are smoking, the chances are it will kill you if you keep on going,’ said lead author Professor Emily Banks of Sydney’s Sax Institute and the Australian National University.

‘If you are a gambler, it’s not a very good bet. The good news is that if you quit the benefits are clear and lasting.’

The 45 and Up Study, published in the journal BMC Medicine on Tuesday, is the best large-scale evidence on smoking and death in Australia and confirms recent findings from studies in both the U.S. and the UK, Prof Banks says.

‘It is a huge wake-up call for Australia. We know smoking is the cause of a wide range of diseases but we now have direct evidence from Australia that shows just how hazardous it is. Even ten cigarettes a day will double your risk of dying prematurely. Smokers greatly underestimate or do not understand the seriousness of these risks,’ Professor Banks said.

Laureate Professor Alan Lopez, one of the study authors and the director of the Global Burden of Disease Group, praised Australia’s tobacco control measures – including heightening prices – which he said have brought smoking rates down to 12.8 per cent – the lowest in the Western world.

But he said the results were a reminder that there was no safe level of smoking.

‘While Australia is a world leader in tobacco control, the battle to reduce the public health consequences of tobacco use is far from over… While this is gratifying, it is still 13 percent too many; 2.7 million Australians still smoke,’ Professor Lopez said.

‘Our findings revealed that up to two in every three Australians who smoke can be expected to die from their habit if they don’t quit. Their risk of dropping dead at any age is three times that of non-smokers,’ he said.

‘These are enormous risks and highlight the importance of government staying the course on tobacco control. Local tobacco control policy ought to be more responsive to this new and compelling local evidence,’ he said.

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