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Life in the balance for elderly smokers

December 17, 2014

Elderly smokers have a 50 percent chance of dying from smoking-related diseases, the results of an 11-year study show.

Researchers from the University of Hong Kong’s Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine and the Department of Health, studied 65,500 elderly people, aged over 65 from 18 elderly health centers, since 1998, to find the association between smoking, quitting and mortality.

Of the 65,500, 42,900 were female and 22,600 were male.

Of the male interviewees, 42 percent were former smokers and had already quit, 38 percent were non-smokers and 20 percent were current smokers. Of these, 30 percent died during the study period. Of the women, 88 percent never smoked, 8 percent were former smokers and 4 percent were current smokers.

Eleven percent of the men died from lung cancer, 25 percent from cardiovascular diseases and 64 percent from other causes.

Nine percent of the women died lung cancer, 31 percent of cardiovascular disease and 60 percent from other causes.

The study found that compared to non-smokers, the risk of lung cancer increased four times and mortality from cardiovascular diseases doubled.

“Among all elderly smokers, there were 44 deaths per year out of every 1,000 persons, while it was 22 deaths out of 1,000 persons for non-smokers,” Lam Tai-hing, chair professor of HKU School of Public Health, Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine, said.

“Many have the misunderstanding that since they’ve been smoking for a long time the damage has already been done,” Lam added.

“Others say that since they are still fine at 80, there is no problem, but this is not true.”

Antonio Kwong Cho-shing, chairman of the Council on Smoking and Health, said there are 645,000 smokers in Hong Kong, with those aged 50-59 accounting for the highest average daily consumption of cigarettes.


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