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Link between childhood smoking and higher risk for premature death

Link between childhood smoking and higher risk for premature death

29 October 2020

Anne Penman

Link between childhood smoking and higher risk for premature death

Recent research published today in the Journal of the American Heart Association suggests that current smokers face nearly three times the risk of premature death from cardiovascular disease compared with people who never smoked, with the risk being higher among those who began smoking during their childhood.

In the USA alone smoking continues to cause an estimated 100,000 deaths from cardiovascular disease every year. There are currently 25million daily smokers in the United States including 5 million who became regular smokers before the age of 15.

Using data collected between 1997 and 2014, from the annual U.S. National Health Interview Survey, researchers examined the medical histories, lifestyle habits and demographics of smokers and nonsmokers. The study included 390,929 adults, ages 25 to 74 years. Occasional smokers were excluded from the study and current smokers were grouped by the age at which they began smoking.

During the follow-up period, 4,479 people died before the age of 75 from heart disease or stroke. After adjusting for potential confounding variables, such as age, education, alcohol consumption, region and race, researchers found:

  • 58% were never smokers, 23% were ex-smokers and 19% were current smokers
  • Among current smokers, 2% had started smoking before age 10, and 19% began smoking between ages 10 and 14
  • Those who quit smoking by the age of 40 reduced their excess risk of premature death from cardiovascular disease by about 90%.

Quitting smoking at any age offers benefits, and the sooner a person quits, the better. The analysis found that when compared to peers who had never smoked:

  • Smokers who quit between ages 15 to 34 had about the same risk of dying from heart disease or stroke;
  • Those who quit between ages 35 to 44 had about a 20% higher risk;
  • Those who quit between ages 45 to 54 had about a 60% higher risk;
  • Those who quit between ages 55 to 64 had about a 70% higher risk of death from heart disease or stroke; and
  • Those who were current smokers had nearly three times the risk of dying prematurely from heart disease or stroke.

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