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Jan 28, 2013 at 09:49am IST

People who quit smoking at 40 reverse the damage done and live longer: study

New Delhi: There is some good news and bad news for smokers. A new study published in the New England Medical Journal has found that if you smoke, you are likely to lose 10 years of life. But if you quit smoking at 40, you are likely to gain those years back.

The study has found that those who quit smoking by the age of 40, can reverse up to 90 per cent of the damage and live almost as long as people who never smoked.

One of the authors of the study, Dr Prabhat Jha, said, "That's not to say, however, that it is safe to smoke till you are 40 and then stop. Former smokers still have a greater risk of dying sooner than people who never smoked. We have to focus on getting people to quit smoking."

The study surveyed more than 2 lakh people in the US. It found that smokers are about three times more likely to die between the ages of 26 to 79. Adults who quit smoking at 25 to 34, 35 to 44, or 45 to 54 years of age gained about 10, 9, and 6 years of life, respectively, as compared with those who continued to smoke.

Although not the first of its kind, this study underlines the need for more measures to encourage smokers to quit. Smoking is the biggest cause of heart disease, respiratory issues and lung cancers in India. More than 70 million Indians are at the risk of smoking deaths in the next 50 years.

In a country that has at least 111 million smokers, only 42 districts have a district programme that offers what experts call cessation support, to help people quit.

Dr Dhirendra Sinha, Regional Advisor, Surveillance (Tobacco control), WHO, said, "There's a need to sensitise medical professionals. We have seen that if doctors and paramedical staff are trained for cessation counselling the rate of cessation goes up twice."

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