Study sparks controversy about benefits of smoking cessation at age 60 years or older

A recently published systematic review and meta-analysis found that being a smoker, whether former or current, is associated with all-cause mortality in people who are aged 60 years and older. However, at least one expert in global health says that the study may overestimate the hazards of past smoking and may underestimate the benefits of quitting.

Key Point: A recent analysis found that smoking was associated with all-cause mortality in individuals over the age of 60 years, regardless of whether they were a current or former smoker, male or female, or within more finite age subgroups (60-69 years, 70-79 years, or older than 79 years). However, at least one expert interviewed by mdCurrent-India stated that the study may overestimate the hazards of past smoking and may underestimate the benefits of quitting, even at an older age.

“The risk for all-cause mortality among former smokers might well include those who quit as a result of disease, and not to avoid disease,” said Prabhat Jha, OC, MD, DPhil, University of Toronto (Canada) professor and chair in Disease Control and director, Centre for Global Health Research, LKSKI, St. Michael's Hospital, Dalla Lana School of Public Health, Toronto, Canada. “Thus, the former smoker/nonsmoker risks are artificially high. Secondly, the study doesn’t properly examine quitting by age. Quitting works at any age, but is especially effective if people quit before disease. Obviously quitting late in life has less, but still some benefit.”

According to a study published in 2008, smoking kills 900,000 people in India annually and is projected to...

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