The study, published in the Lancet, showed lifetime smokers died a decade earlier compared with those who never smoked.
Smokers who stopped by the age of 40 died a year younger and those who stopped by 30 lost, on average, a month of life.
The study followed the first generation of women to start smoking during the 1950s and 60s. As women started smoking on a large scale much later than men, the impact of a lifetime of cigarettes has only just been analysed for women.
“What we’ve shown is that if women smoke like men, they die like men,” said lead researcher Prof Sir Richard Peto, from Oxford University.
He said “More than half of women who smoke and keep on smoking will get killed by tobacco.
“Stopping works, amazingly well actually. Smoking kills, stopping works and the earlier you stop the better.”
The records from 1.2 million women showed that even those who smoked fewer than 10 cigarettes a day were more likely to die sooner.
Sir Richard said that it was exactly the same picture as for men.
The British Lung Foundation said the prospects for long-term health were much better if people stopped smoking before they were 30, but cautioned that this was not a licence to smoke “as much as you want in your 20s”.
- Smoking is responsible for more than five million deaths worldwide every year
- Smoking tobacco is a known or probable cause of around 25 diseases
- Cigarette smoke contains 4,000 chemicals that can damage the human body
- Eighty of which are known to cause cancer
Source: BBC Health
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