Cut Down if Can't Stop Smoking

A great number of medical studies illustrate the benefits of going smoke-free completely, which includes a decreased probability of health complications, higher life span, and overall increased life quality. However, health specialists recognize that getting rid of the habit altogether is usually a long and complicated road, and just a small number of smokers manage to quit.

quit smoking cigarettes

Each day, medical professionals have to deal with patients who either don’t want of cannot stop smoking, admits Vicki Myers, a senior researcher at Tel Aviv University Department of Medicine. In order to study this phenomenon, Myers together with Prof. Uri Goldbourt and Yariv Gerber from TAU’s School of Public Health, reviewed survival and lifespan rates of those smokers who cut down the number of cigarettes smoked, instead of complete smoking cessation.

The data in their research embodied uncommonly long period of more than 40 years.

Though smokers who managed to quit were confirmed to have the highest progress in fatality rates – a 22 percent lower risk of premature death, versus smokers who kept tobacco consumption. Among those smokers who reduced amount of tobacco consumed the scientists also found considerable improvements with a 15 percent lower risk.

The findings demonstrate that cutting down is an effective risk lowering strategy, Myers declared, noting that former chain smokers had the most benefit from cutting down smoking.

The study was published in the latest issue of the American Journal of Epidemiology.

Reducing smoking to live longer

To study the influence of changes in smoking patterns in the long run, the scientists used a sub-cohort of the study carried out by the Israeli Ischemic Heart Disease Foundation, including 4,633 Israeli men, all smokers, of an average age of 51 at the moment of interview.

Surveys about their smoking habits was held in 1963 and 1965, and respondents’ mortality rate was monitored for a period of about 40 years.

In the first survey, respondents were divided in categories according to the daily cigarette use— not smoking, 1-10 cigarettes, 11-20 cigarettes, and 21 cigarette and more. During the second survey, scientists checked whether respondents had increased, kept, cut down or quit smoking within two years after the first survey.

Not surprisingly, those respondents who went smoke-free posted the best results in reducing the overall mortality rates. Those who reduced smoking intensity by half, recorded a 15 percent reduction in mortality rates and 23 percent decrease in cardiovascular mortality risk.

In addition, the scientists estimated the respondents’ survival to the age of 80. Those who went smoke-free had a 33 percent higher chance of living to the age of to 80 years, and reducers saw a 22 percent higher chance.

Dr. Myers admits the study, one of a small number to take smoking decrease into consideration, demonstrates that reduction is definitely better than maintaining smoking intensity. She underlined the advantage of the long-time follow-up period in proving the beneficial effect of reduction in smoking intensity, which was not taken into account in prior studies.