This good news is according to researchers who studied 104,519 women as part of the Nurses’ Health Study for over 16 years (1980 to 2004).
Participants in the study were categorized based on their smoking habits as:
- never smokers
- past smokers
- current smokers (1 to 14 cigarettes per day)
- current smokers (15 to 24 cigarettes per day)
- current smokers (25 to 34 cigarettes per day)
- current smokers (35 or more cigarettes per day)
The researchers looked at the deaths and whether they were caused by coronary heart disease (CHD), cerebrovascular disease (CVD), respiratory disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), cancers, or other causes.
The researchers found encouraging results, at least when it comes to cardiovascular disorders. Past smokers are less likely to die from CHD and CVD than current smokers and this benefit was evident within 5 years of quitting.
“61% of the full benefit of quitting in regard to CHD mortality and 42% of the full benefit of quitting in regard to cerebrovascular deaths was realized within the first five years of stopping smoking.”
This reminds me of my trip to Venice in the spring of 2005. It was just weeks after the smoking ban in all public places, including restaurants and bars was implemented in Italy. I was very sceptical then whether they could really pull it off. Like many from Western Europe, I was always had this belief that southern Europeans tend to lack discipline. But I was surprised when I had an almost smoke-free Italian experience on that trip. France and Ireland followed suit shortly after.
In contrast, neighboring Western European countries known for their discipline and high health standards are laggards in this issue. Germany has just enforced the law in some of its federal states this year while politicians in Switzerland are still battling to pass the smoke-free law.
According to the 2008 Cardiovascular Disease Statistics of the European Heart Network, smoking kills 1.2 million people in Europe every year and 450,000 of these are due to cardiovascular disorders brought about by smoking.
Earlier this year, the European Society of Cardiology reported a significant decrease in cardiovascular events in France and Italy since the smoking ban was implemented in these countries.
Look how much can change for the better in just 3 years!
According to Dr Stacey Kenfield, lead author of the study
“The harms of smoking are reversible, but for some causes of death, the reduction takes many years, so it’s never too early to quit smoking. On the other hand, for some diseases-eg, CHD-there is a rapid decline in risk, so it’s never too late to stop smoking, even if you’ve been smoking for many, many years”.