Individuals that started smoking in their childhood are three times more prone to premature death from cardiovascular disease, compared to those that never smoked, a study states.
The research, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, an open access publication of the American Heart Association, however, stated that quitting can substantially reduce that risk.
According to the researchers smoking continues to cause an estimated 100,000 deaths from cardiovascular disease every year in the U.S.
They noted that about 25 million people currently smoke daily, including five million who became regular smokers before the age of 15.
“Earlier research in Cuba found a correlation between childhood smoking and a higher risk for premature death overall,” they added.
The lead author, Dr. Blake Thomson, an epidemiologist at the University of Oxford, England, explained that the team set out to determine if the findings were generalisable in other populations by conducting a similar analysis, using a U.S data that focused on death from cardiovascular disease.
He said, “It was surprising to see how consistent these findings were with our earlier research and with other studies from around the world, including from the U.K., Australia, Japan, among others.
“This is both in terms of the substantial risks associated with smoking and with the health benefits of quitting smoking.
“The age at which a person begins smoking is an important and often overlooked factor, and those who start smoking at a young age are at especially high risk of dying prematurely from cardiovascular disease.
“However, quitting can substantially reduce that risk, especially for those who quit at younger ages.
“Getting people to quit smoking, remains one of the greatest health priorities globally.”
Explaining the modalities deployed for the study, the team revealed that they used data collected between 1997 and 2014, from the annual U.S. National Health Interview Survey, to examine the medical histories, lifestyle habits and demographics of smokers and nonsmokers.
“The study included 390,929 adults, ages 25 to 74 years (average age of 47), 56 per cent female.
“Occasional smokers were excluded from the study and current smokers were grouped by the age at which they began smoking.
“During the follow-up period, 4,479 people died before the age of 75 from heart disease or stroke.
“After adjusting for potential confounding variables, such as age, education, alcohol consumption, region and race, the researchers found that 58 per cent were never smokers, 23 per cent were ex-smokers and 19 per cent were current smokers.
“Among current smokers, two per cent had started smoking before age 10, and 19 per cent began smoking between ages 10 and 14.
“Those who quit smoking by the age of 40 reduced their excess risk of premature death from cardiovascular disease by about 90 per cent,” they stated.
The researcher, however, said quitting smoking at any age offered benefits, and that the earlier a person quits the better.
Continuing, they said, “The analysis found that when compared to peers who had never smoked, smokers who quit between ages 15 to 34 had about the same risk of dying from heart disease or stroke.
“Those who quit between ages 35 to 44 had about a 20 per cent higher risk. Those who quit between ages 45 to 54 had about a 60 per cent higher risk.
“Those who quit between ages 55 to 64 had about a 70 per cent higher risk of death from heart disease or stroke.
“Those who were current smokers had nearly three times the risk of dying prematurely from heart disease or stroke.”
Thomson, the lead researcher pointed out that preventing the next generation from smoking can save lives, but that it must also be emphasized that quitting smoking can save lives now, and in the years to come.
He, however, said more research is needed to better clarify the mechanisms by which prolonged smoking from childhood affects cardiovascular risk.
Thomson also suggested that future research should further examine the association between early smoking initiation and death from other causes, like respiratory diseases and cancers in other populations.
“Simply put health policies should aim to prevent young people from smoking and should clearly communicate the benefits of quitting to those who do smoke, ideally as young as possible, and before the onset of serious illness.
“This study adds to the body of evidence that starting to smoke at younger ages can significantly increase the risk of death from cardiovascular disease.
Further highlighting risks associated with smoking. Dr. Rose Marie Robertson, Deputy Chief Science and Medical Officer of the American Heart Association said the position that smoking is a serious health hazard validates the association’s stand.
She noted that effective multi-episode counseling and medical therapies for cessation should be made available to all, and that stopping smoking should be an urgent priority for smokers of all ages, especially the young.
Robertson, who is also a co-director of the Association’s Tobacco Center of Regulatory Science said, “This data precedes the explosion in e-cigarette use in the U.S., and similar long-term outcomes from vaping, which can only be assessed over time.
“However, health risks have begun to emerge, and we know that vaping among teens is a precursor to smoking combustible cigarettes for many.”
Further highlighting the dangers of smoking on young smokers, Dr. Gabriel Omonaiye, a medical practitioner with over 10 years of experience in family medicine, said tobacco use remains one of the preventable causes of premature death and major risk factor for non-communicable diseases, including cancer.
He noted that it accounts for more than 7 million deaths annually, with about 10 per cent of the figure resulting from second-hand smoke.
Bemoaning the malaise, he said it poses a huge burden to Nigerian youths, adding, “While the prevalence of smokers may be declining in Nigeria, one out of every ten Nigerians still smokes daily.
“This exposes them, especially the youths to cancer of the lung, and other forms of cancer; asthma, allergies and respiratory tract infection.
“There is also the problem of developing body odour, and exposure to bad gangs and other questionable characters.
“They think it is hype and fashionable to smoke. What they are unaware of is that it can only bring about sad occurrences, one of which is premature death,” said Omonaiye.
The medical practitioner then, called for an intensified and sustained campaign against smoking, with emphasis on the youth.
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