A massive study shows that up to 1.8 million Australian smokers will die prematurely from the habit

Lighting up. Photo: Getty Images

An Australian study of more than 200,000 people has found that as many as two in every three smokers will die from their habit if they continue to smoke.

The research, in the journal BMC Medicine, is the first evidence in the world from a broad cross-section of the population to show the smoking-related death toll is as high as two-thirds.

“We knew smoking was bad but we now have direct independent evidence that confirms the disturbing findings that have been emerging internationally, said lead author Professor Emily Banks, Scientific Director of the Sax Institute’s 45 and Up Study and a researcher at the Australian National University (ANU).

“Even with the very low rates of smoking that we have in Australia, we found that smokers have around three-fold the risk of premature death of those who have never smoked. We also found smokers will die an estimated 10 years earlier than non-smokers.”

Recent studies of UK women, British doctors and American Cancer Society volunteers show up to 67% will die of smoking related diseases.

“We have been able to show exactly the same result in a very large population-wide sample,” Professor Banks said.

The research is the result of a four-year analysis from more than 200,000 men and women participating in the Sax Institute’s 45 and Up Study, the largest longitudinal study of healthy ageing in the Southern Hemisphere.

Australia has one of the lowest smoking rates in the world at 13% of the population and is a leader on plain cigarette packaging.

But that leaves 2.7 million Australians still smoking.

Scott Walsberger, Tobacco Control Manager at Cancer Council NSW, said the research highlighted an important message: “It’s never too late to quit − no matter what your age, or how much you smoke”.

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