Female smokers cut years off life

Smoking shortens women’s lives by up to seven years, according to new research in the UK.

It also reveals for the first time that smokers have around twice the risk of dying at any age compared with non-smokers.

And smoking is closing the gap between men and women’s life expectancy – cutting the longenjoyed advantage for women.

The grim toll taken by tobacco on the nation’s health is revealed in authoritative research from the Actuarial Profession.

Based on life insurance data covering millions of Britons, the Continuous Mortality Investigation (CMI) shows that a 30-year-old male smoker can expect to survive 5.5 years less, reaching the age of 76.8, compared with over 82 for a non-smoker.

The outlook for young women smokers is worse – they can expect to have their lives shortened by 6.8 years, reaching 79 rather than 86 years.

The predictions come from four years of data on two-and-a-half million policyholders, of whom half a million smoked. There were 20,000 deaths, including 8,500 smokers. The findings could push insurance premiums higher still for smokers and will increase pressure for workplace tobacco bans.

Brian Ridsdale, chairman of the CMI, said: ‘These important new statistics provide further evidence – if it is needed – that smoking is not only bad for the quality of our lives but their quantity too.’

Deputy chairman, Professor Angus Macdonald, of Heriot-Watt University, said: ‘The historic difference between men and women is being overtaken by smoking. A reduction of more than six years is very significant.’ Since the mid-1980s life insurance proposal forms have asked applicants whether or not they smoke, meaning they are more reliable than information from death certificates which do not record smoking habits.

Mr Ridsdale said the new data probably underestimated the cut in life expectancy from smoking, because the non-smokers category included past smokers. Furthermore, the effects of passive smoking were not recorded.

The CMI data also assesses the chances of dying in any year for smokers and non-smokers.

It found a male smoker has a eight in 10,000 chance of dying at the age of 30 – double that of a non-smoker the same age. The risk continues to be twice as high at the age of 40 (12 versus 7), 50 (33 versus 16) and 60 (106 versus 48).

Women who smoke at the age of 30 have a four in 10,000 chance of dying, compared with a three in 10,000 chance for a non- smoker. The risk rises steadily, more than doubling by the age of 60 to 85 in 10,000 compared with 35 in 10,000 for a non-smoker.

Jean King, Cancer Research UK’s director of tobacco control, said: ‘These statistics are shocking but not surprising. Smoking significantly reduces life expectancy and kills many thousands of people in middle age every year.’