No health gain for smokers over 50 years

Tuesday 22 June 2004

ASH MEDIA RELEASE: Embargo – 10.30hrs Tuesday 22nd June 2004



The British Medical Journal today publishes the latest results from the famous “doctors’ study”, that has tracked the smoking habits and mortality rates of almost 35,000 doctors from 1951 to 2001. This is one of the most important public health studies ever conducted, and over five decades has provided conclusive proof of the appalling toll of preventable death and disease caused by smoking.

Since the study began, smoking has killed about 100 million people worldwide. During the present century there will be about a billion tobacco deaths if current smoking patterns continue.

The latest paper, by Professor Sir Richard Doll, Professor Sir Richard Peto, Jillian Boreham and Isabelle Sutherland, shows that:

  • Stopping smoking increases life expectancy with immediate effect – stopping at age 60 gives an average 3 extra years of life, and stopping at age 30 gives an average 10 extra years of life
  • The difference in life expectancy between smokers and non-smokers has increased sharply since the start of the study. Non-smokers now live longer because of economic and social development and medical advances, but smokers still die as young as ever.


Professor Sir Richard Doll, President of ASH, comments,


“It is clear that a lot of people have not yet appreciated the full extent of the hazards of smoking.  It is vital that ASH continues its efforts to inform people, to persuade the Government to improve facilities for the treatment of addiction, and to bring about a ban on smoking at the workplace, comparable to the ban on other chemical hazards.”


Deborah Arnott, Director of Action on Smoking and Health, commented:


“The doctors’ study was one of the earliest, most important and most comprehensive ever carried out into the health effects of smoking. Professor Doll, Professor Peto and their colleagues have produced evidence of historic and global importance. As their study now comes to an end, they deserve the deep thanks of everyone who cares about human welfare and public health.


And their work is still producing shocking and compelling results. Today’s paper shows that while non-smokers now live longer and healthier lives, as our economy develops and medical science advances, smokers have not seen any benefit. Today’s paper sends another powerful message to Government that action to cut smoking rates remains Britain’s top public health priority. The next step to take must be to end smoking in the workplace, the single cheapest, simplest and most effective thing the Government can now do to encourage more smokers to quit.”

– ENDS –



CONTACT:             Ian Willmore         020 7739 5902 (w) 07887 641344 (m)