The new study, which has looked at data from over two million women in the US, has found that tobacco related death rates in females have caught up with those of males. “What we’ve shown is that if women smoke like men, they die like men,” says lead researcher Professor Sir Richard Peto, from Oxford University.
Smoking is responsible for more than five million deaths worldwide every year, and smoking tobacco is a probable cause of around 25 different diseases.
The medical records of women, taken between 2000 and 2010, found they were 25 times more likely to die from lung-cancer than women who didn’t smoke.
Lead researcher Dr Michael Thun said: “The steep increase in risk among female smokers has continued for decades after the serious health risks from smoking were well established, and despite the fact that women predominantly smoked cigarette brands marketed as lower in ‘tar’ and nicotine.
The statistic is shockingly high when compared with the records taken from the first generation of female smokers in the 1950s. The former statistics found that women who smoked were only three times more likely to die from lung cancer than non-smokers.
“So not only did the use of cigarette brands marketed as ‘Light’ and ‘Mild’ fail to prevent a large increase in risk in women, it also may have exacerbated the increase in deaths from chronic obstructive lung disease in male smokers, since the diluted smoke from these cigarettes is inhaled more deeply into the lungs of smokers to maintain the accustomed absorption of nicotine”, explains Dr Thun.
However, a study published in the Lancet found that whereas lifelong smokers died a decade earlier than non-smokers, those who gave up smoking by the age of 30 almost completely avoided the risk of dying from tobacco-related diseases.
Furthermore, those who quit by the time they were 40 were proven to die only a year earlier than they would have, were they never to have smoked.
Statistics found that for every five years of continued smoking, the risk of dying from tobacco related illness went up by 8%. The results proved that lifelong smokers died a decade earlier than those who never started smoking.
Therefore, “If you smoke 10 cigarettes a day for 40 years it’s a lot more dangerous than smoking 20 cigarettes a day for 20 years,” explained Professor Peto.
Despite the recent findings, The British Lung Foundation cautioned that this was not a license to smoke “as much as you want in your 20s”.