Smokers die ten years younger than non-smokers, according to a 50-year-long study of smoking and death among British doctors. Smokers who quit, even up to the age of 50 can still halve their risk of dying.
The study into the dangers of smoking was carried out by Oxford University Professor Richard Doll a man regarded as the world's leading cancer epidemiologist. Richard Doll's most famous finding, that smoking causes cancer is now 54 years old.
The Professor a former smoker who quit as a result of his initial findings, had initially planned a five-year study but carried on for five decades using the same study of 34,439 British doctors.
Commenting on today's study, Dr Vivienne Nathanson, the BMA's Head of Science and Ethics, said: "Fifty years ago Sir Richard Doll revealed to the world that a link existed between smoking and lung cancer. Fifty years later his team's new research provides even more conclusive research that tobacco is a killer. At least one in two smokers will be killed by their habit.
"The research also emphasises once again the definite benefits of giving up smoking at any age.
"There is clear research demonstrating that smoke-free public places help smokers quit. Indeed the World Bank has estimated that smoking restrictions can reduce overall tobacco consumption by between 4 and 10%. What is the Government waiting for? Legislation to make enclosed public places smoke-free will save the lives of both smokers and non-smokers."
Beverly Malone, General Secretary for the Royal College of Nursing said: "This important new research should leave no-one in any doubt that smoking kills. This conclusive 50 year study shows the devastating impact that smoking has on a person's life span. In a time when advances in health can prolong life, half of all smokers die in their middle years. Smoking continues to be the greatest single cause of preventable illness and premature death in the UK and is the biggest public health problem we face.
"Nurses are at the forefront of patient care and see the devastating effects of smoking. Exposure to second hand tobacco smoke, a known carcinogen, has been shown to kill non-smokers; so this issue urgently needs addressing. The Royal College of Nursing wants to see the government ban smoking in enclosed public places across the UK. The recent RCN Congress Resolution on smoking in public places received an 86% vote in favour of persuading the government to instigate a ban."