Smoking in Adolescence Could Lead to Earlier Death

A new study links smoking in adolescence with an increased risk of early death due to smoking-related cancer or heart disease. Teen smokers have a higher risk of early death even if they stop smoking by middle age.

At greatest risk are those who start smoking while they are teenagers, and continue throughout their lives, Reuters reports. They were twice as likely to die at an early age, compared with nonsmokers. Those who smoked during college but then quit had a 29 percent increased risk of early death.

“The risks are cumulative,” lead researcher David Batty of the University College London, told Reuters. “If you smoke across a life course, you’re at much higher risk than if you just smoked around the college years. The positive message is, it’s never too late to stop.”

The researchers used data from an ongoing study of more than 28,000 men, who started college at Harvard University between 1916 and 1950. About 10,000 reported smoking in college. The participants were sent follow-up surveys about smoking during the 1960s, ‘70s and ‘80s. Almost half of the participants died over the next five decades.

The study appears in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.