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It's never too late to quit smoking: Study
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Quitting smoking might be hard, but not quitting is even harder.

That is the reality for elderly smokers who risk an early grave if they do not kick the habit, a four-year study by The University of Hong Kong, has said.

The study challenged some common misconceptions among elderly smokers who believe that quitting cigarettes will kill them.

The study compared the risk of death for 56,000 smokers and non-smokers aged 65 and above who had registered at the department of health's 18 elderly healthcare centers between July 1998 and December 2000.

The study found that compared to non-smokers, elderly smokers were more likely to die from cancer, cardiovascular or respiratory diseases.

While ex-smokers were found to be 50 percent more likely to die from cancer than non-smokers, those who continued to smoke were found to be more than twice as likely to succumb to the disease.

The risk of death from cardiovascular disease was increased by almost 25 percent for former smokers and to more than twice that figure for those who keep on puffing.

Quitting smoking on the other hand, reduced the risk of death by 20 percent.

"The study implies that old people face a high risk of death if they keep smoking," Lam Tai-hing, head of the university's department of community medicine, said.

The reality that smoking kills even changed the mistaken ideas of 78-year-old Keung, who once believed, like many smokers his age, that he would die if he quit.

He quit three years ago after smoking for more than 60 years.

"After years of smoking my health had been deteriorating. I had difficulty breathing and I even fainted twice on the street," Keung said.

"My doctor told me I would die if I didn't quit."

Since quitting, his health has improved immensely, he said.

"I'm happy that I will be able to see my grandson graduate this year," he said.

Professor Lam said: "The misconception that quitting is harmful is common in developing countries and regions where people are not aware that smoking is bad for their health."

Lam said it is generally easier for old smokers to quit because many of them had already felt the harmful effects of cigarettes.

(China Daily January 10, 2008)

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