April 23rd, 2006


Smokers who quit live no longer than smokers who don't

"In discussing statistics and research information on the more serious risks taken by large numbers of people, we will encounter many findings that may surprise at first. For instance, we all know that smoking cigarettes is associated with various diseases of heart and lungs, and thus with early death. And we know that stopping smoking reduces the likelihood of contracting these diseases. So you might expect a lower incidence of lung and heart disease amongst people who were told by their physician to quit smoking and who did quit. And your expectation would be right. These illnesses did, in fact, develop less often in this group.

However, if you also expected a lower mortality rate for this group, the facts prove you wrong. In one comparison between a group of quitters and a control group, the life-span of the quitters was found to be a little shorter![2] The difference in mortality rates between the quitters and the control group was not statistically significant, meaning that the probability of its occurrence on the basis of mere chance was greater than one in twenty. But, surely, these findings do not confirm common popular or common scientific expectation."


Rose, G., Hamilton, P.J.S., Colwell, L. and Shipley, M.J. (1982). A randomised control trial of anti-smoking advice; 10 year results. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 86, 102-108.

Cited in Target Risk, by Gerald S. Wilde. First edition available online here:


A succinct summary of "risk homeostasis" is available here: