Global Tobacco Control Updates

Study on Women and Smoking Documents Years of Life Lost Due to Smoking and Deaths Avoided After Quitting
15 Feb 2013
Research Alert

Women born around 1940 in countries such as the United Kingdom (UK) are the first generation in which many smoked throughout their adult life. A new study looks at the impact of long-term smoking and long-term cessation on smoking-related deaths among 1.3 million women in the United Kingdom.

Key Findings

  • Among women in the United Kingdom, two-thirds of all deaths among smokers in their 50s, 60s, and 70s are caused by smoking. Smokers lost at least 10 years of life due to smoking.
  • While the hazards of smoking until age 40 are substantial for women, the hazards of continuing to smoke after age 40 are ten times greater.
  • Quitting smoking before age 40 (and preferably well before age 40) avoids more than 90% of the additional deaths caused by continuing to smoke after age 40.

Key Messages

  • Large numbers of women began smoking in the UK after 1940, and smoking-related deaths rose significantly over time.
  • Quitting smoking before the age of 40 dramatically reduces the risk of smoking-related death.
  • Countries with low smoking rates among women now can avoid similar massive smoking-related deaths by implementing strong tobacco control policies that encourage women to quit smoking and prevent girls from starting.
  • Banning tobacco advertising to prevent tobacco companies from recruiting female smokers, raising the price of tobacco products, implementing 100% smoke-free places and placing graphic warning labels on tobacco products are effective policies to prevent an epidemic of female smoking in countries with low female smoking rates and will assist women that already smoke to quit.

Full Citation: Pirie K, Peto R, Reeves G, Green J, Beral V. The 21st Century Hazards of Smoking and Benefits of Stopping: A Prospective Study of One Million Women in the UK. Lancet. 2013 January; 381: 133-141.

A link to the Lancet article abstract [English only] can be found at:

Additional Resources: For additional information about women and tobacco, including a fact sheet on the health harms of tobacco, visit:

The Lancet is one of the world's oldest and most respected general medical journals. For more than 180 years, it has served as an independent and authoritative voice in global medicine.

If you have questions about the report or how to use it in your advocacy efforts, please email