Two-thirds of Australia’s 2.7 million smokers can expect to die from their habit, a study suggests.
And when they do, it will likely be more than 10 years earlier than their non-smoking compatriots.
But those who kick the habit by the age of 45 wipe away most of their increased death risk.
Researchers followed a cohort of some 200,000 Australians aged 45 and over for about four years, finding death rates among smokers were about three times higher than in non-smokers.
Those who smoked 10-a-day were about twice a likely to die early, while a habit of 25-a-day raised the risk by up to fivefold.
“If you are smoking, the chances are it will kill you if you keep on going,” said lead author Professor Emily Banks of Sydney’s Sax Institute and the Australian National University.
“If you are a gambler, it’s not a very good bet.”
“The good news is that if you quit the benefits are clear and lasting.”
The study, published in the journal BMC Medicine on Tuesday, is the best large-scale evidence on smoking and death in Australia, Prof Banks says.
It also agrees with recent findings from other countries suggesting the relative risk of early death from smoking is higher than the twofold found in the 20th Century.
She praised Australia’s tobacco control measures, which have brought smoking rates down to 12.8 per cent – the lowest in the Western world.
But she said the results were a reminder that there was no safe level of smoking.