Cigarettes kill one in every three elderly smokers: study

Updated: 2011-05-17 07:04

By Michelle Fei(HK Edition)

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Cigarettes kill one in every three elderly smokers: study

Of every three elderly smokers aged 65 to 84, one will die from smoking-related illness, said a decade-long follow-up study by the School of Public Health at the University of Hong Kong.

Cigarettes causes 5,700 deaths every year in Hong Kong, with smokers suffering a loss of 15 years of life expectancy, the study released on Monday said.

The research, starting in 1998, had followed in total 64,654 elderly people aged 65 to 84 at 18 elderly health centers until October 2010.

The risk for senior smokers dying from lung cancer was 277 percent, nearly three times, higher than that of people who never smoked.

The risk of dying from coronary heart disease is 35 percent higher among smokers than that of those who have never smoked, the study found.

In the mean time, the study also observed a significant risk reduction of lung cancer mortality among those who quit smoking.

The earlier one quits, the greater the reduction in the mortality risk, the study concluded.

"Increasing the tobacco tax will encourage the elderly people to cease smoking and eventually to live a healthier life," said Professor Lam Tai-hing, who conducted the study.

Lam supported the government's move to increase the tobacco tax by 41 percent, or HK$10 a pack.

Meanwhile, a tobacco control concern group consisting of four major tobacco companies as well as distributors and retailers urged the government to reduce the cigarette tax to a "more reasonable level", citing declining business amounting to 30 percent for tobacco companies and newsstands.

Cigarettes kill one in every three elderly smokers: study

"Raising cigarette taxes has been proved to be an 'ineffective' way to help people to quit smoking. Conversely, it had encouraged the already substantial trade in illicit cigarettes in Hong Kong," said Deanna Cheung, chairman of the concern group.

"Our business has seriously shrunk since the tobacco tax increase. However, we observed people buying illicit cigarettes instead of actually quitting smoking," said Liu Sair-ching, chairman of the Coalition of Hong Kong Newspaper and Magazine Merchants.

Liu added that the drop-off in business had affected livelihoods of over 35,000 newsstand owners and their families.

However, the theory was immediately retorted by Professor Lam.

"Government statistics and our studies had already proved that increasing tobacco tax is an effective way to encourage people to quit smoking," said Lam.

His earlier research released in April indicated that the 50 percent hike in tobacco duties in 2009 resulted in a 51 percent drop in youth smoking.

"Reducing the tobacco tax cannot solve the problem. Encouraging people to quit smoking is the best and fundamental way to stop cigarette trafficking and eventually improve people's health," said Lam.

China Daily

(HK Edition 05/17/2011 page1)