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Am J Epidemiol. 2013 Sep 1;178(5):770-9. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwt038. Epub 2013 Jul 3.

Does smoking reduction in midlife reduce mortality risk? Results of 2 long-term prospective cohort studies of men and women in Scotland.

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Institute of Health and Wellbeing, Public Health, University of Glasgow, 1 Lilybank Gardens, Glasgow, Scotland, United Kingdom.


A long-term cohort study of working men in Israel found that smokers who reduced their cigarette consumption had lower subsequent mortality rates than those who did not. We conducted comparable analyses in 2 populations of smokers in Scotland. The Collaborative Study included 1,524 men and women aged 40-65 years in a working population who were screened twice, in 1970-1973 and 1977. The Renfrew/Paisley Study included 3,730 men and women aged 45-64 years in a general population who were screened twice, in 1972-1976 and 1977-1979. Both groups were followed up through 2010. Subjects were categorized by smoking intensity at each screening as smoking 0, 1-10, 11-20, or ≥21 cigarettes per day. At the second screening, subjects were categorized as having increased, maintained, or reduced their smoking intensity or as having quit smoking between the first and second screenings. There was no evidence of lower mortality in all reducers compared with maintainers. Multivariate adjusted hazard ratios of mortality were 0.91 (95% confidence interval (CI): 0.75, 1.10) in the Collaborative Study and 1.08 (95% CI: 0.97, 1.20) in the Renfrew/Paisley Study. There was clear evidence of lower mortality among quitters in both the Collaborative Study (hazard ratio = 0.66, 95% CI: 0.56, 0.78) and the Renfrew/Paisley Study (hazard ratio = 0.75, 95% CI: 0.67, 0.84). In the Collaborative Study only, we observed lower mortality similar to that of quitters among heavy smokers (≥21 cigarettes/day) who reduced their smoking intensity. These inconclusive results support the view that reducing cigarette consumption should not be promoted as a means of reducing mortality, although it may have a valuable role as a step toward smoking cessation.


cohort studies; harm reduction; longevity; mortality; smoking; smoking cessation

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