Do smokers die younger?

Judging by the searches people use on the Internet, this is a common query.

For a start, let’s just analyse the statement – “Smokers die younger”.  It is frequently quoted by the Antis  as a shock tactic and even appears on tobacco products to dissuade us from using them.  But what does it mean?

The first query I would have is “younger than what?”.  It can’t mean that you’ll die younger than your own expected lifespan, because no one knows what your expected lifespan is.  If it means that smokers will die before the average life expectation of their peers then that is more than debatable.

The average lifespan is a figure calculated by taking the age of death in a particular society and then averaging it out.  One of the reasons that average lifespan has increased over the centuries is not that people are living longer; it’s because of the drop in infant mortality.  Average lifespan is an arbitrary figure which varies from country to country, the variation being due to such factors as prosperity, diet and genetics.

But do smokers die younger?

The best way to calculate this is to check national lifespan and national smoking rates.  If smoking is damaging, then we would expect national lifespan to be a lot lower if the smoking rate is high?


I have sorted the data on lifespan so we should expect the smoking rate to be lowest at the top.

But it isn’t.

Japan has the highest life expectancy yet they are the fourth highest smokers.  I ran a simple test and graphed the two columns.  Again, there should be a correlation.  In fact there isn’t.  There is no relationship at all.


So on a national scale, smoking has no effect whatsoever on life expectancy.

So can a smoker expect to die younger?   I would hazard a guess that you have precisely 50% of doing so, just as you have a 50% of living longer.  Another great cliché put out by the Antis is that “one in two smokers will die”.  While I would argue that all smokers eventually will die, along with all the non-smokers, I would agree that that on in every two smokers will die before the average age.  But by the same token one in every two will live longer.

So if you are still worried about dying younger, then I would suggest that whatever does cause an early death, it isn’t tobacco.


Do smokers die younger? — 15 Comments

  1. If you are right and smokers do not die younger, then surely they are an even bigger burden on the health service. ?  Would the State consider the ‘mercy killing’ of older smokers so that decent people are not forced to queue for a Doctor. ?

  2. Goodness what a horrible thing to say and what makes you any more a decent person than someone who smokes. 
    I assume by decent you intended to say non-smokers (but nastiness got the better of you) and just why would non-smokers need to queue at the doctors? they don’t get ill and never die don’t you know?

  3. John – With all the talk about the population reaching seven billion you would thing they would be encouraging smoking?

    Martha – You have me utterly confused.  I can’t find any nastiness?  To what exactly are you referring?

  4. Martha,

    My apologies to you for my comments but they were made tongue-in-cheek.

    I am not only a smoker, but an activist for smokers rights. I have debated on radio stations all over Ireland with representatives from ASH, the Irish Heart Foundation and the Irish Cancer Society, plus a variety of other Public Health people and have been publicly called a vile smelly sick addict, among other things. 

    I stress that I am not pro-smoking but I’m 100% pro-smoker and it’s a lonely fight right now in Ireland. My piece above was heavy sarcasm. ! 

  5. I aplogise profusely, I had had a run in with some righteous fake coughers earlier and then read your comment as serious not sarcasm. 
    Going away red faced and tail between legs

  6. Your table of lifespan / smoking rates surprises me not one iota. There appears to be absolutely no correlation whatsoever, thus proving that whether you smoke or not is an irrelevance with regards how long you will live. Thanks for that – another little arrow to add to my quiver when dealing with the Righteous.

  7. Your assessments are interesting and make me suspect as in many, many cases, that a lot of what the anti-smoker crowd comes up with is bogus. And, I am not a smoker, though I used to be. Thank you for carrying on the fight for truth, which is so hard to find. I will be looking for other data or some of your other comments.
    I might add, by the way, my grandmother died when she was 93, and she smoked for many, many of those 93 years. Yet, she did not die from cancer, just old age, I think.

    • One of the many reasons I started to question the whole business was the patent absurdity of some of the “facts” put out bt the Antis.  Such examples as the “fact” that 30 seconds exposure to second hand smoke can cause a heart attack, or that smoke can travel through walls.  Even the Surgeon General in the US and the WHO have stated that “there is no safe level of smoke” which is a complete nonsense – there is no such thing as “no safe level”.  Everything has a safe level, even if it is miniscule.  When they utter such blatant lies, they immediately lose all credibility.

  8. Keep plugging. I plan to do the same. I particularly resent things like all the hoopla about smoking that turns out to be untrue. It happens to often and on too many, many topics. I have begun to be skeptical about most of what I hear.

  9. Tobacco control is losing its credibility. Keep up the good work. Yes, I can confirm although it’s not necessary that John is one of the good guys.

     I fight for smokers’ rights too on the basis that the smokerphobic’s “right” to the mythical 21st century “clean air” ends where our right to free association in public with our kind begins. I fight not for tobacco companies but just for smokers to be left alone in peace without harassment  – and for that I am also called smelly, vile, and evil. 


  10. … and yes, the way things are going John is right. The Govt believes that only non smokers are “decent” and yes, if they can ban us from having healthcare they will. They are already working on that. 

  11. This is somewhat of a simple and possibly misleading analysis, it is obvious even from the graph above that there is some ( negative ) correlation between the lifespan rank and rate of smokers , indicating the possibility of the smoking as a cause of shorter life span. Doing  a simple regression analysis with the numbers from the table above taking the smoker rate as the independent variable and the life span as the dependent variable , I get the result that each added percent in the smoker rate amounts to around 0.3 years shortening of life span , with a correlation of  around -0.49 (not specially strong, but it not very weak either ) , so the explanation factor ( usually called r-squared ) comes out as at little less than 0.25 or in other word I could claim smoking explains 25% of differences in the life span  for  nations tabulated.But then again the standard deviation for this result is a good deal greater than the linear trend so I would not be willing to conclude anything decisive about the relationship between the life span and the smokers rate on national scale , and the same goes for your argument , it is impossible reach any conclusion but one , the information content of either analysis, mine or yours is nil.     

    • The main thrust of my argument is that one of the great mantras of Tobacco Control is that smoking causes early death.  They imply that all smokers will be dead long before their allotted lifespan.  I am just trying to point out the fallacy of that.

      I am no statistician so I am not claiming any ground breaking research.  What I am saying is that there are enormous fallacies in their argument which can be demonstrated by a simple graph.  Maybe the figures do show a reduction in lifespan of some fractions of a year but is that meaningful?  As I stated above, there are many confounding factors which I haven't taken into accond but neither have Tobacco Control.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>