Purpose: To examine the relationship between smoking, quitting, and mortality in older Chinese men.
Design and methods: A cohort analytic study was carried out in Xi'an, China. A total of 1268 retired male military cadres aged 60 or older were examined in 1987 and followed for 12 years.
Results: At baseline, 388 men were never-smokers, 461 were former smokers, and 419 were current smokers. Through May 1999, a total of 299 had died. The relative risks [95% confidence intervals (CI)] for ever-smoking, after adjusting for age, blood pressure, body mass index, total cholesterol, triglycerides, alcohol drinking, exercise and existing diseases, for deaths resulting from all causes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), lung cancer, and coronary heart disease (CHD) were, respectively, 1.34 (1.02-1.76), 3.23 (0.95-10.91), 2.31 (0.95-5.61), and 1.60 (0.81-3.19). The risks increased significantly with increasing amount and duration of smoking. Compared with current smokers, former smokers had lower risks of total mortality (excess risk reduction of 56%) and from CHD death, but had higher risks for COPD death.
Conclusions: Smoking is a major cause of death in older Chinese and quitting can save lives. Early recognition of the significance of COPD symptoms followed by prompt quitting should be emphasized in the control of the growing tobacco epidemic.