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Can Smokers Avoid Heath Risks?

People who quit smoking by age 30 suffer no long-term risks associated with smoking, according to a new Oxford University study. But those who keep smoking will, on average, shave 10 years off of their lives.

"That's a finding that I hope is not misinterpreted," says Dr. Norman Edelman, an advisor for the American Lung Association to The Early Show co-anchor Rene Syler. "I hope people don't think it's OK to smoke till you're 30 and then you can quit and everything will be all right.

"I think that might happen and I'm concerned about that. First of all, the longer you smoke, the more addicted you get and the harder it is to quit. It's going to be harder to quit at 30 than at 25. And there is some damage. And not all of is reversible. It's just that this statistical epidemiologic study couldn't show a difference in outcome," he says.

The 50-year study also found that as many as two-thirds of smokers will eventually die from problems caused by smoking -- a quarter of smokers will die between ages 39 and 69.

Dr. Edelman says, "You spend your whole life smoking you have a 50 percent chance or a 60 percent chance of dying of a smoking related disease."

Researchers also said people who quit by age 50 can cut the health risk of smoking in half. "And that's a very important message," Dr. Edelman says. "Even smokers who quit at 60 did better than smokers who were still smoking at 70. The message is: It's never too late to quit. No, you can't return back to normal, if you quit at 50. Your risk of dying from a smoking related disease is not the same than if you never smoked. But it's better to quit then than to keep going."

Dr. Edelman points out in the United States 440,000 people will die each year of a smoking related disease and notes many more will be disabled. He says, "The disease called chronic bronchitis and emphysema disables millions of people, so smoking not only kills, it disables."

So the message is to quit now or better yet, don't pick up the habit. And Dr. Edelman notes if you are going to quit, seek out help. "Most people can't quit by themselves," he says.

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