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Unlucky number for ladies who smoke…

More bad news for smokers, particularly for the middle-aged female of the species! Longevity in America is not increasing as fast as in other developed countries, says a new report from the National Research Council of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. The report, unsurprisingly, points the finger at high rates of smoking and at obesity.

For a 50-year-old American woman, average life expectancy is 33.1 years; in Japan, Australia, Sweden and Switzerland, for example, it is 35.5 years. The statistics are better for her male counterpart – but still lower than the average improvement for citizens of other wealthy nations.

“We determined the most likely source of our shortfall is cigarette smoking, particularly the heavy amount of smoking done by American women. Obesity also appears to be important, but we are less certain of its role,” said Professor Samuel H. Preston, a demographer at the University of Pennsylvania and co-author of the report, Explaining Divergent Levels of Longevity in High-Income Countries.

One explanation for the “divergent levels” is the delayed effect of smoking on health; the habit was much more popular in the U.S. than elsewhere 30 to 50 years ago. Yesterday’s habit is today’s problem.

If there’s any good news in this it is that before long American men should see improvements in their longevity because their smoking habits peaked a lot earlier than those of women. Female smokers’ health problems will be around for a while yet.

The report underlines the essential smoking cessation message: NOW is definitely the best time to give up smoking. No butts!

+ The average female smoker in the UK puffs her way through 13 cigarettes a day, according to a report in today’s Financial Times. It’s a statistic which, as the American report on longevity confirms, could prove unlucky for some…