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Importance: Patterns of cigarette smoking and smoking cessation vary considerably across demographic groups in the US, but there is limited evidence on whether the hazards of smoking and benefits of quitting vary across these groups. Population-specific evidence on the benefits of quitting smoking may motivate cessation among groups historically underrepresented in medical research. Objective: To quantify the association between smoking, smoking cessation, and mortality by race, ethnicity, and sex. Design, Setting, and Participants: This nationally representative, prospective cohort study used data from the US National Health Interview Survey collected via questionnaire between January 1997 and December 2018 among adults aged 25 to 84 years at recruitment. Participants were followed up for cause-specific mortality through December 31, 2019. Exposures: Self-reported smoking status at recruitment, age at quitting smoking, and years since quitting smoking. Main Outcomes and Measures: The main outcomes were all-cause mortality and mortality from cancer, cardiovascular disease, and lower respiratory disease. Adjusted mortality rate ratios comparing never, former, and current smokers were calculated using Cox proportional hazards regression. Weighted analyses were conducted by race, ethnicity, and sex as reported by participants. Results: Among the 551 388 participants in the main analyses, the mean (SD) age at recruitment was 48.9 (15.3) years; 307 601 (55.8%) were women, 87 207 (15.8%) were Hispanic, 75 545 (13.7%) were non-Hispanic Black, 355 782 (64.5%) were non-Hispanic White, and 32 854 (6.0%) identified as other non-Hispanic race and ethnicity. There were 74 870 deaths among participants aged 25 to 89 years during follow-up (36 792 [49.1%] among men; 38 078 [50.9%] among women). The all-cause mortality rate ratio (RR) for current vs never smoking was 2.80 (95% CI, 2.73-2.88) overall. The RRs were similar by sex but varied by race and ethnicity: Hispanic, 2.01 (95% CI, 1.84-2.18); non-Hispanic Black, 2.19 (95% CI, 2.06-2.33); non-Hispanic White, 3.00 (95% CI, 2.91-3.10); and other non-Hispanic race and ethnicity, 2.16 (95% CI, 1.88-2.47). When comparing those who quit smoking before age 45 years with never smokers, all-cause mortality RRs were 1.15 (95% CI, 1.03-1.28) among Hispanic individuals, 1.16 (95% CI, 1.07-1.25) among non-Hispanic Black individuals, 1.11 (95% CI, 1.08-1.15) among non-Hispanic White individuals, and 1.17 (95% CI, 0.99-1.39) among other non-Hispanic individuals. Conclusions and Relevance: In this prospective cohort study, among men and women from diverse racial and ethnic groups, current smoking was associated with at least twice the all-cause mortality rate of never smoking. Quitting smoking, particularly at younger ages, was associated with substantial reductions in the relative excess mortality associated with continued smoking.

Original publication




Journal article


JAMA Netw Open

Publication Date





Adult, Male, Female, Humans, Smoking Cessation, Ethnicity, Prospective Studies, Smokers, Cigarette Smoking