HealthDay News — For former light smokers, cardiovascular risk may return to a level similar to that of never smokers earlier than the 15-year abstinence period currently specified by the U.S. Surgeon General, researchers have found.

“We found no evidence of higher risk for incident heart failure and cardiovascular mortality among former light smokers who quit 15 or fewer years ago when compared with never smokers,” Amiya A. Ahmed, of the University of Birmingham, and colleagues reported at the American Heart Association’s 2013 Scientific Sessions.

They examined the risk of incident heart failure and mortality in a cohort of 3,410 community-dwelling adults, including 2,557 never smokers and 853 former smokers who quit ≤15 years ago (median, eight years). Previous research indicates that it may take up to 15 years of abstinence to reach cardiovascular death risks of never smokers.

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During 13 years of follow-up, the hazard ratio (HR) for incident heart failure was not significantly different for former light smokers versus never smokers (HR, 1.04; P=0.782), the researchers found after adjusting for age and sex.

However, former heavy smokers (defined as ≥32 pack-years of smoking) continue to be at risk. The adjusted hazard ratio for incident heart failure for this group was significantly increased compared with never smokers (HR, 1.29; P=0.019). Similar results were seen for cardiovascular mortality (adjusted HR for light smokers, 1.07; P=0.678; adjusted HR for former heavy smokers, 1.81; P<0.001).

“It’s good news,” Ahmed said in a statement. “Now there’s a chance for even less of a waiting period to get a cleaner bill of cardiovascular health.”


  1. Ahmed A et al. Abstract #18709. Presented at: American Heart Association 2013 Scientific Sessions. Nov. 16-20, 2013. Dallas.