"We were able to show that the risk of smokers for cardiovascular diseases is more than twice that of non-smokers. However, former smokers are affected at almost the same low rate as people of the same age who never smoked," said Brenner.
"Moreover, smokers are affected at a significantly younger age than individuals who have never smoked or have stopped smoking," he added.
For example, a 60-year-old smoker has the same risk of myocardial infarction as a 79-year-old non-smoker and the same risk of stroke as a 69-year-old non-smoker.
Dose and duration of tobacco consumption also have an impact on disease risk. The more cigarettes a smoker consumes per day over a prolonged period of time, the higher his or her risk raises.
The results suggest that smoking cessation programs, which have concentrated on younger participants up to now, should be expanded to reach out to older people as well.