Quitting smoking can increase your life expectancy, improve quality of life and lower the risk of disease.
However, old habits die hard and quitting can be a long and difficult process.
Researchers now say instead of being discouraged and just stopping trying to quit, just limiting the number of the sticks you inhale everyday can reduce the risk of an early death by 15 percent.
Every day, doctors are confronted with patients who either cannot or will not quit, says Vicki Myers, a researcher at Tel Aviv University's Sackler Faculty of Medicine.
To address this reality, Myers and her fellow researchers, Dr. Yariv Gerber and Prof. Uri Goldbourt of TAU's School of Public Health, examined survival and life expectancy rates of smokers who reduced their cigarette consumption instead of quitting entirely. Their data covered an unusually long period of over 40 years.
While quitters were found to have the biggest improvement in mortality rates - a 22 percent reduced risk of an early death, compared to smokers who maintained their smoking intensity - reducers also saw significant benefits, with a 15 percent reduced risk.
These results show that smoking less is a valid risk reduction strategy, Myers says, adding that formerly heavy smokers had the most to gain from smoking reduction.
This research has been published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.