Active smoking continues to increase the risk of death into old age, a study has shown.
Smoking can cut up to four years of life, even if the smoker quits before the age of 70, according to the European Society of Cardiology.
Over the 15-year study, death rates in current smokers were around 50% higher than in never smokers due to vascular disease, cancer and respiratory disease.
Deaths in former smokers were 15% higher than in never smokers due to cancer and respiratory disease.
And men who had quit smoking within the past 25 years had a 28% higher mortality rate, while men who quit over 25 years before they died had no significant excess risk.
Lead author Dr Jonathan Emberson said: “Our results clearly show that active smoking continues to increase the risk of death in old age. Risk in former smokers decreases as the time since quitting gets longer and, if one survives long enough, eventually reaches levels of never smokers.
"This study shows that even if you were to ignore all the deaths caused by smoking before the age of 70, older smokers still do considerably worse than older non-smokers, losing a considerable amount of subsequent lifespan."
At the age of 70, never-smokers were expected to live for a further 18 years but current smokers could expect to live for a further 14 years.
Dr Robert Clarke, coordinator of the study, said: "We have shown that even if a smoker is fortunate enough to survive to age 70 they still lose, on average, about 4 years of subsequent lifespan compared with men who do not smoke. Quitting is beneficial at any age and it really is never too late to stop."
The findings were presented at the European Society of Cardiology Congress in Amsterdam.