• Question: Hellllllllllo! Just wondering if 1 cigarette takes off 11 minutes of someone's life the oldest person ever (Jeanne calment-122) smoked until she was well over 110. If she never smoked what are the chances of her living quite a while longer?

    Asked by amckeswick to Robyn on 19 Mar 2020.
    • Photo: Robyn Kiy

      Robyn Kiy answered on 19 Mar 2020:


      This is a really interesting question that has made me stop and think!

      The statistic about 1 cigarette taking between 7 and 11 minutes off a life is an estimate of the average time a cigarette takes off a persons life. This doesn’t mean that this will be the same for every person! Other elements such as lifestyle (e.g. diet and exercise) and genetics can influence the health of a person, and thus their life expectancy. For example, it is possible for someone who smokes 5 cigarettes a day but eats healthily, exercises regularly, and has a low-risk job to outlive a non-smoker who leads an otherwise unhealthy lifestyle (although this isn’t guaranteed, of course!).
      It is likely that Jeanne Calment’s genetics provided her with an element of protection from the dangers of smoking cigarettes.

      Based off the assumption that cigarettes reduce life expectancy, it may be possible that without smoking Jeanne would have lived longer! However, if Jeanne Calment was not susceptible to the damage caused by smoking, it may also be possible that never smoking would have no impact on the time of her death.

      Unfortunately, I couldn’t predict the exact chances of her living longer if she hadn’t smoked. However, as we know that smoking does reduce the life-expectancy of the average person, it is definitely possible that Jeanne Calment may have lived longer had she not smoked!

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