Quitting smoking may be a fag, but it is sooo worth it. Health editor Hilly Janes on latest research that shows it really pays to give up before you hit 30

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The Swinging Sixties may have been liberating for women and paved the way for legislation on equality and abortion, but they also left a tragic legacy – deaths from smoking-related diseases. More women lit up in the 60s than at any other time, and while the number of smokers overall has been falling ever since, dolly birds are now paying the price.

We already knew that lung cancer rates among women over 60 doubled between 1975 and 2008, but now a new study published in The Lancet medical journal, reveals that women who smoke lose at least ten years of lifespan, and that two-thirds of all deaths of female smokers in their 50s, 60s, and 70s are caused by lung cancer, chronic lung disease, heart disease or stroke.

Conducted over a 12-year period by academics in the United States and at the University of Oxford, and involving 1.2 million women, the study is the biggest ever conducted in the UK into the risks of smoking, and rewards of giving up

The good news for the offspring of groovy Sixties chicks is that the research suggests that quitting before you are 30 can reduce the risk of dying from smoking related diseases by almost 100 per cent. Young smokers are still a real cause for concern though – two-thirds start before the age of 18, according to the anti-smoking campaign group ASH, and more of them are girls. In 2010, 14 per cent of 15-year-old girls were regular smokers compared to 10 per cent of boys, according to Cancer Research UK.

Unlike our Sixties sisters, who were positively encouraged to get puffing by the tobacco industry, the emphasis now is on helping us to give up. It’s not easy – it takes on average at least four attempts, but top tips from the smoking section on the website www.netdoctor.co.uk   are a great place to start.