If you’ve got a tar habit, it’s best, of course, to quit as soon as you can. But a new research finding shows that even if you reach mid-life you should not give up the quest to be smoke-free. In fact, there’s a new incentive to jump back on the stub-out wagon.

Smokers who quit before they reach age 40 have a lifespan nearly as long as people who never took a nicotine puff in their life, according to the researchers. The analysis, which was published in the New England Journal of Medicine, of death and health records in the U.S., showed that people who quit smoking by age 40 regain nearly all the years they lost at the hand of their smoking habit.

The researchers discovered that adults who quit smoking between the ages of 35 and 44 gained about nine years back, whereas those who quit between the ages of 45 and 54 or 55 and 64 gained six and four years of life back.

To be clear, this does not mean that you can and/or should wait until you are 40 to kick the habit. “Former smokers still have a higher risk of dying sooner than people who never smoked,” said Dr. Prabhat Jha, head of the Centre for Global Health Research at St. Michael’s Hospital and a professor of public health at the University of Toronto, in a statement. “But the risk is small compared to the huge risk for those who continue to smoke,” he added.

Current male or female smokers ages 25 to 79 were found to have a mortality rate three times higher than people who had never smoked. Nonsmokers who never smoked were about twice more likely to live to age 80 than were smokers.

Do You know smokers at and beyond middle age who struggle with quitting?

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