July 5 (UPI) -- The negative effects of smoking can linger decades after quitting the habit, a new study shows.
The risk of developing peripheral artery disease can last up to 30 years after a person stops smoking, according to findings published Tuesday in Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
"Our results underscore the importance of both smoking prevention for nonsmokers and early smoking cessation for smokers. The study also suggests that campaigns about smoking's health risks should emphasize the elevated risk of peripheral artery disease, not just coronary heart disease and stroke," Kunihiro Matsushita, associate professor at the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University and study senior author, said in a news release.
The Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities study, which started in the 1980s and included nearly 16,000 people between ages 45 and 64 who were followed up over the next three decades, originally analyzed how diet and smoking impacted the risk for heart disease, heart attacks stroke and other negative health outcomes.
For the current study, researchers focused on how smoking affected risk for peripheral artery disease.
People who smoked 20 cigarettes a day for 40 years had four times the risk than those who never smoked. The risk of coronary heart disease was also 2.1 times higher and stroke was 1.8 times higher in those who smoked than in those who did not.
Roughly, 8.5 million Americans have peripheral artery disease, although most people with the condition don't know they have it, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
To raise awareness, the researchers recommend manufacturers list peripheral artery disease as risk on cigarette packaging.
"Smoking almost always starts in adolescence or early adulthood, and it's very important that young people understand how long the elevated health risk persists even after they've quit," Matsushita said.