Female smokers who quit by the age of 40 can add 10 years to their life expectancy, according to a UK study of 1.2 million women.
Smoking is the greatest single cause of premature death in the UK, with the average woman taking an extra 10 years off her life by lighting up.
But by quitting before middle-age, female smokers could reduce their risk of early death by up to 97 per cent.
Smokers lose 10 years
In the largest study of its kind, researchers from Oxford University looked at more than a million women between the ages of 50 and 65 over a period of 12 years.
The results, published in a medical publication called the Lancet Journal, show that the risks posed by smoking are much bigger than previous research suggests.
In fact, female smokers lose at least 10 years of their life due to smoking-related conditions such as lung cancer, heart disease and lung disease.
However, there is clear evidence that people who quit before middle-age can gain that decade back again.
Stopping works 'amazingly well'
Those who stopped smoking before the age of 40 lived an extra nine years compared with those who continued the habit.
And women who quit before the age of 30 completely reversed the negative effects of cigarettes, reducing their risk of early death by 97 per cent and losing just a month of their life.
Professor Sir Richard Peto, from Oxford University, said: "Whether they are men or women, smokers who stop before reaching middle age will on average gain about an extra 10 years of life.
"Stopping works, amazingly well actually. Smoking kills, stopping works and the earlier you stop the better."
Healthy bank balance
Kicking the habit is not just good for your body, but also your bank balance.
Not only will an average packet of cigarettes now set you back a whopping £7.46, but smoking can also affect your insurance premiums, including private medical insurance.
Many health insurers reward their non-smoking customers with a 10 per cent discount.
To be considered a non-smoker you have to have gone tobacco-free for a minimum of 12 months, so quitting now could save you significant money in the future.
Current smokers want to quit
However, experts at the British Lung Foundation highlight the fact that giving up smoking is not as easy as it sounds.
Its chief executive, Dr Penny Woods, said: "Stopping smoking can be difficult to do - an estimated 70 per cent of current smokers say they want to quit, so you shouldn't start and just assume you'll be able to quit smoking whenever you want to."
If you are finding it hard to quit and want to try something different, look for a medical insurance policy offering discounts on ‘stop smoking’ sessions.
These sessions are conducted by qualified therapists and have a high success rate.
Compare medical insurance quotes online with Confused.com now to find health cover within your budget.