It is an oversimplification to assume that even the majority of lifelong smokers 'must' develop lung cancer and die from it. There are other causes of death, and lung cancer is a leading cause among older smokers.
The Nature article gives:
Epidemiological studies have estimated the risk of lung cancer with total lifetime smoking dose, duration, intensity and timing of cessation. It has been reported that 70% of smoking-related mortality occurs among those of advanced age, with 80–90% of life-long smokers never developing lung cancers.
— Zhenqiu Huang, Shixiang Sun et al.: "Single-cell analysis of somatic mutations in human bronchial epithelial cells in relation to aging and smoking", Nature Genetics volume 54, pages 492–498 (2022). doi
They reference these sources for this:
— Burns, D. M.: "Cigarette smoking among the elderly: disease consequences and the benefits of cessation", Am. J. Health Promot. 14, 357–361 (2000). doi
— Crispo, A. et al.: "The cumulative risk of lung cancer among current, ex- and never-smokers in European men", Br. J. Cancer 91, 1280–1286 (2004). doi
The Crispo et al. paper then has this informative graphic, that at the same time shows that the simple equation 'smoking=certain lung cancer' is an untruthful and massive oversimplification, as well that lifelong non-smokers certainly develop not as much cancer compared to smokers (very similar graphics/results for Italy, Germany, Sweden):
Effects of stopping smoking at various ages on the cumulative risk (%) of death from lung cancer up to age 75 at incidence rate for men in Europe.
Note that in this paper the cumulative risk was calculated as between the highest in Germany with 25.7 (24.3–27.0) and the lowest in Sweden with 12.6 (11.3–13.9), each for the highest category of smoking 25+ cigarettes a day. But Sweden also had a lower risk for non-smokers with 0.4 compared with Germany at 0.6.
The age-standardised mortality rate for lung cancer among Swedish males is substantially lower than in other European countries, at 22.6 per 100000 for the year 2000, while current mortality rates in the UK (48.6), Germany (46.2) and Italy (52.6) are more typical of other European countries (Ferlay et al, 2001). The difference between Sweden and the other countries cannot be explained by differences in consumption.
The Burns paper highlights:
The distribution of excess mortality with age is not uniform across the three major causes of excess smoking-induced mortality. Coronary
heart disease mortality is by far the largest cause of smoking-induced ex- cess mortality under age 50. By age 55, lung cancer has increased to equal and then to exceed coronary heart disease as a cause of death.
Lung cancer is believed to result from a series of inheritable changes in cells exposed to carcinogens.
These changes may occur sequentially or simultaneously, but they occur relatively slowly, and a substantial change in cell morphology, structure, and replicative machinery is necessary prior to transformation of a cell into a cancer. This is a process where the future rate of cancer incidence is built on a foundation of prior extensive molecular and genetic change that grows steadily with duration of smoking exposure. In contrast to coronary artery disease, where a single lesion in an otherwise normal heart can cause infarction and death, the long lag time required to produce carcinogenic transformation in the smoker precludes high rates of cancer early in life.