Published: Tue, December 06, 2016
Medical | By Dorothy Lyons

Chances of early death increase even with one cigarette a day

Chances of early death increase even with one cigarette a day

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services explains the health effects of smoking.

About the National Cancer Institute (NCI): NCI leads the National Cancer Program and the NIH's efforts to dramatically reduce the prevalence of cancer and improve the lives of cancer patients and their families, through research into prevention and cancer biology, the development of new interventions, and the training and mentoring of new researchers. "All smokers should be targeted for smoking cessation, regardless of how few cigarettes they smoke per day", the researchers wrote in their study.

They looked at a total of 290,215 adults, aged between 59 and 82, who had filled out a smoking questionnaire. "Nevertheless, 159 (9.1%) and 1,493 (22.5%) of these individuals reported consistently smoking fewer than one or one to 10 cigarettes per day in each age period that they smoked, respectively". Nearly 1,500 said they smoked between one and 10 cigarettes every day. The results of the study were reported December 5, 2016, in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Even so, the findings should reinforce that even light smokers can face serious health risks from the habit, the authors note. People in the study who consistently smoked an average of less than one cigarette per day over their lifetime had nine times the risk of dying from lung cancer than people who had never smoked.

A new government study found that even people who smoke low numbers of cigarettes are at increased risk of earlier death.

The sooner they quit, the lower the risks, the team found.

Nash's team found that smoking, which is known to be an important predictor of early death among middle-aged smokers, was also strongly related to early death from smoking-related causes among those aged 70 and older.

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Globally, tobacco kills about 6 million people a year from cancer, heart disease, lung disease and other illnesses.

People who smoked between one and 10 cigarettes a day had over six times the risk of dying from respiratory diseases than never smokers and about one and half times the risk of dying of cardiovascular disease than never smokers. They were still nine times more likely to die of lung cancer than those who never smoked at all, and the risk for those who smoked between one and 10 cigarettes per day was 12 times greater.

Increasing awareness of tobacco dangers is essential to prevent deaths in the United States and lower the risks of different conditions, including cancer and cardiovascular diseases. In fact, many smokers believe that smoking at low rates has a less intense impact on their health and life expectancy.

In this context, the NCI study is a much-needed reminder that even smoking a small number of cigarettes is significantly harmful to one's health.

In an interview with MedPage Today, Inoue-Choi said the findings make it clear that all smokers can benefit from smoking cessation, including those who are light or intermittent smokers.

Researchers relied on participants remembering their smoking histories over many years, a limitation of the study, because memories often aren't accurate. Therefore, the authors could not compare the effects of smoking every other day, every few days, or weekly.

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