Light smoking isn't as risk-free as you might think

A study in Bristol concluded that if a person smokes just one cigarette a day, that cigarette reduces 11 minutes from their life.

Myupchar October 22, 2019 18:40:38 IST
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Light smoking isn't as risk-free as you might think
  • A study in Bristol concluded that if a person smokes just one cigarette a day, that cigarette reduces 11 minutes from their life

  • Compared with non-smokers, people who smoked one cigarette per day had a 1.48% higher risk for coronary heart disease

  • Global Adult Tobacco Survey of India 2018 data show that every tenth adult (10.7%; 99.5 million) in India currently smokes tobacco

There is a widespread belief that light or occasional smoking isn’t all that hazardous to your health. If you also think that having just one cigarette a day or socially smoking at Diwali parties won't do much harm, you're mistaken. Even light smoking carries substantial health risks. A study in Bristol concluded that if a person smokes just one cigarette a day, that cigarette reduces 11 minutes from their life.

What do the studies say about occasional or social smoking?

There isn't one exact way to define light smokers yet. Light smokers have been classified as smoking less than one pack/day, less than 15 cigs/day, less than 10 cigs/day, or smoking 1–39 cigs/week.

Light smoking isnt as riskfree as you might think

Representational image. Image by Markus Spiske from Pixabay

Scientists at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, Oslo, reported in their study that people who smoke one to four cigarettes per day have a significantly higher risk of dying from ischaemic heart disease (narrowing arteries of the heart) and lung cancer than non-smokers.

Another study revealed that health risks keep increasing as one smokes more. Compared with non-smokers, people who smoked one cigarette per day had a 1.48% higher risk for coronary heart disease - the relative risk grew to 2.04% in those who smoked 20 cigarettes per day.

Why is smoking harmful?

Global Adult Tobacco Survey of India 2018 data show that every tenth adult (10.7%; 99.5 million) in India currently smokes tobacco - the prevalence of smoking is 19% among men and 2% among women.

Various studies have reported that smoking affects nearly every organ of the body. Other than premature death, smoking leads to many life-threatening diseases like coronary heart disease (narrowing of arteries of the heart), stroke (blood clot in the brain), asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD: a lung disease caused by obstructed airflow from the lungs) which includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis.

Smoking may lead to cancer of the lungs, bladder, cervix, oropharynx (includes parts of the throat, tongue, soft palate, and the tonsils), stomach, and trachea.

Cases of miscarriage, infertility, and cataract have also been reported in men and women who smoke. 

Benefits of quitting smoking

The World Health Organization (WHO) states that immediate and long-term beneficial changes have been reported after quitting smokes.

  • Within 20 minutes of quitting, the heart rate and blood pressure return to normal limits.
  • After 12 hours of quitting, the carbon monoxide (a poisonous gas) level in the blood drops to normal.
  • After 2-12 weeks of quitting, circulation improves and lung function increases thus providing enough oxygen to the heart and lungs.
  • After 1-9 months of quitting, coughing and shortness of breath decreases.
  • After one year of quitting, the risk of getting cardiovascular diseases (heart disease) is about half that of a smoker.
  • After five years of quitting, the risk of getting a stroke decreases.
  • After 10 years of quitting, the risk of cancer of the mouth, lung, throat, oesophagus, bladder, cervix, and pancreas falls to about half that of a smoker.
  • After 15 years of quitting, the risk of coronary heart disease becomes equivalent to that of a nonsmoker.

mCessation programme: Quit Tobacco for Life

The government of India in partnership with WHO and the International Telecommunications Union has started the "Be Healthy Be Mobile" initiative which aims to reach out to all kinds of tobacco users who want to quit tobacco use and support them towards successful quitting through constant text messaging on mobile phones.

It has been helping people quit the habit by providing them with constant counselling and support since 2015. To join the programme, call 011-22901701 or sign up on https://www.nhp.gov.in/quit-tobacco-about-programme_mtl

Health articles in Firstpost are written by myUpchar.com, India’s first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health. For more information, read our article on the Harmful Effects of Smoking.

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