Occasional smoking greatly increases risk of early death

By Drum Digital
16 December 2016

Having a crafty cigarette as opposed to being a full blown smoker is nowhere near as bad for your health right?

Wrong! New research shows that occasional smoking can have serious ramifications to our life expectancy, with a 64 per cent increased risk of early death compared to non-smokers.

A team of scientists from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) analysed data on over 290,000 adults in the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study to determine the impact of low-intensity smoking, defined as 10 or fewer cigarettes a day, on mortality from all causes and for specific causes of death.

The participants were aged 59 to age 82 at the start of the study, and were quizzed on their smoking habits during nine periods across their lives, beginning with before they reached their 15th birthday until after they reached the age of 70 (for the older participants).

Among current smokers, 159 reported smoking less than one cigarette per day consistently throughout the years that they smoked; nearly 1,500 reported smoking between one and 10 cigarettes per day.

Results showed people who consistently smoked an average of less than one cigarette per day over their lifetime had a 64 percent higher risk of earlier death than never smokers, and those who smoked between one and 10 cigarettes a day had an 87 percent higher risk of earlier death than never smokers.

“The results of this study support health warnings that there is no safe level of exposure to tobacco smoke,” said lead author Maki Inoue-Choi.

“Together, these findings indicate that smoking even a small number of cigarettes per day has substantial negative health effects and provide further evidence that smoking cessation benefits all smokers, regardless of how few cigarettes they smoke.”

However Maki also pointed out that the study relied on people recalling their smoking history over most of their lives, which meant there was a degree of uncertainty in the findings.

The majority of participants were white and in their 60s and 70s, which also means only a certain group of people were represented within the study.

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