If you’re an occasional, social smoker, you might consider knocking the habit for good — it’s not the harmless pastime you think. When it comes to your heart health, it’s not how much, or often you smoke, but the fact you smoke at all.
New research published in the BMJ finds that lighting up as seldom as once a day carries with it a much higher risk of heart disease and stroke than previously believed.
Via a systematic review of 141 cohort studies going back to 1946, British researchers set out to determine the different heart health risks associated with smoking one, five or 20 cigarettes (one pack) a day. Going into the analysis, they assumed the risks would be proportional, expecting one cigarette a day to carry about a 5% risk compared to a pack.
But the numbers proved much higher.
Men who smoked one cigarette a day had a 46% relative risk of developing heart disease, and 41% risk of having a stroke, compared to those who smoked 20 cigarettes a day; for women, the relative risks were 31% and 34%, respectively.
“No safe level of smoking exists for cardiovascular disease,” concluded the team, led by Allan Hackshaw of the UCL Cancer Institute. “Smokers should quit instead of cutting down, using appropriate cessation aids if needed, to significantly reduce their risk.”
This news comes on the heels of a new report on vaping released by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. The panel hesitated to declare e-cigarettes a safe alternative to cigarette smoking, recommending more research on the long-term health effects.