Smoking just one cigarette a day puts people at a much higher risk of heart disease and stroke than those who abstain entirely.
When it comes to smoking, the idea that just one can’t hurt does not apply.
Inhaling carcinogenic smoke poses a risk not only for cancer, but also for cardiovascular disease such as heart disease and stroke. New research published in the British Medical Journal indicates that the habit poses a significant risk regardless of how much a person smokes.
The study reviewed 55 publications, encompassing 141 studies, which looked at the relative risk of cigarette consumption on cardiovascular disease.
The researchers found that men who smoke one cigarette daily have a 48 percent higher risk of heart disease and 25 percent higher risk of stroke than those who do not smoke. For women, the effect was even more pronounced. The risk of heart disease in women who smoked one cigarette per day was 57 percent higher than non-smokers, and 31 percent higher for stroke.
If cardiovascular risk associated with smoking followed a linear pattern, consuming just one cigarette would be expected to have one-twentieth the risk of smoking a pack. However, men who smoked one cigarette per day had nearly half the risk of developing coronary heart disease as those who smoked 20 cigarettes a day; for women who smoked one cigarette daily, the figure was 31 percent. These patterns were roughly the same for stroke risk for men and women who smoked a cigarette daily.
The researchers also looked at cardiovascular risk for those who smoked five cigarettes per day. These smokers’ cardiovascular risk fell between those who smoked one cigarette per day and pack-a-day smokers (all three groups’ risk was assessed against non-smokers).
The researchers conclude, “No safe level of smoking exists for cardiovascular disease.” They encourage smokers to quit entirely given the risk of heart attack and stroke associated with even a modest habit.