Light smokers also put their health at risk

Contrary to popular belief, smoking 1 to 4 cigarettes a day is not harmless. “Light” smokers are 50% more likely than non-smokers to die prematurely. They also run a greater risk of heart attacks, strokes and cancer than non-smokers.

“No cigarette is harmless”. This saying was proven true in 2005 by a Norwegian study carried out on 43,000 people over a period of over 30 years.

The researchers in fact identified that, all other things equal, people who smoke 1 to 4 cigarettes a day (“light smokers”) increase their risk of dying prematurely by 1.5 times compared to non-smokers. More specifically, considering only the causes of death directly linked to smoking, we see that a man or woman who smokes between 1 and 4 cigarettes a day is 3 times as likely to die of a cardiovascular diseases than a person who doesn’t smoke at all (an increase of about 200%). The risk increases only slightly the more cigarettes the person smokes, as someone who smokes 20 cigarettes a day has a 4 times greater risk of dying of cardiovascular disease than a non-smoker. On the other hand, the risk of developing cancer is considerably higher among “heavy” smokers than among “light” ones.

A man who smokes between 1 and 4 cigarettes a day is 3 times as likely to die of lung cancer as a non-smoker, and a woman is 5 times as likely.

Furthermore, another study has shown that a woman who smokes between 1 and 10 cigarettes a day during pregnancy increases her risk of having a baby with congenital birth defects, and significantly, increases the risk of hand malformation in the baby by 30%.

Furthermore, occasional smoking can lead to a significant reduction in the quality of men’s erections. Many substances contained within cigarette smoke can produce immediate effects on erectile function (see Smoking and sexual health).   

Sources:


Original article written by Virginie Monnet and reviewed by Dr. Rodrigo Tango, smoking cessation specialist at the University of Paris

Effects on Health of smoking 1 to 4 cigarettes a day: Table of relative risks

Bjartveit K, Tverdal A. Health consequences of smoking 1-4 cigarettes per day. Tobacco Control. October 2005, Vol. 14 (5), pp. 315-20.

Adjusted relative risk (RR, 95% confidence intervals) of death from all causes, ischaemic heart disease, all cancer, and lung cancer, by number of cigarettes daily recorded at screening, with never smokers as reference. 23521 male and 19201 female participants aged 35–49*

 

Number of cigarettes per day


Test for trend, p
1–4 5–9 10–14 15–19 20–24 25+

Men
All
causes
RR{dagger}

1.56

(1.33 to 1.84)

2.03

(1.85 to 2.22)

2.47

(2.29 to 2.65)

2.78

(2.57 to 3.00)

3.35

(3.09 to 3.64)

3.71

(3.34 to 4.11)

<0.001 td="">
RR{ddagger}

1.57

(1.33 to 1.85)

1.94

(1.77 to 2.12)

2.36

(2.19 to 2.55)

2.66

(2.46 to 2.88)

3.19

(2.93 to 3.46)

3.42

(3.07 to 3.81)

<0.001 td="">
Cardio-vascular diseases
RR{dagger}

2.65

(2.02 to 3.48)

2.67

(2.24 to 3.17)

3.24

(2.81 to 3.74)

3.89

(3.34 to 4.52)

4.10

(3.49 to 4.82)

4.07

(3.31 to 5.02)

<0.001 td="">
RR{ddagger}

2.74

(2.07 to 3.61)

2.47

(2.06 to 2.94)

3.09

(2.67 to 2.58)

3.70

(3.17 to 4.31)

3.75

(3.18 to 4.42)

3.60

(2.91 to 4.46)

<0.001 td="">
All   cancers
RR{dagger}

1.09

(0.79 to 1.50)

1.69

(1.44 to 1.98)

2.14

(1.88 to 2.42)

2.45

(2.14 to 2.81)

3.03

(2.63 to 3.49)

3.57

(2.99 to 4.26)

<0.001 td="">
RR{ddagger}

1.08

(0.78 to 1.49)

1.63

(1.38 to 1.92)

2.05

(1.81 to 2.34)

2.37

(2.06 to 2.72)

2.93

(2.54 to 3.38)

3.41

(2.85 to 4.09)

<0.001 td="">
Lung cancer
RR{dagger}

2.84

(0.96 to 8.45)

11.94

(6.97 to 20.44)

17.98

(10.92 to 29.61)

20.77

(12.52 to 34.47)

33.48

(20.76 to 55.33)

38.64

(22.74 to 65.65)

<0.001 td="">
RR{ddagger}

2.79

(0.94 to 8.28)

11.30

(6.59 to 19.39)

16.73

(10.14 to 27.60)

19.36

(11.65 to 32.18)

31.69

(19.14 to 52.47)

36.22

(21.23 to 61.81)

<0.001 td="">
Women
All
causes
RR{dagger}

1.44

(1.17 to 1.77)

1.90

(1.70 to 2.13)

2.31

(2.08 to 2.57)

3.01

(2.60 to 3.48)

3.29

(2.71 to 4.00)

2.67

 

(1.63 to 4.38)

<0.001 td="">
RR{ddagger}

1.47

(1.19 to 1.82)

1.90

(1.69 to 2.14)

2.29

(2.01 to 2.56)

2.97

(2.55 to 3.45)

3.14

(2.56 to 3.84)

2.61

(1.59 to 4.28)

<0.001 td="">
Cardio-vascular diseases
RR{dagger}

2.81

(1.67 to 4.72)

3.69

(2.69 to 5.05)

4.03

(2.97 to 5.48)

5.80

(3.92 to 8.57)

4.51

(2.52 to 8.10)

3.89

(0.96 to 15.81)

0.064
RR{ddagger}

2.94

(1.75 to 4.95)

3.55

(2.57 to 4.89)

3.78

(2.75 to 5.18)

5.28

(3.50 to 7.97)

4.25

(2.35 to 7.68)

3.53

(0.87 to 14.40)

0.114
All
cancers
RR{dagger}

1.11

(0.82 to 1.50)

1.44

(1.22 to 1.69)

1.87

(1.61 to 2.16)

2.18

(1.76 to 2.70)

2.73

(2.08 to 3.57)

2.44

(1.26 to 4.72)

<0.001 td="">
RR{ddagger}

1.14

(0.84 to 1.55)

1.44

(1.22 to 1.71)

1.85

(1.59 to 2.16)

2.22

(1.79 to 2.76)

2.47

(1.86 to 3.29)

2.43

(1.26 to 4.71)

<0.001 td="">
Lung
cancer
RR{dagger}

5.02

(1.81 to 13.93)

13.06

(7.14 to 23.87)

19.19

(10.76 to 34.21)

30.37

(16.24 to 56.81)

27.68

(13.18 to 58.11)

34.02

(9.77 to 118.44)

<0.001 td="">
RR{ddagger}

5.03

(1.81 to 13.98)

11.85

(6.43 to 21.84)

17.62

(9.80 to 31.66)

28.83

(15.28 to 54.38)

23.85

(11.10 to 51.25)

31.95

(9.12 to 111.96)

<0.001 td="">

*Participants not reporting cardiovascular disease, diabetes, or treatment for hypertension, nor symptoms of angina pectoris and atherosclerosis obliterans.
{dagger}Adjusted for age.
{ddagger}Adjusted for age, systolic blood pressure, total serum cholesterol, serum triglycerides, physical activity during leisure, body mass index, and height.

 

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