A few cigarettes with friends on Saturday evening: For some people, the relationship with cigarette smoke runs out in a few puffs per week. These are occasional smokers whose health is not protected. According to a recent research published in the American Journal of Health Promotion, occasional smokers also have the same cardiovascular risk as regular smokers, those who are addicted to cigarette smoking. “Regardless of the number of cigarettes smoked, for both categories of smokers the advice is always to stop smoking to protect the heart and circulatory system and improve general well-being”, adds Dr. Licia Siracusano, oncologist and contact person at the Humanitas Cancer Center.
Researchers at Ohio State University (United States) analyzed data from 39,555 individuals enrolled in a state health promotion program. The data related to their habits and values of hypertension and serous cholesterol. Out of these, more than 10% qualified as an occasional smoker (social smoker in the English dictionary), i.e. smoking cigarettes on occasions such as parties, events, family lunches and dinners or at the bar with friends. 17% qualified as regular smokers, the rest as non-smokers.
In both categories about 75% of individuals had hypertension and about 54% had higher cholesterol levels than normal. The cardiovascular risk was therefore identical among all smokers, whether occasional or not.
Everyone is taking a risk
The way in which the screening had been carried out was limited, as researchers only photographed the behavior of the participants at the time they were involved in the programme, without knowing what kind of habits they had followed before. In any case, the authors of the study suggest that there are no differences in the prevalence of hypertension and hypercholesterolemia between the two groups of smokers.
“We know that smoking is a risk factor not only for high blood pressure but also for high cholesterol in the harmful effect it has on blood vessels. And both contribute significantly to the onset of cardiovascular diseases,” says Dr. Siracusano.
“Smoking, in all the forms that this habit can take, in most cases a real addiction, is always harmful to the lungs, heart and brain. Certainly, the risk and extent of damage depends on how much you smoke. For example, compared to a non-smoker, the risk of lung cancer of a strong smoker (more than twenty cigarettes per day) is twenty times as high, while a “simple” smoker presents a risk equal to fourteen times that of non-smokers. However, it is not possible to set a standard level of smoking addiction that is not harmful to health and that is not associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular or respiratory disease,” the specialist concludes.
A 2016 study published in Jama Internal Medicine, for example, indicated that in people who smoked on average less than one cigarette a day in their lives, the risk of premature mortality was 64% higher and between one and ten cigarettes 87% higher than non-smokers.