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Social Smokers Face Similar Lung Cancer Risk to Heavy Smokers, Study Finds

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So-called ‘social smokers’ who smoke fewer than 10 cigarettes a day face a similar risk of dying of lung cancer as 20-a-day smokers, a recent study found.

Social smokers are twice as likely to die of lung disease and more than eight times as likely to die of lung cancer than non-smokers, research presented at the European Respiratory Society International Congress suggests.

The research was conducted by Dr Pallavi Balte and Dr Elizabeth Oelsne of Columbia University Irving Medical Centre in New York.

Dr Balte said:

“Everyone knows that smoking is bad for you, but it’s easy to assume that if you only smoke a little, the risks won’t be too high.

“Previous research suggests that people are cutting down on smoking, for example in the USA the proportion of smokers smoking less than 10 cigarettes per day has increased from 16 percent to 27 percent.

“So we wanted to study the risks to social smokers compared to people who don’t smoke and compared to heavier smokers.”

The researchers followed a multi-ethnic sample of 18,730 Americans with a median age of 61 over an average period of 17 years.

Across all groups, 649 died of respiratory disease and 560 died of lung cancer.

The proportion of non-smokers to die of respiratory disease was 1.8 percent and lung cancer, 0.6 percent.

Of social smokers (those who smoked fewer than 10 cigarettes a day), 3.3 percent died of respiratory disease and 4.7 percent died of lung cancer.

Meanwhile, of the people who smoked more than 20 cigarettes a day, 10.1 percent died of respiratory disease and 12.9 percent died of lung cancer.

The researchers calculated the death rates for the two conditions and compared them across the non-smoker, social smoker and heavy smoker groups, taking into account other factors such as weight, sex and age which can all affect death rates.

Overall, they concluded that while social smokers had around half the respiratory disease death rate of heavy smokers, their risk of dying of lung cancer was still two thirds that of heavy smokers.

Dr Balte said:

“You might think that if you only smoke a few cigarettes a day you are avoiding most of the risk.

But our findings suggest that social smoking is disproportionately harmful.”

The researchers also said that cutting down on cigarettes by ‘dual-using’ with a vape was ‘no substitute’ to quitting altogether.

The NHS maintains that to get the most health benefits of e-cigarettes, vapers should stop smoking entirely.

Source: Bournemouth Echo

Header Image by kalhh from Pixabay

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