Smoking even as little as one cigarette daily increases a person’s risk of dying prematurely, according to a recent study published Dec. 5 in the journal of the American Medical Association’s JAMA Internal Medicine.
“The results of this study support health warnings that there is no safe level of exposure to tobacco smoke,” Maki Inoue-Choi, who led the study team, said in a news release published by the American Hospital Association.
Quitting smoking makes sense for even those who smoke just a few cigarettes per day, the team wrote in the study.
“This study provides evidence that individuals with lifelong, low-intensity smoking have higher mortality risks than those who never smoked,” they wrote.
The team reviewed data from roughly 300,000 people who reported their lifelong smoking habits for a program co-sponsored by the National Institutes of Health and the AARP. The data came from those ages 59 to 82 during 2004-2005.
The study found that people who smoke an average of less than one cigarette per day over their lifetime have a 64% higher risk of earlier death compared with those who never smoked. In addition, those who smoke between one and 10 cigarettes per day have an 87% higher risk, according to the study.
“Low-intensity smoking over the lifetime was associated with a significantly higher risk of all-cause mortality, including deaths from lung cancer and cardiovascular disease,” the team wrote in the study.
The sooner they quit, the lower the risks, according to the study.
More people in the U.S. are reporting smoking fewer than 10 cigarettes per day – and the health risks to those smokers is not understood as well as those who smoke more, according to the researchers.
Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the U.S. accounting for more than one of every five deaths, according to the CDC. More than 16 million Americans live with a smoking-related disease, the CDC stated. Fewer adults smoke today than they did 10 years ago, declining from 21% to 15%, the CDC reports.
The researchers concluded that all smokers should be targeted for smoking cessation, regardless of how few cigarettes they smoke per day. “Further studies are needed to examine the health risks of low-intensity cigarette smoking in combination with electronic nicotine delivery systems and other tobacco products,” they wrote.
The full study can be found here.