In fact, men who smoke even just a single cigarette expose themselves to the dangers that people who smoked 20 cigarettes had – 46 percent of the increased risk of heart disease in people who smoked 20 sticks, and their danger of a stroke was 41 percent of the risk that 20-a-day smoker has.
A single cigarette increased their risk of coronary heart disease by 48 percent as compared with people who didn't smoke at all.
Women, on the other hand, more than double their risk of heart disease with just one cigarette as compared to if they did not smoke at all. They had 57 percent risk of heart disease and 31 percent for a stroke.
“No safe level of smoking exists for cardiovascular disease. Smokers should quit instead of cutting down, using appropriate cessation aids if needed, to significantly reduce their risk of these two common major disorders,” Professor Allan Hacksaw from the UCL Cancer Institute at the University College London, who oversaw the review of over 140 studies relating to the matter, said.
“There has been a trend in quite a few countries for heavy smokers to cut down, thinking that's perfectly fine, which is the case for things like cancer. But for these two common disorders, which they're probably more likely to get than cancer, it's not the case. They've got to stop completely,” Prof. Hacksaw said.
A quarter of people in Britain have reported smoking only one to five cigarettes a day, mostly due to smoking being out of fashion nowadays in the country.
People who smoke only one stick during 24 hours might think that their risk of health dangers have significantly gone down. This is the case for lung cancer, where one cigarette has an estimated five percent of the risk of smoking 20 of them. (Related: Smoking causes up to 40% of cancer deaths in the US...so why are cigarettes still sold by pharmacies?)
However, cardiovascular disease, not cancer, is the greatest mortality risk for tobacco use and is associated with 48 percent smoking-related premature deaths.
However, the review showed that cutting down on cigarette smoking has little effect on the risk of heart disease or stroke, which seems to be even higher for women that it is for men.
In a group of 100 smokers who smoke 20 cigarettes a day, seven of them will succumb to a heart attack or a stroke. And for 100 people who smoke a single cigarette a day, three of them will have the same fate.
The findings, which were published in the journal BMJ, debunks the myth that smoking only a few cigarettes carries little to no harm.
In conducting the review, the researchers analyzed the risks from smoking one, five, and 20 cigarettes per day from a compilation of studies done between 1946 and 2015.
“We have shown that a large proportion of the risk of coronary heart disease and stroke comes from smoking only a couple of cigarettes each day. This probably comes as a surprise to many people. But there are also biological mechanisms that help explain the unexpectedly high risk associated with a low level of smoking,” the study authors said.
For his part, University of Ottawa adjunct professor Kenneth Johnson, who was not part of the study, said: "The high cardiovascular risk associated with very low cigarette use has major public health implications. Firstly, light smoking, occasional smoking, and smoking fewer cigarettes all carry substantial risk of cardiovascular disease. Only complete cessation is protective and should be emphasized by all prevention measures and policies."
Another expert, University of Oxford professor of behavioral medicine Paul Aveyard, believed in the power of cessation aids. “Those who try to cut down with the aid of nicotine, whether from nicotine replacement treatment or an e-cigarette, are more likely to stop eventually and thus really reduce their risks from smoking.”
For more stories on how to quit this dangerous and disgusting habit, visit StopSmoking.news.