Even one cigarette a day can still kill you, the study found

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Even one cigarette a day can still kill you, the study found

If you think that just one cigarette a day will not do any harm, you are wrong. British researchers say the rise only once a day is associated with a much higher risk of heart disease and stroke than expected.

Bottom line: "There is no safe level of smoking available for the cardiovascular disease," wrote the team led by Alan Haxao of the Oakleigh Cancer Institute at the University College, London.

"Smokers should stop working instead of minimizing, using appropriate take-off aid if necessary, to significantly reduce their risk," the study authors write.

One expert said it was a warning to young people that even "light" smoking carries a heavy price.

"Adults smoke less than older adults," said Patricia Folan, who directs the Northwest Health Center's Tobacco Control Center at Great Nick.

"These young people who smoke less often do not consider themselves to be smokers," she said, but are still at risk of "coronary heart disease from smoking to a few cigarettes."

For the new study, the Hakachao team looked at data from 141 studies. Since the average cigarette pack contains 20 cigarettes, researchers predicted that the risk of heart disease or stroke to one smoker per cigarette per day would be only 5 percent that of the user pack in a day.

But that was not the case. Instead, men who smoke one cigarette a day still share 46 percent of the increased risk of heart disease suffered by a heavy smoker and 41 percent of the risk of stroke.

Women who smoked cigarettes daily had 31 percent of the risk of smoking in heart disease and 34 percent of the increased risk of stroke, Hakshao said.

When researchers focused on studies that controlled many other risk factors, they found that smoking just one cigarette per day was still more than twice as likely as a woman's risk of heart disease.

The study was published on 24 January at BMG.

"We have shown that a large proportion of the risk of coronary heart disease and stroke comes from smoking only a few cigarettes every day," Hawkshaw said in a press release. "This may come as a surprise to many people, but there are also biological mechanisms that help to explain the unexpectedly high risks associated with a low level of smoking."

Dr. Rachel Bond directs heart health to women at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. She agreed that "any amount of smoking is safe."

She said that efforts to quit smoking could work, but "the real success is to avoid [start] exposure to tobacco completely."

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