Harvard Men's Health Watch

On call: "Low-dose" smoking

On call

"Low-dose" smoking

Q. I know that smoking is very bad for me. I've cut down to one cigarette after lunch and another after dinner each day, with two or three more on most Friday and Saturday nights when I socialize. I really enjoy smoking, but I want to know if I'm harming myself.

A. Sorry to say, you are.

The more you smoke, the greater your risk of lung cancer, emphysema, heart attacks, and many, many other medical problems ranging from mouth and throat cancer to bladder cancer and from premature skin aging to erectile dysfunction. But even at the low end of the scale, smoking is dangerous. That's why secondhand smoke is such a huge problem in the United States as well as around the world.

Living with a smoker is one thing, indulging in two or three cigarettes a day quite another. A study from Norway should convince you to quit. People who smoked just one to four cigarettes a day were nearly three times more likely to die from heart disease than nonsmokers. Low-dose smoking nearly tripled the risk of dying from lung cancer in men, and it was associated with a 50% increase in the overall death rate in both men and women.

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