What a drag: The dangers of a daily cigarette

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Smoking just one cigarette a day appears to raise the risk of heart disease and stroke by between 48% and 74%, according to a study in the Jan. 24, 2018, issue of The BMJ.

Researchers pooled data from 141 studies done in 21 countries and regions, together involving millions of people. They analyzed the risks associated with smoking one, five, or 20 cigarettes per day, taking into account age, sex, and other possible confounding factors. Just one cigarette per day accounted for half of the risk seen with smoking 20 cigarettes a day in men, and for one-third of the risk in women, they discovered.

As an editorial accompanying the study notes, "Light smoking, occasional smoking, and smoking fewer cigarettes all carry substantial risk of cardiovascular disease." To protect your heart, just cutting back won't cut it — you need to quit completely. For advice, see the Harvard Medical School Guide Quit Smoking for Good (www.health.harvard.edu/qs).

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