Even one cigarette a day is too many

Research we're watching

It seems the old adage "everything in moderation" might have an exception — smoking. A study in the January 24 issue of The BMJ found that smoking even one cigarette a day carries significant health consequences, namely a higher risk of heart attack and stroke.

Using data from 141 different studies, involving millions of participants, researchers compared people who smoked either one, five, or 20 cigarettes each day. They found, counter to what many people assume, that rates of heart disease and stroke were not reduced as much as expected in casual smokers compared with pack-a-day smokers.

This is particularly relevant because heart disease — not lung cancer, as many people think — is the greatest health risk associated with smoking. Heart disease causes nearly half of all smoking-related deaths, according to The BMJ.

So the study's key message is that when it comes to smoking, cutting back may not be enough. It's better to quit entirely.

Image: © BrianAJackson/Getty Images