smoking cigarette, quit smoking

Everyone recognizes that smoking is hazardous to your health. But some people have been telling themselves that smoking just a few cigarettes a day doesn’t increase their risk of premature death.

Are You Kidding Yourself?

A new study has shown these folks are deluding themselves. Even occasional smokers or those who smoke less than 10 cigarettes a day have a higher chance of dying before their time, especially from lung cancer.

What Did the Study Show?

The study followed 290,000 middle-aged or older Americans for about seven years. People who smoked less than one cigarette a day were 9 times more likely than never-smokers to die early. Those smoking 1 to 10 cigarettes per day were 11 times more likely than never-smokers to perish prematurely. These risk levels are lower than those for people who smoke more heavily, but they are still alarming.

Should You Quit?

Quitting helped, and the younger people were when they quit, the better they fared. The researchers conclude that “there is no safe level of cigarette smoking.”

JAMA Internal Medicine, online Dec. 5, 2016

We have written about how to quit here. One study showed that the cold turkey approach worked for at least half of those trying to stop. We think that every smoker needs to figure out his or her best method. That’s the message of the book, No-Nag, No-Guilt, Do-It-Your-Own-Way Guide to Quitting Smoking. It was written many years ago, but the advice is still excellent.

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  1. Susan

    Mayer, I’d like to die later than sooner. If someone can do something to prevent an early and miserable death, why not at least try.

    I didn’t read the study word for word. That doesn’t really matter to me so much. I hate to see friends, and especially young people lighting up, and I want to plead with them not to do this terrible abuse of their bodies.

    Paying for someone else’s maltreatment of themselves isn’t fair. Lots of things in life aren’t fair. Many studies are flawed; however, we already know for certain that tobacco use causes serious health problems and premature death. Like you, I wish I could say I never smoked; but I’m thankful for the years of being a non-smoker. – Susan

  2. Susan

    Mayer, congratulations on being off cigarettes. It’s so hard, even with nicotine replacement. You already know you’re still addicted to nicotine. I haven’t read much about the stuff lately, but I doubt it’s a benign substance, even without the tar and other nasty chemicals found in cigarettes. You can probably do your own research online about that.

    Why not enlist the help of your physician; if he/she doesn’t already know you’re using the gum, he or she should know, just like your other medications.

    I wonder if you could try slowly tapering off the gum. Suddenly stopping many drugs will cause unpleasant withdrawal symptoms, and as you know, nicotine is no exception. There will probably be some discomfort, but if you stopped smoking, you can stop this. Then you can congratulate yourself on being both smoke and nicotine-free. Best wishes for your success. – Susan

  3. Cindy M. Black
    Seattle, WA

    I smoked for over 30 years, quit around 12 years ago. Now I cannot IMAGINE ever having smoked and am really ashamed of myself. Before finally quitting, I went through about 5 years of “nickel-dime-ing,” smoking one cigarette here and there, maybe 3-5 per day for a week, then none for awhile, then one or two again…

    I kidded myself that it was “just one or two,” but I’m a skier… I was totally off cigarettes for a few months and my skiing was pretty darn hot. THEN, for some reason I started again… only “just one or two.” Well, my skiing “went downhill” in a big fat hurry! Even one or two made SUCH A DIFFERENCE in my strength, lung-power, etc. That was what did it. That, and the fact that every time I tried to quit and failed, a bit more shame and irritation with myself built up over time. That made finally quitting for good a lot easier. Good luck!

  4. Susan

    This is longish. I hope you’ll read it anyway. In hindsight, it’s bewildering that anyone would continue to smoke after trying their first cigarette. I started in college. Everyone (so it seemed) was doing it. That first cigarette made me so nauseated and dizzy, I almost fainted.

    After just a few weeks of smoking, I quit because I was having trouble getting through a physical fitness class in PE. Then I started again after the class was over. I quit during my pregnancies, and started again after my children were born, exposing them to a childhood of breathing second-hand smoke.

    Fast-forward thirty years. I didn’t have any ‘significant’ health problems, but I got out of breath just climbing a flight of stairs. One day at the doctor’s office, he said, “You’re too pretty to smoke.” That was it. I’d been tempting fate, was disgusted with myself, and quit. I used Zyban and nicotine patches. After three weeks on Zyban, I was so irritable I was snapping at people for no reason and stopped taking it, but I suppose it got me off to a good start.

    I stayed with the patches. Some things that helped during that difficult time:
    1) I made quitting a project.
    2) I chose a quit date and quit; the patches take the edge off the withdrawal.
    3) I used a big wall calendar to make brief notes on my progress and mark off the days since quitting.
    4) I followed the protocol (mostly) recommended by the patch manufacturer. The recommended length of use was 12 weeks. I took 15 weeks. The instructions said not to cut the patches, but I did it anyway when I extended my time on the lowest-dose patch.
    5) Only one other person knew I was quitting, and I talked with her often. She was my support system.
    6) I literally got on my knees and prayed for help to persevere. I’m not trying to convert anyone, but if you believe in God, this is a good time to ask for His help. You can also use the 12-Step program.

    I also did some reading about cigarettes and the many toxic chemicals they contain, like arsenic, for example. I read about the effects of quitting over time. For example, after about 24 hours, the carbon monoxide is out of your system, and as time passes, the risk of stroke and heart attack, etc. decreases, and eventually gets to the level of someone who never smoked.

    It’s been 19 years since I quit. I have lung nodules; at present, they’re benign. I have widespread osteoarthritis; smoking is very hard on your joints. I have mild emphysema. Even with the abuse and damage I did to myself, I feel pretty good.

    I did a lot of exercising, both before and after quitting. It raises my energy level and I breathe easier. It also helps with the weight gain. People started commenting on how nice my complexion looked. I had my clothes and furniture cleaned. My house doesn’t smell bad anymore. My clothes and hair and breath don’t smell bad anymore. I can climb steps without being out of breath. I’ve added years, who knows how many, to my life. There’s a good chance I’ll see my grandchildren graduate college, get married, and have children.

    I hope this is helpful to someone.

  5. Robyn
    Vancouver CANADA

    I was a heavy smoker for decades. I did find it difficult to quit (as do most people) but a book called ‘Allen Carr’s easy way to stop smoking’ made the difference for me. Use whatever method works – but quit if you possibly can. It’s never too late to make a difference in your health – not to mention your pocketbook.

  6. mayer

    I’ve never smoked but am skeptical of this study. Studies tend to produce the results desired by whoever is paying for the study. First, the data was self-reported, so no one really knows how many cigarettes the study participants smoked every day. while it is a fact that smoking increases your chance of an early death, studies of light smoking in the early 2000s concluded that the risk of premature death was double, not 9 times greater. methodology hasnt changed that much since then.

    Increasingly shrill alarmism of the anti-smoking forces has become tiresome. why dont they instead study marijuana with such intensity—there have been indications that it is at least as toxic as cigarettes. as for the argument that smokers make others pay for their health costs, so do diabetics, fat people, alcoholics, people who engage in risky behaviors, etc etc.
    life isn’t fair and we all die sooner or later.

  7. Connie

    What about 2mg of Nicolette gum 4 times a day. I have not smoked for three years, but am still using this regimen as my security blanket!

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