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Why Smoking Just a Little Is Still Bad for You

Even people smoking only a few cigarettes a day are putting themselves at risk of dying prematurely.

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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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies..
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