Health Team

Study: Light smoking still carries severe health risks

Posted September 18, 2009 5:30 p.m. EDT
Updated September 18, 2009 6:32 p.m. EDT

Bill would ban smoking in public spaces in N.C.

Stef Harber said he feels better about himself since he has cut back on smoking. He is down to five cigarettes a day instead of his usual 20. But a new study shows that even light smoking can do serious damage to your health.

Smoking fewer than three cigarettes a day is still too many and can increase your risk of dying from heart disease or stroke by 64 percent, the study found.

“Everyone knows that smoking is bad for you, but these statistics are enormous,” said Dr. Nieca Goldberg with the American Heart Association.

The main reason smoking is so dangerous is because it decreases HDL, the good cholesterol. It also increases blood pressure and constricts blood vessels. The study looked at smoking habits of more than a million adults.

“For those of you out there who smoke a pack or more a day, it's 100 percent increased risk,” Goldberg said.

The study also found that air pollution and second-hand smoke increase your risk of cardiovascular disease by 30 percent.

“If you quit smoking, not only are you going to help yourself but all of those that are around you,” Goldberg said.

Quitting smoking is something Blane Fergus said he wants to do. He has a 10-cigarette-a-day habit.

“In the back of my mind, I know it's a bad thing, so I try to smoke less,” he said. “I want to be around to enjoy my kids when they get older.”

Researchers said they are hoping this latest evidence will be a wake up call for smokers, like Fergus and Harber.

The American Heart Association says cigars and pipes are not a safer alternative to cigarettes. They are leave people with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, even though their risk isn't as great as cigarette smokers.