A new study suggests that people who only socially smoke are still right times more likely to die of lung cancer in comparison to non-smokers. They are also more than twice as likely to die of general lung diseases than non-smokers.
Who is considered a social smoker?
For the purposes of this research, a “social smoker” is defined as someone who smokes less than 10 cigarettes per day. Rather unbelievably, the research team says that social smokers’ risk of dying from lung cancer isn’t all that much lower than full-blown smokers (people who smoke 20+ cigarettes per day).
The study’s authors believe their work indicates cutting back on cigarettes, or even switching to e-cigarettes some of the time, just isn’t an effective way to mitigate the health risks associated with smoking.
Research has now suggested that the risk of smoking is not significantly different between heavy smokers and those who smoke less.
Social smokers had half the rate of death from respiratory disease as heavy smokers and the rate of lung cancer deaths was two thirds that of heavy smokers.
The research conducted by Dr Pallavi Balte and Dr Elizabeth Oelsner, at Columbia University Irving Medical Centre in New York, spanned over 17 years and included 18,730 people with an average age of 61.
During the time of the research, 649 died of respiratory disease and 560 died of lung cancer.
Speaking to the European Respiratory Society International Congress, Dr Balte said: ‘Everyone knows that smoking is bad for you, but it’s easy to assume that if you only smoke a little, the risks won’t be too high.
‘Previous research suggests that people are cutting down on smoking, for example in the USA the proportion of smokers smoking less than 10 cigarettes per day has increased from 16% to 27%.
‘So we wanted to study the risks to social smokers compared to people who don’t smoke and compared to heavier smokers.’
She continued to say that social smoking was ‘disproportionally harmful’.
In 2018, the number of Irish teenagers smoking plummeted over a 20 year period.