Popping out of the office for a solitary post-lunch cigarette doesn't seem like such a big deal. However, that habit – as minor as it seems – is reportedly far more dangerous than health experts had previously believed. In fact, researchers have discovered that smoking one cigarette a day raises the risk of heart disease and stroke to about half the risk of smoking 20 a day.
"There seems to be a belief that cutting down a lot greatly reduces your chance of getting all smoking-related disorders," said Allan Hackshaw, co-author of the research carried out at University College London. "Whilst that is true for cancer, it doesn’t seem to be true for heart disease or stroke."
Writing in the British Medical Journal, Hackshaw explained that he and his colleagues examined data from 55 published reports, covering 141 studies carried out between 1946 and 2015, and involving several million people in total – AKA a lot of data – to help them come to a conclusion about the impact of smoking on the risk of coronary heart disease or stroke.
The team analysed all studies to find out how much the risk of coronary heart disease or stroke increased for those smoking on average one cigarette a day, five a day or 20 a day, compared to people who had never smoked. They then gathered results and analysed how smoking one or five cigarettes a day affected the subjects' health, compared with smoking 20 a day.
Besides the whole "even one fag a day is bad news" stuff, they concluded that it is much more dangerous for men in particular to have a one-a-day habit: men smoking one cigarette a day had 53 percent of the coronary heart disease risk of those smoking 20 a day, and 64 percent of their risk of stroke. Meanwhile, women smoking one cigarette a day had 38 percent of the heart disease risk and 36 percent of the stroke risk of a women smoking 20 cigarettes a day.
The basic message of the study? Cutting down isn't good enough. If you're serious about looking after your health, it's all about cutting it out completely.