Just one cigarette a day can drastically increase the chance of heart disease and strokes, according to research published in the British Medical Journal.
A new study has revealed that smokers need to cut out completely, rather than just cut down, in order to see tangible health benefits – with those who smoke a single cigarette a day still 50 percent more likely to contract cardiovascular diseases and 30 percent more likely to suffer a stroke.
Contrary to popular belief, heart disease is the mostly likely killer of smokers (ahead of cancer), causing 48 percent of all deaths related to smoking.
Increasing numbers of people are smoking between 1 and 5 cigarettes a day – an improvement, in the sense that the majority of those people previously smoked more, but still too many according to experts.
"There's been a trend in quite a few countries for heavy smokers to cut down, thinking that's perfectly fine, which is the case for things like cancer," said Professor Allan Hackshaw of the University College London Cancer Institute, who spearheaded the research.
"But for these two common disorders, which they're probably more likely to get than cancer, it's not the case. They've got to stop completely."
The research also shows that 7 percent those who smoke a whole pack of 20 in a day are likely to have heart attacks or strokes, a number that shrinks to 3 percent for those who smoked just once a day.
Men smoking once a day were 48 percent more likely to suffer coronary heart disease and 25 percent more likely to suffer a stroke than an equivalent person who had never taken up the habit. Women were even worse affected, with 57 pecent rate of heart disease and 31 percent for strokes.
Scientists were quick to point out that smoking less is better, but that stopping completely was far better.
"Those who try to cut down with the aid of nicotine, whether from nicotine replacement treatment or an e-cigarette, are more likely to stop eventually and thus really reduce their risks from smoking," said Paul Aveyard, professor of behavioural medicine at the University of Oxford.
Public Health England tobacco spokesman Martin Dockrell added: "This study adds to the growing body of evidence which tells us that cutting down to just one cigarette a day still leaves a substantial risk of heart attack and stroke. The best and safest thing you can do is to quit completely for good."
Words: Mike Wood
Featured Image Credit: PA