Between the years of 1949 and 1981, public awareness regarding the dangers of smoking rose considerably. And in the last couple of decades, awareness campaigns as to the dangers of smoking have multiplied.
Maki lnoue-Choi (National Cancer Institute’s Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics) knew this. While leading a team of researchers from the NCI in their exploration of the smoking phenomenon, Maki was well aware that almost everyone today has an understanding of the dangers that smoking presents. The purpose of his research arose primarily out of concern that people’s understanding of the dangers of smoking wasn’t nearly as accurate as was presumed.
Smoking is still a notable health hazard today. Even though the public seems to be aware of the dangers of the habit, six million people are still dying from smoking-related ailments every year. And this might be due to the reason that some people have suggested: only excessive smoking poses any real danger to human health. In fact, a lot of people actually think that there is such a thing as safe smoking where one’s level of smoking is so low that it couldn’t possibly have any significant impact on their health.
This is the notion that Maki and his team sought to put to test when they analyzed 290,000 people in the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study. These participants between the ages of 59 and 82 were thoroughly questioned about their smoking habits, with researchers reaching as far back into their lives as the smokers could remember.
159 current smokers were pretty confident of the fact that they smoked no more than one cigarette a day. Over one thousand participants also stated that they only smoked between one and ten cigarettes daily.
Once the data was analyzed, the idea that low-intensity smoking doesn’t pose any serious health risks was quickly extinguished. Even putting those individuals who smoked between one and ten cigarettes a day aside (their risk of dying early because of smoking-related ailments was 87 percent), those seemingly confident persons who smoked less than one cigarette a day still faced a 64 percent risk of dying early due to smoking-related ailments.
Additionally, these low-intensity smokers were compared to non-smokers. The data only tilted towards a positive angle amongst low-intensity smokers that left the habit some time ago. They were less likely to die early because of their previous smoking habit.
The point here is simple: there is no such thing as a safe level of smoking. Even smoking one cigarette a day or less doesn’t exempt anyone from smoking-related ailments and early death.