Research has shown that smoking cigarettes, as well as being exposed to secondhand smoke, raises risk for heart disease. But what is the difference in the effect of a little versus a lot of smoke? A new study published in the American Heart Association's medical journal, Circulation, found that even small amounts of smoke are linked to the steepest increases in risk for death from heart disease.
Researchers analyzed data on roughly 1.2 million adults that had been collected during 25 years as part of a study by the American Cancer Society. Volunteers were followed for about six years. More than 200,000 were smokers.
The study found that even low levels of smoke from cigarettes can substantially raise the risk for death from heart disease. The biggest increases in risk occurred at lower levels of exposure, with risk leveling off at higher levels.
Compared with people who had never smoked, those who smoked up to three cigarettes a day increased their risk of dying from heart disease by 65 percent. Doubling or tripling the amount of cigarettes per day increased risk to 79 percent.
Small but substantive risk was also linked to exposure to secondhand smoke. Compared with active smokers, passive smokers inhale just a fraction of the smoke particles from burning cigarettes. Yet they still were found to have a 20 to 30 percent higher risk for death from heart disease than those not exposed to secondhand smoke.
November 19 is the American Cancer Society's Great American Smokeout. Use this day as an opportunity to quit smoking for good. Follow these tips for a smoke-free future:
Go cold turkey. Don't try to quit by smoking fewer or milder cigarettes at first. If you do this, you will likely be smoking the original amount again soon. Likewise, smoking "low-tar, low-nicotine" cigarettes usually doesn't help. Because nicotine is addictive, switching to lower-nicotine brands usually causes smokers to puff harder, longer, and more often on each cigarette.
Write down why you want to quit smoking. A strong desire to quit is very important to succeed in quitting. Smokers who survive a heart attack are the most likely to quit for good because they are very motivated to improve their health.
Know that quitting takes effort. Most smokers have some nicotine withdrawal, such as bad moods and cravings, when they try to quit. Give yourself a month for this to pass and take quitting one day, hour, or minute at a time.
Believe that you can quit. Half of all adult smokers have quit-you can too. Millions of people like you have learned to live without cigarettes, and so can you.
Seek help if you need it. For support in quitting, including free quit coaching, a free quit plan, free educational materials, and referrals to local resources, contact 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669); TTY 1-800-332-8615.
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Many people who have quit smoking didn't do it alone. Instead, they used stop-smoking products. These can ease nicotine withdrawal symptoms, such as cravings and irritability:
Ask your doctor which one may work for you.