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Hobbes's avatar

What are the health risks of smoking in moderation?

Asked by Hobbes (7240 points ) October 20th, 2008

Everybody knows how bad smoking is for you. Countless studies have linked it to lung cancer, oral cancer, and emphysema. However, as far as I know, these studies have focused on the long term effects on people who smoke a great deal – say, a cigarette or two every day for thirty years.

Have there been any studies done on the health risks of moderate smoking? Say, a cigarette or two once a month? Are the risks the same? It seems to me that, if done in moderation, the risk of smoking-related cancer would lower to the point where smoking would be about as dangerous as driving a car, considering how many automobile accidents there are.

This is mainly speculation, so if someone could clear things up for me I’d be grateful.

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22 Answers

shilolo's avatar

Good question Hobbes. This website does a decent job of breaking down what are the risks of smoking. However, there is little to no information on the scenario you described (i.e. the weekend smoker who has one cigarette at a party for example). Even extrapolating from second hand smoke is difficult, because even there, the issue is second-hand smoke exposure on a daily basis (like the wife of a chain smoker). I tried to find some dose-response data, but failed (in my cursory attempt). Sorry.

jvgr's avatar

Moderate smoking may result in moderate health problems

arnbev959's avatar

There’s always the risk of addiction. One cigarette a week becomes two, then three, then maybe one a day…

fireside's avatar

Good point, pete.
Plus if you are only smoking once a month, you may not be as coordinated and may run the risk of burning your fingers, clothing or car seat.

I’d be interested to know if anyone does find studies in regards to light smoking.

jessturtle23's avatar

If you aren’t a smoker already just say no. I smoke but not in public because I think I look like an idiot unless I’m at a bar and then I have had too many PBR’s to care what I look like. It’s like walking around with a bad sunburn. You know you should have put on sunblock yet everyone and their mother comes up to you and says, “Wow, that’s a bad sunburn you have there. You know they have sunblock to prevent that.” Asses. If you take up smoking those same people will remind you that it is bad for you.

Knotmyday's avatar

Occasional halitosis.

jtvoar16's avatar

I am not sure about long term effects, but I do know that tobacco in small doses (as in a natural cigarette, not like Kool’s or something that has many, many, MANY other drugs in it) helps in relieving muscle stress, eye strain, and aids in sphincter control.
So, short term, in moderation, it can help, but long term, i am still assuming it will screw you up!
How does that quote go?
“Everything nowa-days gives you cancer, so pick one and have fun… your going to die soon, anyway!”

IchtheosaurusRex's avatar

Heart disease, cancer, and hypertension.

There is no moderate smoking. Quit now.

Hobbes's avatar

Ictheosaurus – I know that the risks of cancer and heart disease increase with any amount of smoking. My question is, how much? I smoke one cigarette a week, sometimes less. I’ve seen a study that says that lung cancer is three times more common among smokers who have one to four cigarettes daily. Does that mean my risk has increased by 3/7? Or is the relationship more complex?

IchtheosaurusRex's avatar

This is really a question for medical people, but statistical analysis has shown that any exposure to tobacco smoke, including secondhand smoke in public places, is linked to these diseases. You can get more information here,

http://www.cancer.org/docroot/PED/content/PED_10_13X_Guide_for_Quitting_Smoking.asp?from=fast

but the bottom line is that it’s a dangerous activity. The only difference between it and Russian Roulette is that there are more chambers in the gun.

Hobbes's avatar

I understand that, Ictheosaurus. However, it really depends on the probabilities. There’s a significant chance of death every time we step into a car, and yet we still drive. There’s a chance of getting cancer from eating the blackened bits on toast, and a chance of getting heart disease from eating bacon. We take calculated risks all the time, weighing the chance of harm against what we get out of the act. I smoke because it’s pleasurable, and if the risks of death are relatively close to those of, say, driving, then I’d call them acceptable.

Bri_L's avatar

@hobbes – I have a question. Are you going to factor in or figure out the effect of second hand smoke on those around you to?

Hobbes's avatar

Mm. That’s a good point, Bri_L – I hadn’t considered that. I’m usually only around significant amounts of smoke when I’m smoking myself, and it’s usually of the order of, say, four cigarettes (if I’m with four people and they all smoke one cigarette, which is what usually happens). Would that be the equivalent of smoking another cigarette, raising my total to two a week?

marcuspete's avatar

Well if you acquire any defect (say cancer) within you by smoking say 2 cigarettes in a whole month, then man your genes are weak as hell and you will acquire cancer whether you smoke or not (the pollution around should be enough). Its common sense that if you smoke a lot you cause artery shrinkage which cannot recover due to the fact that you never stop smoking (regular intervals), this is the main reason for health problems. Smoking in moderation like say 2–5 cigarettes a month should never cause a problem in any healthy being with normal genes, if it does like i said you are goner anyways whether you smoke or not.

punkrockworld's avatar

As bad as if you were a chain smoker.

Hobbes's avatar

Er…how do you figure?

Yetanotheruser's avatar

From a purely speculative personal point, I would say the difference in health risks between a moderate smoker and a heavy smoker would be minimal compared with the difference between a moderate smoker and a non-smoker.

Dfreed's avatar

I have been searching everywhere for this information. Everyone seems to be very bias, either they say you should not smoke at all or you should smoke if you like it. It seems that no one has ever done research on smokers who smoke once a week with their friends. I smoke weed because I know the outcome of what I am doing, I have smoked ciggeretts twice, and would like to smoke again with my friends but would like to know the answer to this question before I do. My personal belief, which is based off of simple observations, is that everything hurts you if you have to much. So if you have a smoke like I go to McDonalds (about two or three times a month) It should not have as harsh of an affect as if you ate McDonalds (smoked) every day. I think that biases need to be thrown out to answer this question and I’m sure that will not happen.

john65pennington's avatar

To be honest, cigarette smokers health varies from person to person. i have been blessed. i smoke a pack of cig. each day. i have since i was 16 and that was 50 years ago. i have mostly smoked Marlboro 100 regulars. i am still in good health. i do not smoke a cigarette down to the filter. i leave at least one and one inches. most of the time, i smoke only a half a pack a day. is this moderation smoking? i do not know. no matter how you look at it, it’s a bad, expensive habit.

Aster's avatar

@john65pennington Interesting posts. But wow; it really is expensive isn’t it. And it’ll probably get more so. I think they’re raising the tax on cigs.

compassion's avatar

Why flirt with a drug more addictive than heroine or cocaine? For what, a crappy buzz? To look like a fool who fell for the tobacco industry images that smokers are cool? Most addicts report that cigarettes were much harder to quit than any of their other addictions. Most smokers wish they never started and want to quit but can’t – don’t risk that!

garyk1949's avatar

If someone would do a smoking byproduct clearance study we might be able to determine what could be considered safe. The human body is designed to process many challenges and most only make us stronger. But humans tend to over do everything, add poor nutrition, no exercise and stress; we make it impossible for the body to function properly.

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